Bastard Sapling 'Dragged From Our Restless Trance' Gatefold 12"LP

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Sitting down to write a review of Bastard Sapling’s debut album “Dragged From Our Restless Trance” came to light due to the advice of a friend, who recommended this kvlt black metal delight. Four tracks poised to be like some stock footage of better black metal talent turns into a romp of grim joy. These guys seem like they spent days stuck out in the frozen climate of Norway with only some Ulver and Darkthrone tapes to keep them occupied; at least, that would be the case if they didn’t actually reside in Virginia. These Southeast boys have put out not only one of the sharpest black metal debuts of the year, but one of the best overall albums released in the genre this year.

A debut album always has that underlying risk of being full of interesting conceptual ideas, but lacking the finesse from the band to pull it off. “Dragged From Our Restless Trance” reaches no such roadblock on its way to exceeding whatever expectations one delivers on the album. Though the band does get credit for that, avoiding the chance of a sloppy performance coming out of any members, it’s also the weaving structures that don’t take the linear path other black metal acts, even the greats, have fallen prey to early in their careers.

The band makes the most out of four songs, going everything from a rush-to-the-skull intensity (“Prophecy Born From Dismal Terrain”) to a chilling atmosphere enhanced by keyboards and clean vocals deep in the mix (“Cold Winds Howled Across The Desolation”). Each song is distinct from the other, a multitude of sides to Bastard Sapling put into view. Tempo variety is key to each song, and guarantees that at least the album doesn’t disintegrate into a messy affair.

Everything builds towards the breathtaking closer “Beyond The Void Of Life,” which is what the other three tracks build to. A guitar strums on and off for a few minutes, as the band holds back and lets the barren atmosphere take control. There is no rushing ahead to the blow over, which takes almost five minutes to hit. From there, it leads through some catchy solos and ruthless attitude into the unbearable doom the track fades out into. Mike Paparo’s shrieks are at their most sinister near the end.

What Bastard Sapling does with “Dragged From Our Restless Trance” is show an appreciation for the bands who defined black metal, as well as go out of their way to not just steal from their inspirations. Making a 12 or 13 minute song worth putting on repeat is nothing to Bastard Sapling, and that makes it more digestible to the interested black metal fan. “Dragged From Our Restless Trance” is one of those albums that, even with dozens of quality albums released each month, will find its way back into rotation.

Highs: Adventurous black metal, wicked shrieks, a lot of depth behind the music, 40 minutes is the perfect length

Lows: The album's appeal comes with more listens, which may be too much for some to take on.

Bottom line: Any black metal fan would be smacking themselves in the temple if they pass up Bastard Sapling's debut album "Dragged From Our Restless Trance."

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