Published Aug 26, 2014In many ways, the lush subtlety of Canadian black metal stands aesthetically opposed to the Scandinavian black metal tradition of the genre's origins. Where the former thrives on complex, often delicate juxtaposition of multiple aural layers and deep, dynamic production values, the latter draws on the raw and visceral, rent and violent. On their third full-length, Richmond, Virginia's Bastard Sapling prove themselves to be one of the rare projects that can operate across both incarnations of the genre. The blast beats and wraith-like shrieks of "Subterranean Rivers of Blood" soon give way to the shivering, acoustic tremulousness of "Elder."
The strongest tracks on the record tend to be those like "Splintering Ouroboros," on which the hissing, infernal brutality allows itself to soften and congeal, or album closer "Forbidden Sorrow," on which plaintive melody is woven around the driving rhythm section. For all its variance in the melding of different black metal styles, not to mention several guest appearances (including Dorthia Cottrell of Windhand and Don Zaros of Evoken), what is so startling about Instinct is Forever is how cohesive it sounds, how despite all its disparate parts the staples and stitches are barely visible. (Gilead Media/Forcefield Records)