Review: BASTARD SAPLING — Instinct Is Forever

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The trick to constructing an album that’s able to captivate a listener for the length of its duration doesn’t necessarily lie in filling it with the most inventive music ever written. I doubt if innovation would ever hurt the cause, but even it can wear out its welcome if it’s permitted to stagnate. What’s more important by far in maintaining the freshness of an album is a mastery of pacing.

The guys in Bastard Sapling know how to pace an album. In a genre where many bands are determined to place a song dominated by trem-picking/blasting directly subsequent to another song dominated by trem-picking/blasting, followed by 7 more songs dominated by trem-picking/blasting, these Wisconsinites opt for the high road of dynamic fluidity. Instinct Is Forever draws influence from varied sources, with few being as immediately discernible as the ever-referenced second wave of black metal. However, obviously not satisfied with playing inexhaustible variations of the same riff, Bastard Sapling approach the genre with a flair for flux; more suited to the dwindling attention span of the metal community.

Bastard Sapling

Guitarists Drew Goldi and Steven Russell pull from a diverse arsenal of riffs and their ability to write in differing styles is quite admirable considering the fact that nothing ends up sounding out of place or clogging the pitchblack flow. While the first track demonstrates an aggressive yet straightforward give-and-take between blazing tremolos and a heavier trot, the following two, “Subterranean Rivers of Blood” and “The Opal Chamber,” are more reserved and indicative of their USBM comrades in Agalloch or Wolves in the Throne Room. This effectual variety exists both between the songs and within them. One particular transition in “The Opal Chamber” guides the listener, gently but abruptly, from a nearly 6-minute ethereal trance into a brief, much needed foot-tapper and then back again. It’s largely to the credit of Gregory Ernst and his intuition behind the kit that these switches are pulled off with such subtlety and effectiveness, and the album is rife with examples.

In addition to their knack for fluctuation, Bastard Sapling is more than capable of the successful expression and transmittal of their mood to the listener, which generally tends to shift between despondent, pissed off, and despondently pissed off. The end of “My Spine Will Be My Noose” will have you wailing “I hate my life/I hate my life/I hate my life/I fucking hate my life!” along with Mike Paparo and headbanging in acknowledgement of life’s ultimate shittiness.

“Elder’s” acoustic ambiance is a vital bridge between the first and second thirds of the album, and floats in stark contrast against “The Killer In Us All’s” seething black ‘n’ roll and “Splintering Ouroboros.”

The fellas in Bastard Sapling don’t musically reveal their identities as former and current members of Inter Arma until the 11-minute “Lantern at the End of Time,” and it’s the post rather than the sludge that comes through. The midsection’s slow-going brood (augmented by the vocal sorcery of Windhand’s Dorthia Cottrell) wouldn’t sound out of place serving as an interlude on Sky Burial. Curiously (or maybe not curiously), Sky Burial and Instinct Is Forever  end up sharing the same pitfall — a seriously arduous length. Even music as well-balanced as it is here has a hard time warranting a run time of an hour and five minutes, and that becomes clear when things really start to lag around the 50-minute mark. Luckily the final track, “Forbidden Sorrow,” finishes strong and gets bonus points for implementing the criminally underused dive bomb.

If it were a little shorter, I’d have a hard time flushing Instinct Is Forever at all, but those last 15 minutes really take their toll. The crux of it is this: Instinct Is Forever is an absolutely killer album until it finally collapses under its own weight and becomes a good album.

2/5 FLUSHES

Instinct Is Forever is out now via Gilead Media. Bandcamp here.

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  • CyberneticOrganism

    “headbanging in acknowledgement of life’s ultimate shittiness”

    A WINNER IS YOU

  • W.

    Good review, bb. You captured my thoughts exactly.

  • 0/5 for the band name!

    • Tyree

      The word “Bastard” seems to be in a lot band names now a days.

      • W.

        All these little bastards runnin’ round.

        • Tyree

          I want to have a Bastard Feast. What would that be like I wonder?

          • Metaphysical Anus

            Unmarried sex.

          • Tyree

            Lol, I had no idea there was another definition of Bastard.
            archaic derogatory
            a person born of parents not married to each other.

          • Metaphysical Anus

            #TheMoreYouKnow

          • Tyree

            You learn something every day 😀

          • W.

            Wait, you didn’t know that?

          • Tyree

            Na, I just thought it was an unpleasant person. I can have my blonde moments.

          • W.

            Tis alright, mate. You know millions of awesome bands. ToH, dropping knowledge bombs.

          • Tyree

            SHIT! I forgot. I have internet at home now so I can get a Spotify account.

          • W.

            You should! Then you could talk to me and NegroD on there too!

          • Metaphysical Anus

            I’m on spotify too, you guys!

          • W.

            I still need to add you on Steam. Haven’t had much time for vidya lately.

          • Metaphysical Anus

            My steam account name is Anal Fissures For Everyone. It probably is no surprise.

          • Tyree

            That’s want I’ll do tonight. I’ll find you guys.

          • W.

            I can’t wait. You my boy, Blu

          • Tyree

          • Occams_Razor_Ramon

            It’ll open up a whole new world

          • Are we eating bastards or are we bastards eating?

          • Tyree

            I guess eating bastards. Lol

          • Metaphysical Anus

            Isn’t cannibalism still illegal?

          • Virgil the Ghost Poet

            No its just frowned upon like horse humping.

          • Metaphysical Anus

            It isn’t? I have to got get me my dinner!

          • Virgil the Ghost Poet

            Bon appetite.

      • ever since The Simpsons made it okay to say

      • Cock of Steele

        Lemmy wanted Motorhead to originally be called “Bastard” But there were some issues with that.

        • Virgil the Ghost Poet

          I did not know that. The man who wanted to move next door and have your lawn die did not want to be called a bastard.

  • Occams_Razor_Ramon

    But what if the last fifteen minutes were solely divebombs? 0/5?

  • Howard Dean

    Nice review, MSD! Your descriptions of this album and their sound are spot on!

    I feel similarly about overlong albums. It’s a difficult art to master, and far too many bands have flooded metal with behemoths that clock in near the terminus of a CD’s capacity. Few bands can pull off the >1 hour album effectively. Those that can are usually the masters (The Ruins of Beverast, for example).

    I think bands should aim for the <50 minute mark for the most part. A good album of digestible length shows that some thought, revision, and editing went into making the album, instead of just writing a pile of songs and filling at the runtime of a CD.

    • Exactly the way I feel about rap as well.

      • i want to say every rap album i’ve ever heard (20 maybe) contains filler material. funny tracks, interludes, segues, or just plain stupid songs.

        • Tracks 1-12: “just plain stupid songs”.

        • The dreaded “skit” track. It’s never good.

          • …unless it’s NWA

          • W.

            Ugh. Skits.

          • Metaphysical Anus

            Frank Zappa makes the “ugh” go away.

          • CyberneticOrganism

            Do those skits include anything other than A) smoking weed, B) hanging in the studio, or C) smoking weed while hanging in the studio?

          • Wizard Aura

            The only rap group with good skits is Wu Tang. Like, how can you fuck with blue and cream?

    • Tyree

      The first album I heard by The Ruins of Beverast was “Blood Vault”. I saw how long it was and was skeptical about it. That album kept my attention the whole time, an hour and 20 minutes felt like a half an hour. The Ruins of Beverast are certainly masters of crafting a long album.

      • Yeah, Alexander von Meilenwald knows how to keep me interested.

      • Howard Dean

        My first album was Rain Upon the Impure, and I was hooked within the first few minutes of “50 Forts Along the Rhine.” Alexander von Meilenwald is a genius.

        Foulest Semen of the Sheltered Elite is really good, too. None of his albums (which are all over an hour) have ever dragged for me. Good shit.

        • Tyree

          Foulest Semen of the Sheltered Elite is such a fantastic album title. Yes, great album too.

    • you’ve just explained why i cannot get into a few bands. for example, Sylosis and Allegaeon. though it IS good music, there’s just too much of it on one album
      the Fallujah album, one of its strong points is its length. 9 songs, 38 minutes. after hearing the album three times, i was familiar with each track. and it’s not intimidating to just let the CD restart when it’s over!

      • CyberneticOrganism

        I’m definitely a fan of slightly shorter albums. Organic Hallucinosis’ running time is just about perfect.

        • 40-45 is about perfect for me. Organic Hallucinosis might be a LITTLE short.

          • 80 minutes is perfect for @disqus_9CmX83EGqz:disqus’s power metal appetite

          • Power metal has laws of its own. The longer, the better.

          • Metaphysical Anus

            Am I the only one around here that enjoys long albums?

          • CyberneticOrganism

            I do enjoy nice, long Moonsorrow albums though, the longer the better. I never want that shit to end.

          • +1000000000000000000000000

          • Metaphysical Anus

            Are you only saying that because I’m Finnish, like Moonsorrow?

          • CyberneticOrganism

            Good god no, I fucking love Moonsorrow.

          • Metaphysical Anus

            Good. I don’t like it when people kiss my ass, except if it is McNulty.

          • W.

            Depends on the band, but I do sometimes.

          • Howard Dean

            Nope. I can list dozens of great long (>60 minute) albums. However, I think the long album is over utilized, which is a bad thing, because they are not easy to execute.

          • Howard Dean

            Agreed. Organic Hallucinosis was a song or two short.

        • Tyree

          Grindlink

          • Edward Meehan

            Their swansong was absurdly long for a Gridlink album!

            24 minutes about.

            Best of 2014 type shit there.

          • Tyree

            Indeed it was. Their previous albums were ridiculously short. Amber Gray was 11:50 and Orphan was 12:08. Longhena is over 20 minutes. BOOM!

          • Edward Meehan

            Their longest album is shorter than some very long doom songs, and comparable to many “normal” EPs. Lol.

          • Tyree

            It would be funny to see them play live and then have a doom band play after their set. It would be night and day.

        • Metaphysical Anus

          The Lucid Collective also has a perfect run time for its style.

        • thanks guy! i didn’t realize what i was in the mood for until you just told me

          • CyberneticOrganism

            No problemo.

      • I agree. I can’t ever get through an entire Allegaeon album, even though I love them to death. I think the sweet spot in length for me is around 30 minutes.

        • If a band can give me 30 minutes of solid jams, I’m completely satisfied. Ain’t got no time for filler!

      • I think long albums are fine as long as they don’t drag on. What I mean is the songs are constantly changing and it’s not the same pattern of riffs for the whole song. Sometimes they just fall apart if they are too long though. That’s why I can’t listen to that Separatist album. Very talented but the songs just drone on past what should have been the end. At least Sylosis and Allegaeon change it up. That’s my 2 sense.

      • Edward Meehan

        I hate to say it but that is one downfall to that Son Of Aurelius album we were talking about, the length.

  • Metaphysical Anus

    Nice review, friendo! Another new band to listen to. I listened to one of their song on youtube and enjoyed it. Really good stuff. So great.

  • King Shit of Fuck Mountain

    Dig the Panzram shirt.

    • Howard Dean

      “I wish the entire human race had one neck, and I had my hands around it!”