While the more prominent entities in American black metal push outward on the genre’s boundaries, many of my favorite new artists of the past couple years actually feel like traditionalists by comparison. Bands like Ash Borer, from Arcata, CA, or Brooklyn-via-Florida’s Negative Plane, or the SoCal analog-elitist collectives Black Twilight Circle and Rhinocervs, among others, deal in a strain of metal that is uninfluenced by ambient or post-punk or post-rock. It’s metal that feels elemental and organic; not nostalgic, exactly, but primitive, the product of an alternate evolution. Richmond, VA’s Bastard Sapling certainly fall into this classification, and they may be its finest purveyors at the moment. The band’s four-song, 40-minute debut album, Dragged From Our Restless Trance, was initially released in February on cassette, but I didn’t get my hands on it till last month, when I got a promo download of the LP from Forcefield Records, who are giving the thing a proper release. Since then, it’s been in near-constant rotation in my headphones — it’s just a feast of meaty melodic riffs powered by furious blast rhythms, clouded in psychedelic swirls of low-budget atmospherics. Too many black metal bands don’t bother to write songs, but Restless Trance has nothing else — it’s an album spawned by classics: Bathory’s Blood Fire Death, Mayhem’s De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas, Immortal’s Battles In The North. The band shares its name with a song by San Francisco’s Hammers Of Misfortune, another group who use traditional sounds in the service of terrific songs. My favorite track on Restless Trance is its closer, “Beyond The Void Of Life,” which is the album’s most textured and dynamic number; it also has the biggest and boldest riffs. Check it out.
Dragged From Our Restless Trance is out via Forcefield on 10/23.