BEST OF 2014– 4. BASTARD SAPLING, ‘Instinct Is Forever’ (Forcefield Records/Gilead Media)

Bastard Saling coverThe debate over what truly constitutes black metal has grown quite tiresome. You have the disciples of the Second Wave insisting it only be about Satan, you have others who claim it should be chaos and the darkest, most hateful emotions possible, and you have those who believe it should have no set rules and turn into whatever its creator decides it should be.

The above creates a lot of online drama and insanely mind-numbing debates on Reddit. I don’t care what people decide it is. For me, I want something that sounds like it comes from the depth of the soul, a record that is reaching out to affect you emotionally and physically, and music that isn’t afraid to push boundaries and buttons and not adhere to a set formula. That’s where Richmond, Va., band Bastard Sapling come in for me. Their sound certainly is grounded in black metal aesthetics, but they don’t paste themselves into a corner and refuse to move beyond that area. They dash their sound with atmospherics, Southern rock-style shades, and even some doom, making each song an adventure you cannot predict front to back.

While Bastard Sapling–vocalist Mike Paparo (also of Inter Arma), guitarist/multi-instrumentalist Drew Goldy (of Organ Donor), guitarist Steven Russell (Inter Arma), bassist Trey Dalton (Inter Arma), and drummer Elway (Organ Donor)–got off to a dynamic start on 2012 debut album “Dragged From Our Restless Trance,” they push things into even higher gear on “Instinct Is Forever,” their 65-minute sophomore effort that blew up our expectations from the first listen. This record (released in a joint effort by Forcefield and Gilead Media) is heavy, emotional, dark, aggressive, and incredibly ambitious, peaking on amazing tracks including emotionally devastating opener “My Spine Will Be My Noose,” a track that could speak to anyone mired in personal darkness; imaginative and raucous “The Opal Chamber”; sinister and infectious “The Killer In Us All”; and the restless “Lantern at the End of Time,” one of their most creative, gripping songs to date.

Both Paparo and Goldy took some time to answer questions about their earth-quaking second record, some of the themes behind these songs, and what black metal means to them as an art form. We thank them for their time and for a dynamic record that hasn’t left our ears since the promo arrived in the spring.

Bastard SaplingMeat Mead Metal: We’re naming “Instinct Is Forever” as one of the No. 4 metal album of the year. This record has been on pretty constant rotation here ever since the promo landed in the inbox. Do you feel like this is a record where the band really came into its own?

Mike Paparo: Well, first off, thank you for the inclusion. Personally, I feel like we stepped up our game so to speak for this record. The production quality was raised, the performances are top notch, and we are definitely very proud of this record. It’s the record we have always wanted to make I think.

MMM: I got a chance to see you guys at Gilead Fest this past summer, and yours was one of the more intense performances of that weekend. It seems like you guys really pour yourself into these songs when playing live. Is that true?

MP: I’d like to feel like it is. It’s black metal. It needs to be intense. I don’t ever want to see a black metal band (or any metal/punk band for that matter) and just see a bunch of musicians standing there, lackadaisically going through the motions. That’s weak.

MMM: As far as the title “Instinct Is Forever” goes, what is the origin of the title? Who came up with it, and what is the meaning behind it?

Drew Goldy: Originally, the title “Instinct Is Forever” was jotted down for a song I was putting together. Its resurrection happened when shit went into full throttle for the creation/writing of this record. There are a lot of lyrics throughout that hint at many relevant meanings to it. Basically, humans are destructive, polluting, violent creatures and display more evil then good. That will forever overshadow any positives in this world.

MMM: The opening track “My Spine Will Be My Noose” is a really rousing, crushing song, but underneath there appears to be a darker message. I thought I read somewhere that some of the members of the band have dealt with depression and other mental issues? Is that the case, and if so, is that what’s behind the song—especially with the repeated call of “I’ll end my life”—or is there something else behind it?

MP: It has to do with depression. Some of the lyrics to the song are blocked out in the record/CD gatefold/booklet because the lyrics are just too personal. Those are the darkest, most personal lyrics I have ever written.

MMM: Speaking of troubling thoughts, “The Killer in Us All” on the surface feels like it is a reminder that everyone has a dark side and things that gnaw at them. Is that what you were going for with this one?

MP: That is 100% what I was going for.

MMM: The first track most of the world got to hear from the record was “Lantern at the End of Time,” which features Dorthia Cottrell of Windhand. Why did you choose Dorthia for that song, and what do you feel she brings to the track?

DG: That song in particular is the epitome of an individual’s catharsis put into one single song.  It’s meant for anyone that has suffered the loss of a loved one or friend. Especially if that one person was your world. Dorthia is a good friend of ours. She was a part of the first full length in 2012. So of course we welcomed her and the undeniable talent to add to what “lantern” displays musically and lyrically.

MMM: Like any style of metal as it develops, people form opinions about what is and is not, for example, black metal. Certainly Bastard Sapling bring something different and more expansive to the table than the second wave, for example. So in 2014, what is black metal to you?

DG: Good question. I could go on and on about this one and walk in circles. Simply, to me it has lost its origins and expanded beyond itself, in a sea of people trying to save it from drowning. Hopefully that will only add fresh perspective and decent revival from newer bands.  You did mention “waves” get it? Ocean, Sea, Waves… (Editor’s note: Yep! Got it.)

MMM: Bastard Sapling folds a lot of other sounds into the mix other than black metal, which you can hear on something like “The Elder.” Where do those other influences come from?

DG: We just went with our Instinct.

MMM: “Instinct” was released by two labels—Forcefield and Gilead Media—that handled different formats. How have your relationships been with each label, and what does each mean to you?

MP: Our relationship with both labels has been amazing. We have massive respect for both Adam and Tim and deeply admire what they do. It’s an absolute honor to be associated with Forcefield and Gilead Media.

MMM: What does the band have planned in 2015? You did a lot of touring in 2014, so will that continue? Or do you guys have stuff planned with your other bands? Enlighten us!

MP: At this point we don’t have anything planned for 2015. I’m sure something will come about. As for other bands, Inter Arma always has something going on. That’s pretty much a given!

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