Dorthia Cottrell is one of the most haunting vocalists in metal right now, howling like Ozzy Osbourne in a wind tunnel. But either out of aesthetics or shyness, her voice has always been buried by the relentlessly heavy mix on her two excellent records singing for Windhand. Thankfully, some friends convinced her to serve as the focal point of a track from a fellow Richmond metal band. Listen to the 11-minute "Lantern at the End of Time," the first song to premiere from Bastard Sapling's second album, Instinct Is Forever.
The first 45 seconds ought to sound familiar to anyone on an Immortal kick: The hooky black-metal riff has just enough melody to make you raise a fist in pumping triumph. This was Bastard Sapling's M.O. on the debut, though executed with more craft than you'll often hear from those inspired by the second wave of black metal. But then Cottrell shows up, cooing as if she's leading a coven in a horror B-movie, making that ravagingly heavy opening feel... weightless. She tastefully trades spots with Sapling growler Mike Paparo instead of the ill-formed call-and-response of metal bands that feature concurrent screamers and singers. Maybe that's also what inspired the dream-pop-esque midsection, as the band pulls away to make room for shimmering guitars and Cottrell pining, "Where are you now, my only friend?" — only to give way to swarming mayhem.