Tombstone Webzine (German)
DESTROY // EXIST
"EP3: Green Metal / Deterministic Chaos is the split release by two of the most interesting and intelligent one-man-band black metal acts around, San Francisco's Botanist and LA's Oskoreien.
Side-A includes five tracks by Botanist AKA Otrebor, the first new material we're hearing from him since 2015's EP2: Hammer of Botany and in the same vein as his last few releases, the heavy musical soundscapes under his black metal grunts are gripping and absorbing. Since his releases on The Flenser, Botanist's music has been successfully exposed to a slightly wider audience and for all the right reasons he is considered one of the most prominent acts in modern black metal. On Green MetalBotanist once again validates that and raises the hopes and expectation for the future of his fascinating one-man project.
Oskoreien, AKA Jay Valena, is in the black metal business longer than Otrebor, however apart from his early demos he has only released two full lengths, one in 2011 and one just last week which still hasn't gathered the attention it deserves. On his side of the split Oskoreien offers a 13-minute epic, the title track, Deterministic Chaos, paired with a surprising and quite brilliant cover of Placebo's Without You I'm Nothing." -- ZR, Destroy // Exist, December 12, 2016
"Black Metal gets twisted and bent in many ways. Across the globe and the genre's spectrum the icy, raw norms that were birthed in the 80's and 90's have become lush, experimental, and atmospheric. Two recent explorations into the unusual come from San Francisco's Botanist and Los Angeles's Oskoreien. Two one-man black metal projects that thrive on imaginative and inherently unique formulas. Botanist has spent years constructing a vivid universe that his music exists in, complete with its own lexicon. Oskoreien's roots were set in viking metal before shifting to his brand of black metal in recent years. Together, the two have orchestrated one of the year's most interesting splits, called EP3: Green Metal / Deterministic Chaos.
Botanist contributes five new tracks to this intriguing split. Continuing his explorations through his Verdant Realm, Otrebor's vivid "Green Metal" makes a triumphant return following 2014's VI: Flora and 2015's EP, EP2: Hammer of Botany. Admittedly, I have been a sucker for Botanist's music for years. Every release is wildly captivating and these split contributions are no different. Highlights like "Amorphophallus Titanum", "Varkoor", and "Dracula Vampira" showcase the diverse instrumentation incorporated into Botanist's compositions. A 12-string bass, drums, vocals embedded within the music's flora, and most notably, hammered dulcimer. These are tools of immersion. Ways for the listener to become lost amongst the branches and blooms that grow from Botanist's vivid music.
On the (literal) other side, Oskoreien's half of the split presents a 13 minute title track and a wildly unique cover of Placebo's "Without You, I'm Nothing". Jay Valena creates black metal that is equal parts brash, gritty and haunting. Amongst the passing seconds and minutes of "Deterministic Chaos" is a consistent wall of dissonant fuzz. Valena's harrowing shriek emerges, shifting his music to near-DSBM tones. This haunting aura carries into the the Placebo cover, highlighted by eerie synths and Jay's vocal rendition of the English alt-rock band's 1998 song. Being relatively new to Oskoreien's music, it was a pleasant surprise to discover the harsh sonic structures that comprised this portion of the split.
EP3: Green Metal / Deterministic Chaos is, in a word, compelling. Otrebor and Valena take very different approaches to the construct of black metal, yet they both yield striking results. Anytime music is resented that challenges the notions of what is considered commonplace, it makes for an intriguing experience and these two musicians certainly live up to the challenge. (8/10)" -- Cody Davis, Metal Injection, October 26, 2016
"The Pitch: Split release between two California solo, experimental black metal projects: guitarless, plant-themed Botanist and the doomier Oskoreien.
What I Like: Who says you need a guitar to make a metal song? Or even a synthesizer for that matter. I am in constant awe of the simultaneously bleak and beautiful sounds Botanist is able to create using distorted hammered dulcimer. Backed by some organic drumming and lo-fi screeches, this is some of the most unique black metal on the scene right now. Oskoreien is comparitively more traditional with its buzzing doom chords, but not something you should skip either. Both the title track and Placebo cover are highly enjoyable with their late 80's industrial vibe fusing with funeral doom leads and wretched howls.
What I Don't Like: My only complaint about this split and much of both bands' other work is that while it is so refreshing, it struggles to be something I can find myself listening to on a regular basis. Now to be fair, I know people who could play this stuff all day long, but my own personal challenge to them is to see if they can find that true sweet spot between avant-garde and marketable. I don't think they are too far off.
The Verdict: To quote a Skinny Puppy track, this is "Nature's Revenge." The flora release sweet pheremones to lure you in, and though there is a sense of dread, one is compelled to walk right into the jaws of this monolithic venus fly trap.
Flight's Fav's: Clathrus Columnatus, Varkoor, Deterministic Chaos. (8.3/10)" -- Flight, Metal Trenches, December 27, 2016
NO CLEAN SINGING
"Most people probably know about Botanist by now, but I always feel compelled to give a beginner’s course when I talk about new Botanist music, because there’s no easy summing up of this project. (If you know this spiel and want to go all 'Choose Your Own Adventure,' skip ahead to paragraph 5 now.)
This isn’t your usual one-man black metal. Otrebor, the creator of the project, is a percussionist at heart, so when it came time to choose the instrument that would be his melodic voice, he went with a stringed/percussive hybrid called a hammered dulcimer. It’s an old instrument — first popularized in the Middle Ages — and it typically features strings stretched over a trapezoid-shaped sounding board. If you want a vast oversimplification, imagine removing the innards of a piano, throwing away all those silly ebonies and ivories, and striking the strings directly with mallets. Unsurprisingly, it can sound both piano-like and guitar-like, depending on how you go after it, and Otrebor has made good use of both of those modes, along with everything in between. As time has gone on, he’s expanded to a full band and even added distortion effects to what is essentially an ancient folk instrument, but that dulcimer remains his axe of choice.
But instrumentation is not where the uniqueness ends. Botanist the music entity is the story told by a character known only as The Botanist. To say the least, he is a bit displeased with humankind’s treatment of nature. The Botanist describes a host of plants, often in weaponized terms, that he imagines reasserting the dominance of nature over us destructive humans. IV: Mandragora saw perhaps the peak of this so far, describing the creation of an army of ambulatory mandrake plants, although Otrebor has said that album VII will be a much stronger conceptual story.
What does Otrebor have for us on his side of the split, Green Metal? Well, he starts out with stench. He’s been teasing us with some lyrics on Facebook, so we know the first track, “Amorphophallus Titanum,” introduces us to what is more commonly known as the corpse flower. It emits a truly horrifying combination of chemicals to mimic the stench of decomposing animals, drawing in 'Carcass eating insects / Crawling necrophagists' to help spread its pollen. The second track gives us 'Clathrus Columnatus,' more commonly known as stinkhorn, and although it’s a fungus, it also uses 'its altar of slime' to attract insects to spread its spores. Even 'Varkoor,' another name for the common lily, gets 'arrow-shaped leaves aloft' in this green military.
Instrumentally speaking, this EP finds Otrebor going back to a slightly more spacious sound. If VI: Flora was his “dreamy” album, as he described it, and 'majestic' and 'melancholic' as I wrote about it, then this EP is a bit pared back. He’s not afraid to let single chords ring out or to follow a simple, alternating-note pattern. But even with a little extra breathing room for the melodies, there’s a sense of urgency. The vocals are varied between screams, croaks, and whispers, but 'Amophpophallus' offers up some of the harshest and in-your-face shrieks he’s done. And of course sometimes you just gotta blast after a quiet spell, as he does in 'Saprophyte.'
As I’ve said time and time again, the man’s a fantastic composer, which is why this project holds your attention beyond the initial 'gimmick' of using unexpected instrumentation. I could pick out tons of moments, but listen for what I (lamely) refer to in my head as the 'Botanist twists' — when he suddenly switches from dark to light. They’re always good for a pleasant shiver." -- Justin Collins, No Clean Singing, September 30, 2016
"In comparison to full lengths or EPs, split releases are a lesser known way of putting out a musical project, resulting in two artists collaborating for half an album each. There are usually two kinds of splits, ones in which the bands are diametrically opposed in sound, and one where the bands are similar genres and complement each other. On the surface this appears to be the latter, as both bands are solo black metal projects from California. The tone of the two bands however could not be more different.
I have been a big fan of Botanist since they dropped IV: Flora (sic) in 2014 but I didn’t know up until a few weeks ago that the project doesn’t use guitars, instead using an obscure instrument known as a hammered dulcimer. The hammered dulcimer sounds quite a bit like a guitar so the mistake is easily forgiven, but thinking back the instrument can create some truly wonderful and unique moments and atmosphere. The high pitched sound of the hammered dulcimer, as well as the furious blast beats are at the forefront of Botanist’s sound while the vocals take a back seat. The tone is set by wonderful melodies creating an atmosphere that is vibrant, colorful and full of life much like the plants he screams about. The constant pounding blast beats add to the atmosphere that is very pleasant and joyous which seems odd for a black metal album. 'Varkoor' has the most, dare I say infectious and happy sounding melody I’ve ever heard in a black metal song. Botanist are a ray of sunshine in a genre much associated with darkness and despair.
Oskoreien’s side, while still black metal, could not be more different. Oskoreien only made two tracks for their side of the split and only one is a original song, however the track is a 13 minute beast. The atmosphere created by Oskoreien is everything Botanist’s side wasn’t: sludgy, thick and dark. Project creator Jay Valena’s vocals are much in the vein of what you would expect in the DSBM band; pained wails that evoke sadness and despair. 'Deterministic Chaos' is an incredible sludgy and dense track that flows extremely well, with nice melodies scattered throughout. 'Without You I’m Nothing' is actually a cover of the famed britpop band Placebo featuring the late great David Bowie and while it does sound a bit odd, it really works. The original song is depressing and Oskoreien really tap into that and turn the dial to 11 with the depressing shrieks and slow churning, doom like atmosphere.
Botanist and Oskoreien have much in common in terms of genre but could not be more polar opposite in terms of tone and atmosphere. These differences make the split really special and a unique listening experience. Going from the Botanist side to the Oskoreien side is extremely jarring but oddly enough in a good way. EP3: Green Metal/Deterministic Chaos is a true achievement in the genre that juxtaposes two of the most common human feelings: hope and despair." -- Is Wario a libertarian?, Sputnik Music, October 25, 2016
THIRD EYE CINEMA
"Another split, this time between a rather weird (in the best sense of the term) post-black metal act called The Botanist and a far more forgettable black/doom act of more recent vintage.
The Botanist is an amusingly Decadent-style affair whose concept revolves around a mythical postapocalyptic character named 'Otrebor' whose whispers and shrieks revolve solely around paeans to specific plants (and insects).
Even more amusingly, though it sounds a whole hell of a lot like the sort of tinny, ringing guitars you get with a lot of indie and black metal bands, it’s actually drums accompanied by (of all things) hammered dulcimer…presumably processed with sufficient distortion to deliver the intended tremelo guitar-like effect.
While not exactly earth-shattering musically in any real respect (bar the level of 'gimmick band,' which they fit quite admirably), the concept certainly tickles the fancy, and proves that you don’t have to focus on gore and diabolism to work a black/death sort of thing – you’d be hard pressed to deny this is black metal, or close enough to it that precious few would notice otherwise.
Black metal about orchids? Yeah, I’m there.
Oskoreien, on the other hand, has precious little to offer the listener beyond played out detuned doom riffing and that ridiculous howl/yodel/shriek thing every fucking crap neo-/post-/hipster-black metal band in existence seems to be gravitating towards of late.
Pure shit, really, at least on a certain level of aesthetics and scene dynamics…but here’s the caveat (and it’s a big one): it’s listenable enough if you lower your standards sufficient to appreciate the melodicism hidden therein.
So bottom line is, what’s your tolerance for experimentation and deviation from established template?
Personally, I enjoyed the shit out of the concept of The Botanist, and didn’t mind their sound herein either. While Oskoreien bored me to tears in a way…as noted, there was a strong thread of melodicism wending its way through an otherwise played out melange of doom and black metal elements that actually saved them in the end, all slags duly noted and set aside long enough to admit that.
Quirky and interesting pairing. Whether it’s seasoned to taste or not is contestable." -- Third Eye Cinema, February 1, 2017
"The band Botanist is a one man metal project, that steers black metal into the realm of plant life. The apt name for that side of the split is not without reason ‘Green Metal’. The sound of Botanist has captivated me, even more after seeing them perform life on Roadburn. It’s vibrant, unrelentingly different and in its own sphere of existence. It’s use of instruments is also peculiar, mainly the use of a hammered dulcimer. I love entering that verdant realm of Roberto Martinelli aka Otrebor.
Oskoreien is less familiar to me, but the band has their roots in viking metal. This is also a one man band. Jay Valena has more moved towards black metal with a slightly philosophical theme to it. The two tracks of Oskoreien are under the title ‘Deterministic Chaos’. I’m a bit puzzled why these two artists have come together, but it makes sense soundwise and lets be honest, both are fairly strange acts in a league of their own.
The tracks of Botanist are marked by a peculiarly frantic percussion and lack of the blazing guitars. The harsh barked vocals are in sharp contrast with the often harmonious and very beautiful tones. It’s a bit like drifting through Wonderland, where a mad plant-man starts barking at you in the midst of the green overgrowth. It’s rare to use the word vibrant for black metal, but the blissful tones of ‘Varkoor’ evoke no other feelings. The epic lyrics describe plants and their reproduction in grand terms, like ‘Clathrus Columnatus’: “Lord of the flies, In pilgrimage they come, To its altar of slime, Gathering its children, Spores to arise anew”.
The final track by Botanist is an almost shoegaze affair, where only the vocals stand as the extreme metal element.’Saprophyte’ fades into another track, where that weird, hammering percussion is again on the forefront. This playful, lively sound is in sharp contrast with the noisy, distortion laden sound that Oskoreien delivers, including some big riffs by the way, to keep the rock element high. Droning, gritty sounds with melancholic guitars woven through is what you hear on the title track ‘Deterministic Chaos’. Though it feels black metal, it has a sludge/drone sound going for it that is so utterly bleak that the harsh vocals are all that gives life to the tune.
The most surprising track is the Placebo cover by Oskoreien. It’s like a long stretched, doom-gloom version of the track with tormented howls instead of the nasal Brian Molko. An improvement many would say, but what an unearthly emptiness does Oskoreien invoke with their cold soundscapes. Harrowing and haunting, combined with those tracks by Botanist, this makes for an excellent record exploring the far of realms of black metal." -- Guido, Stranger Aeons, November 28, 2016
Multitalent Otrebor und sein Black Metal-durchströmter Blend aus Shoegaze, atmosphärischem Post Metal und orientalischem Instrumentarium ist zurück. Der Musiker aus San Francisco hat sich für die neue EP seines Projekts Botanist in seiner Heimat umgeschaut und diese als Split mit dem als Ein-Mann-Projekt fungierendenOskoreien veröffentlicht. Jay Valena, der Kopf hinter diesem Namen, hatte 2011 sein selbstbetiteltes Debüt „Oskoreien“ herausgebracht, während Botanist zuletzt 2014 mit einer Full-Length-Platte namens „VI: Flora“ aufwartete und seitdem nur noch vergangenes Jahr die Tour-EP „Hammer of Botany“ im Gepäck hatte. Beide Bands sind für eher verrückten, experimentellen Musikstil bekannt – Botanists Sound wird vor allem für eines immer wieder angepriesen oder eher kontrovers diskutiert: Dem Fehlen einer Gitarre, die stattdessen durch den Sound eines arabischen Hackbretts oder auch Kastenzither ersetzt wird. Ein Aufeinanderprallen mit Valenas typischem Folk-Doom-Black ergibt hierbei einen verheißungsvoll-interessanten Cocktail.
Warum das die Neugierde in jedem Underground-Anhänger wecken sollte: Zunächst einmal kann man sich sicher sein, dass eine Split mit Botanist im Boot nicht einfach nur zwei Band-Stilistika mischt, sondern auch wirklich ganz andere Luftdruckzonen aufeinander treffen lässt, gerade weil Otrebors „Green Metal“ eine gänzlich andere Herangehensweise an die Metal-Musik hergibt. Nicht umsonst verschmäht die Encyclopaedia Metallum das Projekt als „Un-Metal“ durch das Fehlen des eigentlich essentiellen Instruments. Der träumerische Neo-Sound, der durch den Einsatz des wie ein Derwisch gespielten Orient-Brettchens den herkömmlichen Drum-Sound und die Growls untermalt, ist aber auch hier wieder einzigartig: „Amorphophallus Titanum“ als Opener beginnt mit ebenso trostloser Stimmung wie jede VÖ der norwegischen Abgötter Immortal – und bevor man für diesen Vergleich ans Kreuz genagelt wird, sollte man sich noch das reißerische „Clathrus Columnatus“ oder „Varkoor“ geben. Unverwechselbarer Klang, erhebend, ohne den Impuls zu verlieren. Die fünf Kurz-Stücke vergehen jeder in seiner eigenen Art kurzweilig und sind vor dem Hintergrund des Botanist-Konzepts ein wahrer Ohrenschmaus: Frustration über den Umgang von Krankheit Mensch mit der Natur. Im Herzen ein echter Aktivist prangte auf früheren Botanist-VÖs auch gerne mal das Prädikat: „Eco-Terrorist Metal“. Der irre Botaniker-Misanthrop rüttelt definitiv auf, auch wenn manchmal die Songs gar positive Alcest-Feelings aufkeimen lassen – nur um sie im nächsten Moment wieder zu ersticken.
Der Oskoreien-Part der Split beginnt zunächst dissonant und wirkt wie die Ankunft der bitteren Zivilisation in der Natur-Zuflucht, die vorher erschaffen wurde: Typische Doom-Downpour-Musikwände fluten den Hörer und unterdrücken alles Hoffnungsfrohe, das vorher in Blüte stand. Vor allem das gemache Tempo und die schleifenden Gitarren lassen den Titeltrack „Deterministic Chaos“ erstrahlen, der sich auch mal ganze 13 Minuten hinzieht. Vor dem beständigen Beben, welches von dem Drone-Klang ausgelöst wird, stehen getragene Lead-Gitarren-Melodien, lamentierende Growls und es verbreitet sich schnell ein Gefühl von Unbehagen. Und wer das schafft, kann sich auf die Schultern klopfen. Das schließende, wesentlich kürzere „Without You, I’m Nothing“ reiht sich hier ein und geht symptomatisch mit dem deterministischen Chaos von zuvor einher. Kaskadischer Donner, stark gedrosselt in seiner Geschwindigkeit – aber ebenso zielführend wie die ganze EP. Mission accomplished.
Fazit: Mit dem Clash von Botanist und Oskoreien hat man erneut ein perfektes Beispiel dafür, welch „weirde“ Facetten Black Metal annehmen kann – somit sind die dargebotenen Songs schonmal nichts für diejenigen Puristen, die ihren Black Metal traditionell konsumieren und von persischem Instrumentarium, politischer Botschaft und zu viel Doom-Chaos nichts wissen wollen. Doch die vorliegende Split macht vor allem wegen ihres überaus interessanten und der un-fucking-fassbaren Empirie beim musikalischen Schaffen richtig Bock. Dazu tritt die niederdrückende, beklemmende Stimmung, die Auseinandersetzung mit Themen der Biologie bei Botanist und die dröhnende Niederwalzung mit Oskoreien. Stark! Nihilismus par excellence. (9/10)" -- Tobias Äggi, Tombstone Webzine, November 2, 2016