(English translation follows)
"We remember the trials and tribulations of the band Christs Nails in the '90s. Theirs was an audacious - if not pretentious - mix of piano and black metal. That screamed voice, as if possessed, sickened, accompanied by such a voluptuous instrument ("it's so sumptuous!")... was pretty weird. And also pretty unconvincing.
We also remember, as it was not so long ago, the mystical delirium from the band Occulto Mortualia: a suffocating ambiance, this time with some sort of dry guitar, but always with that black metal voice that sounded like it was shifted off time from the music. Here again, strangeness, but in the big picture... lame.
More than one has affronted the difficulty of captivating the essence of black metal and transposing it in an original approach. More than one has failed.
Botanist is a one-man black metal band -- you guessed it -- that instead of guitars and bass, plays different instruments with disorienting sonorities. Like the hammered dulcimer. Yes, that strange instrument on which you hit strings; a savant mix of piano and harp. Of black metal, all that remains in this case is drums and vocals. And an infernal ambiance!
There is no respite here. Between the shamanic vocals ('Rhododendoom'), the severely ballsy blast beats ('Gorechid'), and the demented 'piano,' ('Quercus Lamellosa'), boredom is totally impossible. The ear is captivated by the totally engaging sonorities that arise from the album. My poor European ear was practically shocked by this sound that was straight from the most unwholesome and frenzied folklore imaginable. It's like an Indian rite of passage that veers like a bad trip into Pandemonium!
Botanist's is a ritual approach, one that is close to nature -- as you can see from the album cover and the names of the songs. It's a hymn to wilted flowers, to invasive plants, who, from nothing are reborn and grow to cover concrete, deserts and abysses alike. Their beauty is feigned, as it is filled with venomous nectar. Their colors are seductive and emotive. A plant -- practically synonymous with fragility and vanity. But is it not a plant that, cruelly, covers up all that surrounds it? Like a baobab that envelops you with it's soft wood, ferns that cut and scrape you with their shard-filled leaves, or roses, so lovely yet so spiky. Nature is without pity, regardless of appearances. Botanist is that person that collects, chronicles, observes and reproduces flora's magnificent cruelty.
The feeling is of a subdued violence, a bitter taste of sap. The venom takes root. It is spreading.
This is a superb rebirth in the black metal world. The Suicide Tree and its twin, A Rose From the Dead, fit in fairly well in the vegan world -- a weirdo angle taken by Book of Sand, while all the while having a singularity that is in the least destabilizing. Botanist has the kind of sound that one recognizes immediately.
Where many have failed, Botanist comes out like genius. It's a veritable sonic bonsai that assaults your ears, like audial bondage via lashes from vines, without ever renouncing the savage and untameable aspect of black metal. Short songs that cut and sting like so many crazed wasps.
Botanist is more than a musical experience, it's a veritable masterpiece. It remains to be seen if your ears are ready."-- Devs Ω, Ambient Churches, March 17, 2012
(original French posting follows)
"On se souvient des déboires de Christs Nails dans les années '90. Mélange audacieux - si ce n'est prétentieux - de piano et de black metal. Cette voix criée, possédée, maladive accompagnée d'un instrument si voluptueux ("c'est fastueux, c'est fastueux!"), ma foi le résultat était fort étrange. Et fort peu convaincant.
On se souvient, car ça ne fait pas trop longtemps, des délires mystiques d'Occulto Mortualia. Ambiance étouffante, cette fois avec un genre de guitare sèche, mais toujours cette voix black en décalage. Ici encore, étrangeté, mais dans les grandes lignes... ratage.
Cette difficulté à capter l'essence du Black Metal pour la transposer dans une approche originale, plus d'un s'y est confronté. Plus d'un a raté.
Botanist est un one-man-band, de Black Metal - you guessed it - qui utilise au lieu des guitares et basses d'usage, différents instruments aux sonorités déroutantes. Comme... le Hammered Dulcimer. Oui oui, cet instrument étrange à cordes frappées, savant mélange de piano et de harpe. Du black metal ne reste que la voix et la batterie. Et l'ambiance infernale !
Aucun repos. Entre les vocaux shamaniques (Rhododendoom), les blasts sévèrement burnés (Gorechid) et le 'piano' dément (Quercus Lamellosa), l'ennui est totalement impossible. Il faut dire que l'oreille est captivée par les sonorités totalement barrées qui se dégagent de l'album. Ma triste oreille européenne a pratiquement été choquée par ce son tout droit sorti du folklore le plus malsain et délirant que l'on puisse imaginer. Un rite de passage indien qui vire au bad trip dans Pandemonium!
Un approche très rituelle, proche de la nature - comme vous l'avez vu avec la cover et le nom des titres. Un hymne aux fleures fanées, aux plantes rampantes. Elles, qui d'un rien renaissent, couvrant béton, déserts et abysses. Leur beauté feinte, car emplies de suc venimeux. Leurs couleurs aguichantes et leur aptitude à attendrir. La plante : pratiquement synonyme de fragilité et de vanité. Mais n'est-ce pas elle qui, cruelle, recouvre ce qui l'entoure ? Ce baobab qui vous enveloppe de son bois mou, ces fougères qui vous blessent de leur feuillages de verre, ces rosiers, si beaux mais si piquants. La Nature est sans pitié, quelle que soit son apparence. Botanist, c'est cette personne qui collectionne, note, observe et reproduit la magnifique cruauté végétale. Une violence feutrée, un goût amer de sève dans la bouche. Le venin prend racines. Il se répand.
Superbe renouveau dans le monde Black Metal, The Suicide Tree et son jumeau A Rose From The Dead s'inscrivent assez bien dans la lignée vegan - weird qu'avait pris Book Of Sand (je vous revoie à ma chronique) tout en ayant une singularité pour le moins déstabilisante. Le genre de son que l'on reconnaît instantanément.
Et là où beaucoup échouèrent, Botanist s'en sort avec maestria. Véritable bonzaï sonore, bondage auditif à coup de lianes, sans jamais renier le black metal sauvage et indomptable, assaillant vos oreilles. Morceaux courts, tranchants, piquants comme autant de guêpes devenues folles.
Plus qu'une expérience musicale, c'est un véritable chef d’œuvre. Reste à savoir si vos oreilles y sont prêtes..." -- Devs Ω, Ambient Churches, March 17, 2012
"Hot on the heels of last week's listing of the new double CD release on tUMULt from Bay Area hypersonic one-man black metal band Mastery, comes something even stranger. Yet another mysterious one-man black metal horde (and another double disc), rising from the fertile SFBM underground -- the scene that gave us Leviathan, Draugar, Crebain, Pale Chalice, Sutekh Hexen, Dead as Dreams, Dispirit, Horn of Dagoth, Pandiscordian Necrogenesis, Amocoma, Elk, Necrite, Palace of Worms, and more -- has now spawned the oddly monikered Botanist, an odd moniker only until you realize that all the songs here are about plants and flowers, and all of the artwork following suit: old, faded images of strange and wondrous flora and fauna.
But that's not nearly the strangest thing about Botanist. Nope, the strangest thing would be the fact that there are NO guitars, and there is NO bass; just drums, vocals, and HAMMERED DULCIMER. That's right, eerie and esoteric, buzzing and baffling, drum and dulcimer driven eco-terrorist black metal. And as strange as that may sound, the SOUND is even stranger: the dulcimer a particularly haunting and strangely melodic instrument, the typical black metal riffs replaced by maniacal dulcimer melodies, repeated motifs, flurries of cyclical notes, the sound buzzy and brutal in its own way, with an almost old-timey feel to the sound, the drums mathy and intricate, often sounding strangely like a demonic drumline, the vocals a hellish, raspy croak.
But it's the dulcimer that drives the sound of Botanist, a distinctive metallic buzz that's eerily creepy and darkly cinematic, with many of these tracks sounding like they could be some alternate soundtrack for a lost seventies giallo or some super surreal art film.
The tracks are mostly short, sharp blasts of metallic buzz, the dulcimer alternatingly offering up dense overtone-rich clouds of frenzied tangled melody, but just as often, unfurling stretches of haunting, atonal shimmer, occasionally spacing way out, and weaving sprawling dreadscapes of minor key tension and slow build terror, the sound of the dulcimer so strange, sometimes evoking old pianos in ghost town saloons, other times impossibly melodic, with the songs on the verge of pure poppiness, or as poppy as something as twisted and confusional like this can be.
The sound of Botanist is definitely black metal, in form, in structure, in intent, in spirit, even to a degree in sound, but it's also something wholly other -- the relation between the rhythms and the melodic component of the dulcimer's haunting buzz and chiming metallic tone hard to quantify, and obviously even harder to accurately describe. Then there's the dulcimer's traditional station as a folky Appalachian instrument... it all adds to the crazy, confusional appeal of Botanist's warped sonic world, one that manages to be both heavy and buzzy and blackened, but also haunting and hypnotic and strangely soundtracky, a swirling, hazy, chaotic sound, densely melodic, relentlessly rhythmic, fantastically fucked up and bafflingly brilliant.
The discs are housed in super swank full color mini-lp gatefold style Stoughton jackets, with a thick booklet of lyrics, the jacket and booklet both printed to look like an antique botanist's field journal. ENTER THE VERDANT REALM!!" -- Aquarius Records July 2, 2011
(The following is a rough English translation of the original review in Italian. Original review follows the English translation.)
"Behind the U.S. project Botanist lies the drummer of Ophidian Forest, Otrebor. His solo project, while making up but one entry in the black metal world, is certainly one of the most remarkable ones.
The silver sticker that adorns the digpak release of the double album states:
"Forty Tracks of Eerie and Esoteric, Buzzing and Baffling, Drum and Dulcimer Driven Eco-Terrorist Black Metal"
Looking the external and internal artwork and a booklet adorned with botanical illustrations, clearly you are invited to come forward, an invitation that is also explicitly directed by the artist with the phrase "Enter the Verdant Realm."
Forty tracks over seventy minutes of music provide canonical tunes that employ continuous chromatic dissonance and its variants. In this sense, it is unusual that Otrebor chose to do without a guitar and bass, opting instead for his voice, drums, and a hammered dulcimer, the last of which is a tool that could be likened to a kind of xylophone but whose hammering, however, is performed on strings, to provide the material appropriate life.
The attitude taken in the elaboration of the songs is totally free -- there are no precise compositional schemes. Several times a feeling ressembling free jazz is felt. While the sonic alchemy on hand here is along the lines of what could be expected from deviant, 'open' minds such as Blut Aus Nord, Wolves in the Throne Room and Nachtmystium, it is not the sound but rather the concept that is capable of impregnating the listener with persuasive, distubring, atmospheric waves of occultism.
'I: The Suicide Tree / II: A Rose From the Dead' is not easy to digest -- I can safely say that I was so baffled by the initial exposure to the album that I had to put it aside for a couple of days. I was able to slowly recover and, with a free mind, sink into the abyss. The first disk feels almost viscous under your feet, deceiving you with melodies, and providing respite in an unexpected, almost 'playful' vein through frequent changes in musical direction.
I could name some songs that would be good represenations of Botanist's sound, like 'Invoke the Throne of Velthemia,' 'Forgotten in Nepenthes,' 'Gorechid,' 'Sanguinaria,' and 'Quercus Lamellosa,' but those tracks account for not even a seventh of the total duration of a work that is far too multifaceted. We need to deepen the discussion by analyzing over and over the entire path these albums take to find a common thread that will give you a reason to come back to them.
What is the future of this project? It seems that Otrebor intends to produce three additional concept albums. How much can we expect from the first of the successors to the debut? I do not know, but for now I ask the reader for the umpteenth time, what intentions do you have with 'I: The Suicide Tree / II: A Rose From the Dead'?
Will you be tempted by this strange and fascinating creature? If I were you, I would give it an attentive listen, for black metal is a thing whose seduction is worthwhile to those who make the effort to look beyond." -- Mourning, Aristocrazia Webzine, October 10, 2011
(Original Italian text follows:)
"Dietro il progetto statunitense a monicker Botanist si cela il batterista degli Ophidian Forest, Otrebor, la sua esperienza in ambito solistico, pur inserendosi per più di un verso all'interno del mondo black, è sicuramente una di quelle definibili con l'aggettivo particolare.
Il monicker Botanist, il messaggio posto con un argenteo adesivo sul digipak contenete il doppio lavoro dice testualmente:
'Forty Tracks Of Eerie And Esoteric, Buzzling And Baffling, Drum And Dulcimer Driven Eco-Terrorist Black Metal'
e guardando l'artwork sia esterno che interno e un booklet adornato da illustrazioni botaniche, si è invitati chiaramente a farsi avanti, invito che viene anche espressamente diretto dallo stesso artista con la frase 'Enter the Verdant Realm.'
Quaranta tracce per oltre settanta minuti di musica quelle che messe a portata d'orecchio e suonate in maniera tutt'altro che canonica sia per l'uso delle melodie che per l'impostazione di pezzi che fanno di dissonanze e varianti cromatiche continue la propria arma in più.
In tal senso è inusuale la scelta di Otrebor di fare a meno di chitarra e basso, sono infatti la sua voce, la batteria e un dulcimer martellato, uno strumento che potrei paragonare a una sorta di xilofono ma il cui martellare è però eseguito su corde, a fornire il materiale adeguato a dar vita alle canzoni.
L'atteggiamento con cui si cimenta nel plasmare i pezzi è totalmente libero, non vi sono schemi compositivi precisi, in alcuni frangenti sembra di avere a che fare con del free-jazz o trovarsi ad avere nei padiglioni auricolari impasti partoriti da menti deviate e "open" come potrebbero essere quelle di gente quali Blut Aus Nord, Wolves In The Throne Room e Nachtmystium, ovviamente non è del sound che parlo quanto di una concezione atmosferica capace di divenire pregna di onde occulte e suadentemente disturbata.
I The Suicide Tree & II A Rose From the Dead è tutt'altro che semplice, posso tranquillamente dire che l'on air iniziale mi aveva talmente spiazzato da farmelo accantonare per un paio di giorni, ho avuto modo di recuperare con calma e mente libera affondando nell'abisso che il primo capitolo quasi viscidamente scava sotto i vostri piedi ingannandovi con le melodie e trovando poi sollievo nell'inaspettata vena quasi 'briosa' alimentata dalle frequenti variazioni sul tema che il secondo disco offre.
Potrei nominare alcuni brani a mo' di rappresentanza del suono Botanist, in questo caso 'Invoke the Throne of Velthemia,' 'Forgotten in Nepenthes,' 'Gorechid,' 'Sanguinaria' e 'Quercus Lamellosa' potrebbero essere dei buoni riferimenti ma non basatevi su un quintetto che in fin dei conti e in quanto a sostanza vale neanche un settimo della durata complessiva di un platter che è sin troppo sfaccettato, bisogna approfondire il discorso analizzando più e più volte l'intero percorso per trovarvi un filo conduttore che vi dia una ragione per metterlo su nuovamente.
Quale sarà il futuro di questo progetto? Sembra che Otrebor abbia intenzione di produrre altri tre concept album, ci sarà molto da attendere per il primo dei successori in programma? Non lo so, per ora rimetto nel lettore per l'ennesima volta I The Suicide Tree & II A Rose From the Dead, voi che intenzioni avete?
Vi farete tentare da questa strana e fascinosa creatura? Fossi in voi, un ascolto attento lo darei, il black è da un po' che guarda oltre, sempre di più e in alcuni casi vale la pena di tentare." -- Mourning, Aristocrazia Webzine, October 10, 2011
BLACK METAL OF THE AMERICAS
"This is one of the weirdest things I've come across in some time. Botanist is a one-man project that eschews guitars for hammer dulcimer and other forms of melodic percussion. Their subject matter? Plants. Much like Carcass did with medical terminology, Botanist makes botany sound incredibly evil. I am still at a loss as to if this conceit is an incredibly on-point skewering of Satan-obsessed bands like Waitan, or merely the product of a very interesting individual. Musically, Botanist is... well, weird. Inquisition-style frog- croaks dominate the mix, while black metal riffs are played on instruments not really designed to accommodate them. There are some beautiful and otherworldly moments, but usually the whole affair sounds very sparse. As a result, this seems like more of an oddity than required listening. Definitely a unique and thematically interesting entity, however." -- Black Metal of the Americas, Vol. 1, March 4, 2012
BLOGUL CU MUZICĂ FOARTE BUNĂ
(A rough translation of the original text in Romanian follows):
"An album that took me by surprise. Botanist is a one-man project about which nothing is known clearly other than he lives out in the woods. Here's what he writes on the official website:
The songs of Botanist are told from the perspective of The Botanist, a crazed man of science who lives in self-imposed exile, as far away from Humanity and its crimes against Nature as possible. In his sanctuary of fantasy and wonder, which he calls the Verdant Realm, he surrounds himself with plants and flowers, finding solace in the company of the Natural world, and envisioning the destruction of man. There, seated upon his throne of Veltheimia, The Botanist awaits the day when humans will either die or kill each other off, which will allow plants to make the Earth green once again.
So we're dealing with a guy who has studied biology, which we gather from reading the song titles, which are a listing of scientific names of trees and shrubs, insects and secondary metabolites, including some that are extremely obscure.
Botanist's language is of black misanthropy. Despite that, there are electric instruments. The music is undoubtedly black metal: blast beats, throaty voice in the Immortal vein, occasional dissonance and, erm, the typical tremolo picking. But it's not a tremolo guitar, but a kind of tzambal. The remaining instruments are acoustic guitar and harpsichord. The organic drums fit in well with the overall sound. The result is a kind of meta-black metal with themes of plant taxonomy, if you allow me the expression.
I still have to decide if this music is interesting beyond the novelty of the instrumentation, but I'm not sure if that's necessary. It's an original approach, which fits great in its "naturalistic" theme and the kind of philosophical connotations that the term invites. Very funny are the titles of songs that make references to bands in the sphere of influence, like 'Euonymus in Darkness,' 'Sparaxis of Perdition,' and 'Chaining the Catechin' (ie, Mayhem, Axis of Perdition, Deathspell Omega, as it were), mixing them them with various trees and shrubs taken from a plant identification manual." -- Uroboros, Blogul Cu Muzica Foarte Buna, October 30, 2011
(Original Romanian text follows):
"Un album care m-a luat pe nepregatite. Botanist e proiectul unui individ despre care nu se stie nimic clar, in afara faptului ca traieste in padure si e, probabil, de formatie botanist. Iata ce scrie el pe siteul oficial:
The songs of Botanist are told from the perspective of The Botanist, a crazed man of science who lives in self-imposed exile, as far away from Humanity and its crimes against Nature as possible. In his sanctuary of fantasy and wonder, which he calls the Verdant Realm, he surrounds himself with plants and flowers, finding solace in the company of the Natural world, and envisioning the destruction of man. There, seated upon his throne of Veltheimia, The Botanist awaits the day when humans will either die or kill each other off, which will allow plants to make the Earth green once again.
Deci un tip care a facut facultatea de biologie, daca e sa ne luam dupa titlurile pieselor, o insiruire de denumiri stiintifice de arbori si arbusti, insecte si produsi metabolici secundari dintre care unele EXTREM de obscure. Cum se poate banui din autodescrierea de mai sus, limbajul muzical preferat al botanistului mizantrop e black metal-ul. Ceea ce nu se poate banui din descriere e ca pe albumul asta nu exista instrumente electrice. Muzica e fara indoiala black metal: blast beaturi, voce guturala sictirita tip Immortal, disonante ocazionale si, erm, tremolo picking tipic. Atat doar ca tremolo-ul nu e facut pe chitara, ci pe un fel de tzambal, iar restul instrumentelor sunt chitara acustica si clavecinul. Tobele la randul lor suna organic, neamplificat, un sunet sec care se potriveste cu ansamblul. Deci un fel de meta black metal pe teme de taxonomie vegetala, daca-mi permiteti exprimarea.
Inca trebuie sa hotarasc daca muzica asta e interesanta si dincolo de noutatea instrumentatiei, dar intr-un fel nu stiu daca e nevoie. E o abordare originala, care se potriveste grozav cu tematica 'naturalista' si genul de conotatii filosofice pe care le invita. Foarte amuzante sunt titlurile unor piese care fac trimiteri la trupe din sfera de influenta: 'Eunoymus in Darkness,' 'Sparaxis of Perdition,' 'Chaining the Catechin' (adica Mayhem, Axis of Perdition, Deathspell Omega cum ar veni), cuplandu-le in mod dubios cu diversi arbori si arbusti din determinatorul de plante." -- Uroboros, Blogul Cu Muzica Foarte Buna, October 30, 2011
"Botanist has the market cornered. The San Francisco one man black-metal team eshews the traditional guitars in favor of the eerie sounds of the hammered dulcimer, an instrument that may be familiar to NYCers via Chinese street performers in our train stations. The trade-off makes for a unique sound; the instrument's somewhat atonal tendencies creates a feeling of dread that permeates Botanist's double release, I: The Suicide Tree and II: A Rose From The Dead. For the concerned, yes, Botanist features plenty of the blasting/death-growling that the corpse-painted hordes have grown so accustomed to, but its this odd, off-putting instrument that gives Botanist a truly peculiar and particular sound unlike anything today. Highly recommended.
Word is that Botanist will take this show on the road, so we'll keep our eyes open. Until then, stream Botanist's double LP (out now via Tumult) in its entirety below." -- BBG, Brooklyn Vegan, December 23, 2011
(Taken from the 2-part article "13 USBM Songs to Hear Before You Die" in the Swedish-language print magazine "Close Up." Translation into English by Måns Ericsson.)
'In the Hall of Chamaerops'
from the album 'I: The Suicide Tree / II: A Rose From the Dead.'
Krollsplint. If I had ever - Satan forbidding - started a black metal band, I would have without a second of doubt called it 'Krollsplint.' Of course you’re wondering why and what in the world it means. I’ll explain and I’ll even do it in a way that lays open the frame of mind of the American eco-terrorist dulcimer-hammering black metal musician who calls himself Botanist.
Haha, that felt so good to write that I’ll do it one more time: 'the American eco-terrorist dulcimer-hammering black metal musician who calls himself Botanist.'
Everything starts with the dwarf fan palm.
No, don’t give up. This is convoluted in a dry academic way, but it will make sense soon.
The dwarf fan palm, Chamaerops humilis in Latin, is the only species of the genus Chamaerops. Originally from the Mediterranean area, it will grow to an average height of one meter and is often seen as an ornamental plant.
There is nothing special about this palm at all, it seems. But then you delve a little deeper and it turns out that the leaf fibers from this plant are used as padding in furniture and mattresses. The process is as follows: the fibers are dried, rinsed and twisted into braids. Then they are packed into bales and shipped from the Mediterranean to northern Europe, where we use it as furniture padding.
This padding, the dried fibers of Chamaerops, is called 'krollsplint.' Why? It is derived from German and means 'to curl up,' which is exactly what the leaf fibers do when you dry them. But there is something else about this word, it sounds so incredibly black metal: krollsplint. It is of course the Germanic influences that makes themselves evident, the nordic myths, the grim and barren language. The Germanic language strain reflects those environments that shaped it: the rules, declinations and inflections are as barren - but also as breathless - as the north face of the Matterhorn, as deliberately placed - but still not completely tamed - as the Bavarian crest’s golden lion.
Krollsplint. We are almost done with the word, but will return to it one more time before we are finished.
This was supposed to be about Botanist, a black metal musician so singularly unique that he basically could come only from the United States. It is an ambiguous world he has built, but it is a world that holds together, it is its own universe where even the most insane ideas shape the coherent worldview he has created.
He probably explains his universe best himself. Here from an excellent interview from last year on the blog Lurker’s Path: 'The songs of Botanist are told from the perspective of The Botanist, a crazed man of science who lives in self-imposed exile, as far away from Humanity and its crimes against Nature as possible. In his sanctuary of fantasy and wonder, which he calls the Verdant Realm, he surrounds himself with plants and flowers, finding solace in the company of the Natural world, and envisioning the destruction of man. There, seated upon his throne of Veltheimia, The Botanist awaits the day when humans will either die or kill each other off, which will allow plants to make the Earth green once again.'
If this isn’t the craziest and most wonderful manifesto you have ever heard, then what is?
Under his Botanist alias, this dude - his name is Roberto Martinelli and sometimes calls himself Otrebor and has played drums in Ophidian Forest, amongst others - has released three albums. The first is a double CD 'I: The Suicide Tree / II: A Rose From the Dead' and this is where 'In the Hall of Chamaerops' is from. Last year the follow-up, 'III: Doom in Bloom' arrived and this year we got the fourth installment, 'IV: Mandragora.'
An artist that has gone so far into his alias so that the alias creates music based on how the alias thinks. Roberto Martinelli is gone, what is left is the Botanist. A dissolution of the self, accordingly. Martinelli/Otrebor/Botanist explains what he means in an interview with Louis Pattison of The Quietus: 'When Botanist’s music gets recorded, I channel an entity within me that's been named 'The Botanist', a character whose perspective dictates the content of the music and lyrics.'
The Botanist, this mad scientist in exile, thus longs for a world where humans are eradicated and plants, flowers, shrubs and have taken over. It is ecologism taken to its extreme. It is every organism's right to self-fulfilment, sans humanity. The Botanist sees man as the terrorist and nature as the attacked.
I can understand it sometimes. When the exhausts of the city poison our capacity for respiration, when you do not see a tree for two weeks, when all newly built roads/airports/factories has priority over nature so as to not restrict economic growth. And if anything is never, under any circumstances, allowed to happen under capitalism it is this: restricted growth. I see it as a sign of health in music in general, and black metal in particular, that someone is creating serious music about the dangers of humans eco-destroying progress.
One can discuss whether what Botanist is doing can even be categorized as black metal or not. Botanist himself says it is, but that does not have to mean anything. The instrumentation points to something completely different: the dulcimer is what the music is mainly driven by. The dulcimer is a string instrument, a kind of zither, but instead of plucking the strings like a guitar you beat them with two small hammers, one in each hand. The instrument has a long tradition, its use started as early as the Middle Ages. But never before has anyone used it in the context of black metal. But, as Botanist says in the same interview on The Quietus as I referred to above: 'I believe the instrument to be possessed.'
The way Botanist sings can definitely be sorted under the black metal genre. As well as the attitude and the lyrical themes. And the sense of fatalistic resignation: several times he proclaims the era of humanity to be over.
The solution to man’s destruction of nature is, according to Botanist, that man shall be removed. The Botanist is also working towards that goal. He does whatever he can to make man disappear from the face of earth, for example, conversing with the demons in his head. As he says in that interview on Lurker’s Path 2012: 'Some of the representations in the lyrics are indeed characters who speak to The Botanist. The main one is Azalea, the demonic entity who speaks to The Botanist in voices in his head, directing him on how to bring about The Budding Dawn.'
Now we return to the word 'krollsplint' one final time, the dried fibers from the leaves of Chamaerops, that were used as furniture padding in Europe. And we return in order to explain the inner thoughts of botanist with help from the krollsplint.
It is like this: we have stopped using krollsplint as padding in furniture. Why? Because it turns out that the krollsplint housed acarids (tiny, tiny arachnids) that spread like pests in houses where the furniture were placed. This is the plant that Botanist celebrates in this song, the dwarf fan palm, which is harvested and dried in order to facilitate man’s life, but in the end brings with it nature’s revenge, tiny arachnids that make life miserable. It is an intricate revenge, in all its complexity a beautiful image of what Botanist tries to convey in his lyrics and theses. It is a retribution of the most frenzied black metal dimensions." -- Tony Ernst (translation into English by Måns Ericsson), Close-Up Magazine #158, January/February, 2014
Where to start with Botanist? Perhaps this will explain a little?
'The songs of Botanist are told from the perspective of The Botanist, a crazed man of science who lives in self-imposed exile, as far away from Humanity and its crimes against Nature as possible. In his sanctuary of fantasy and wonder (which he calls the Verdant Realm), he surrounds himself with plants and flowers, finding solace in the company of the Natural world and envisioning the destruction of man. There, seated upon his throne of Veltheimia, The Botanist awaits the day when humans will either die or kill each other off, which will allow plants to make the Earth green once again.'
Chances are, this has confused you even more. But this is nothing compared to the experience of actually listening to Botanist. A band driven by drums, by hammered dulcimer (yes) and vocals. And that’s it. There’s no guitar to be found here, no deep bass lines to discover. Botanist is experimental in the truest sense of the word. Taking the foundations built and forged by bands in the Cascadian black metal scene, a love for nature and for the world’s untouched beauty, and taking it to a completely new place.
This double release features forty tracks of the most incredibly bizarre music you’re like to hear this year. The first disc, I: The Suicide Tree, is thirty minutes of self-proclaimed “eco-terrorist black metal.” The vocals having much in common with what you might be more familiar with in the black metal scene – low, and growled with just the right amount of unease thrown in. It’s disarmingly melodic at times, the hammered dulcimer echoing the sound of a madly played piano. Surprisingly catchy, it’s difficult to not get lost in the sounds created by this one-man band – the drums (that wouldn’t sound terribly out of place on a more 'orthodox' release) inducing some massively frantic head-banging culminating in the final track to be found on this particular disc, 'Glycyrrhiza.' A gloriously fast-paced song that completes this disc perfectly, reaching a crescendo so intense that you may need to have a little bit of sit down before continuing on to II: A Rose From The Dead.
And so, on to the second album included in this collection. A somewhat darker affair, the music seems a tad on the more despondent side on this disc. A little more melancholy and a lot more sonically pleasing. That’s not to say that the first disc isn’t incredibly fascinating, but that II is a more fully formed piece. “The Botanist” has found his voice and it’s as joyously eerie as you’d hope. Genuine moments of true disquiet seep into your subconscious, the absolute dissonance of the sounds produced by this voice, by his instruments could be taken from a nightmare. And by all accounts, this is “The Botanist’s” dreams coming true. A concept album at it’s heart, and a story to be continued throughout at least another three parts, this journey is one of terror and disturbance. Closing on an untitled track, II: A Rose From The Dead, plays out via a gorgeously mournful piece played entirely on the dulcimer. It resonates within your heart, managing to be both uplifting and gloomy at the same time. Has 'The Botanist' won this battle? Not yet, but the struggle will continue.
If anything, Botanist should serve as a warning to all. That one day, nature will fight back. And it will win." -- uncredited, Cvlt Nation, December 10, 2011
"MORE INTERESTING THAN GOOD (Google-translated document)
From the discourse which says that black metal is a state of mind and an attitude rather than a pure musical expression lands now one-man project Botanist from San Francisco with his rich debut album, I: The Suicide Tree / II: A Rose From the Dead , which spans two discs and throughout the 40 tracks. "Eco-terrorist black metal" known as the author's music and it can be seen in an extension of the nature of romance that has existed in some quarters in the black metal for long.
San Francisco has always seemed something of a creative melting pot for me. Not only did all the flower power from the late 1960s, harcore punk and thrash metal from the Bay Area and post-hardcore pioneers Neurosis from Oakland, from San Francisco is also derived Weakling, a cornerstone of the modern black metal sound.
That said, Botanist has much in common musically with Weak Ling. There Weak Modeling based evocative of at least ten minutes, the Botanist a much more explosive attitude, the 40 tracks accomplished in about 70 minutes, that is about the same time as Weak Ling-operation of their five.
In addition, do not use Botanist of either guitar or bass.
Instead, the composition drums, vocals - and hammer the harp, an instrument I did not even know existed until I was Botanist biography in my hand. A moment's half-hearted research later, I note that there is a stringed instrument used mostly for sacred music, which now occupy the front position of the opposite.
In 2011, the vast majority of musical expression has already walked at least one turn through popular culture. Whether Botanist using hammer harp is about a genuine expression or just a way to distance themselves in a genre already heard most of the time I leave unsaid. But like Botanist, I never got to know.
The drums sound tinny, and the hoarse screaming vocals are probably the most traditional one finds in the sound. But the hammer harp takes over everything.
Wry and barren, but inevitably eerie sound is the indeed the center. My thoughts go to some form of free jazz at times, but also to fragments of Blut Aus Nord 's closest electronic black metal. Though the other side of the coin, so to speak.
No actual songs from has not had time to get caught at all yet, rather Botanist has a sound that fascinates more than it actually sounds good. I can not even say that it is neither good nor bad. It is rather interesting, which in itself is something good there, too. In: The Suicide Tree / II: A Rose From the Dead leaves at least not anyone indifferent." -- Tomas Lundstrom, dagensskiva.com, July 24th, 2011
"MER INTRESSANT ÄN BRA (original Swedish)
Från diskursen som säger att black metal är ett sinnestillstånd och en attityd snarare än ett rent musikaliskt uttryck landar nu enmansprojektet Botanist från San Francisco med sitt mustiga debutalbum I: The Suicide Tree/II: A Rose From the Dead, som spänner över två skivor och hela 40 spår. ”Eco-terrorist black metal” kallas upphovsmannens musik och det kan ses i en förlängning av den naturromantik som funnits på sina håll inom black metal länge.
San Francisco har alltid framstått som något av en kreativ smältdegel för mig. Inte nog med all flower power från det sena 1960-talet, harcore punk och thrash metal från Bay Area och posthardcore-pionjärerna i Neurosis från Oakland, från San Francisco härstammar också Weakling, en hörnsten inom hur modern black metal låter.
Därmed inte sagt att Botanist har särskilt mycket gemensamt musikaliskt med Weakling. Där Weakling bygger stämningsmattor på minst tio minuter, intar Botanist en mycket mer explosiv attityd; de 40 spåren klaras av på ungefär 70 minuter, det vill säga ungefär samma tid som Weakling betar av sina fem på.
Dessutom använder sig inte Botanist av varken gitarr eller bas.
I stället är sättningen trummor, sång – och hammarharpa, ett instrument jag inte ens visste existerade förrän jag höll Botanists biografi i min hand. En stunds halvhjärtad research senare konstaterar jag att det är ett stränginstrument som använts mestadels till sakral musik, som nu får inta frontpositionen för det motsatta.
År 2011 har de allra flesta musikaliska uttryck redan vandrat minst ett varv genom populärkulturen. Huruvida Botanists användande av hammarharpa handlar om ett genuint uttryck eller bara är ett sätt att distansera sig i en genre som redan hört det mesta låter jag vara osagt. Men något liknande Botanist har jag aldrig stiftat bekantskap med.
Trummorna låter burkiga och den hesa skriksången är nog det mest traditionella man hittar i ljudbilden. Men hammarharpan tar över allting.
Skev och karg, men med ofrånkomligen kuslig klang står den onekligen i centrum. Mina tankar går till någon form av frijazz stundtals, men även till fragment av Blut Aus Nords närmast elektroniska black metal. Fast den andra sidan av myntet, så att säga.
Några egentliga låtar från har inte hunnit fastna alls ännu, snarare har Botanist ett sound som fascinerar mer än det faktiskt låter bra. Jag kan inte ens säga att det är varken bra eller dåligt. Snarare är det intressant, vilket i och för sig är någonting bra det också. I: The Suicide Tree/II: A Rose From the Dead lämnar åtminstone inte någon oberörd." -- Tomas Lundstrom, dagensskiva.com, July 24th, 2011
"The U.S. extreme movement embraces this bizarre project that bases its depressive pace on drums, percussive dulcimer, and an absolute devotion to the world of plants. That's right, no guitar and bass from a character who lives in total isolation from the rest of society and has recorded five concept albums slated to be released quickly one after another. The first two chapters strike with the ability to carve out an occult atmosphere outside from accepted black metal dogmas and close to some avant-garde solutions that few people will be capable to understand completely. Our advice is rather to get closer with an open mind to the vibrations of the first chapter of suicide, and then enjoy the variations on the theme of the second chapter. 'Invoke the Throne Of Veltheimia,' 'Forgotten in Nepenthes' and 'Quercus Lamellosa' are some of the most remarkable tracks in a release that is complex and full of surprises. The genre that comprises Wolves in the Throne Room, Leviathan, Pale Chalice, Dispirit, and Woe, amongst the most noted, has found a new artist to support. Just be sure not to trample any of the creatures of the plant world." -- Lorenzo Becchiani, dagheisha.com, August 23rd, 2011
"Il movimento estremo statunitense abbraccia questo bizzarro progetto che basa il suo incedere depressivo su batteria, dulcimer a percussione e devozione assoluta per il mondo delle piante. Avete capito bene, niente chitarra e basso per un personaggio che vive in totale isolamento dal resto della società e ha registrato cinque concept destinati ad uscire a breve distanza tra loro. I primi due capitoli colpiscono per la capacità di ritagliare atmosfere occulte in un contesto esule dalle regole rigide del black metal e prossimo ad alcune soluzioni avanguardistiche che i meno avvezzi scartano di principio. Il consiglio è invece quello di avvicinarvi con la mente libera alle vibrazioni suicide del primo capitolo e in seguito godere delle variazioni sul tema del secondo. 'Invoke The Throne Of Veltheimia', 'Forgotten In Nepenthes' e 'Quercus Lamellosa' sono alcuni tra i titoli più pregevoli di una release complessa ma fonte di sorprese. Il panorama che vede Wolves Of The Throne Room, Leviathan, Pale Chalice, Dispirit e Woe tra i più discussi protagonisti ha trovato un nuovo artista da supportare. L'importante è non calpestare nessuna creatura del manto verde." -- Lorenzo Becchiani, dagheisha.com, August 23rd, 2011
"There are a number of bands that are much more metallic than San Francisco’s Botanist and that have been denied entrance into the Encyclopaedia Metallum. Bands that are heavy and slow, or distorted and fast. Bands with dudes in short hair, sleeve tattoos, stupid haircuts and white belts. Bands with girls in their line ups and melodic breakdowns in their shitty music. Bands with screamers and with musicians that can barely be described as such. There are bands that are borderline hardcore and borderline metal that have been denied their presence in Metal Archives. That is unfair. And it is especially unfair because San Francisco’s one man project Botanist has been accepted into the database. The truth is Botanist may be black but it is not metal at fucking all.
Unless of course, to be metal one needs only have the vocals down. The Botanist, the man behind Botanist, adopts a froggy approach. His voice is small and thin, reduced by the lack of production of this recording. If vocals like this were ever meant to be eerie, this fails. If they were meant to be creepy, this jumps into comical territory.
One aspect that could have helped Botanist entrance into Metal Archives is the drums, which to be honest, are very well-played, dexterous and articulate. That is to say, there is speed and gusto. There is taste in the arrangements and enough fills and changes to color any heavy band. The sound of the drums is an entirely different matter; it is highly doubtful that an actual drumkit was used in the recording of I: The Suicide Tree / II: A Rose from the Dead. It is more likely that The Botanist had to downsize to drumming pads.
Which takes us to our last paragraph; there are no guitars, nor bass. There is no distortion. No heaviness. No solos. And nothing that you as a metal fan may have come to love and treasure, precisely because the strings tend to be the instruments that drive and fuel metallic music. Instead, The Botanist employs a dulcimer. Yep, you got that right.
Label Tumult says this is ‘eerie, buzzing and baffling, drum and dulcimer driven eco-terrorist black metal’. They got the baffling part right but they got the metal part wrong. There is nothing in this recording that will terrorize you. The overall sound is small and though energetic, The Botanist ultimately delivers an album that is closer to sweet than to anything black, smoked or even brown. This is precisely how one imagines latter day Emperor would have sounded like in the dressing room and after someone had instructed them to keep it down. It’s a shame because the logo is pretty cool. 2.5/5 Sparrows" -- Ignacio Brown, Deaf Sparrow, October 30, 2011
Even the most diehard Rush fan will admit that the extended arboreal allegory in 'The Trees' is pretty lame. Sure, Neil Peart's always had a way with heavy-handed metaphor, but the bigger problem is that it's near impossible to make flora sound badass. Or so it seemed, until I heard I: The Suicide Tree / II: A Rose From the Dead, the two-disc debut by one-man black metal project Botanist. I am now terrified of flowers. And also the hammered dulcimer, the tinny-sounding zither that serves as the album's only instrument, other than voice and drums.
Between the unorthodox instrumentation and ridiculous conceit -- 40 short ramblings from a misanthropic plant lover who sits within a botanical garden, awaiting the demise of humanity via a 'Verdant Messiah' -- I / II could have drowned in its own novelty. Instead, this project feels like the discovery of a new species of extreme music. Botanist mainman Otrebor doesn't just transcribe black metal's humming guitar lines for dulcimer; he writes extreme music specifically for it, exploiting the instrument's shimmering tonalities and percussive quirks that wouldn't be possible on guitar. The clattering drumming style perfectly complements the dulcimer's jarring clang.
While this isn't the first band to condemn mankind and extol nature, Otrebor's lyrics are so rich in botanical detail that I / II feels more like a pagan hymnal that a typical black metal polemic. Though there's plenty of righteous wrath in a line like 'Orchidaceae swamped in gore / Bloodstained Asparagales / Dripping crimson nectar / From the mutilated corpses of the dead.' Compare that with Rush's 'So, the maples formed a union / And demanded equal rights.' Botanist wins. 9/10" -- Etan Rosenbloom, Decibel, December, 2011
(original Japanese posting follows)
というわけで近年わらわらと生まれて（そして消え？）る変わり種バンドの中でも他に類を見ない属性を持った実験的ブラックメタルバンドですな。個人的にはジャケからNegură Bunget、もしくはWolves In The Throne Room系の音かと思って購入したんですが、良い意味で裏切られたというか、何と言うか。予備知識なしで最初に聴けば「？」が頭に浮かぶようなインパクトがあります。かといって聴いて凄い衝撃を受けたかというとそんなこともないってのは、変わった楽器を使うという発想は新しいものの、演奏法やヴォーカルなどは一般的なブラックメタルをなぞっており、その範疇からあまり出てないからでしょうか。
#3 Helleborus Niger
ぽーんぽーん ぽーんぽーん ぽんぽんぽーん
てろてろてろてろ " -- こるぴ , Dies Irae ,2012年02月05日
DON'T COUNT ON IT REVIEWS
"When this project first came onto my radar, in all honesty, I thought it was a hardcore band, which I was then promptly proven wrong. When I actually starting looking into it, not only was I intrigued by the whole idea of "plant metal," but also the whole instrumentation of the album. A double album with a concept unlike that of any other metal group I've ever heard of before.
The Botanist, the name with which the sole member has named himself, certainly has a strange perception of black metal. I don't think anyone would have ever thought to make black metal with a dulcimer as the main melodic instrument. To an extent, one could call this post-black metal, not blackgaze mind you, if only because it is very different and is far removed from the traditional sounds of groups like Darkthrone or Emperor, though the vocals do have a tendency to sound a bit like Abbath from Immortal. The inklings of melodies run the gambit however, from more traditional black metal to more folk and classical inspired ones, Helleborus Niger or Lepidoptera; and even those are still very broad because of the very diverse set of melodies in just those three, you'll hear songs that sound more medieval while others retain a much more 20th century vibe to them. While one could just as easily argue against it, there are hints, notice I'm saying hints, of elements of post-rock in songs like Koeleria and Sanguinaria, which are connected pretty nicely, which just build up with a pretty black metal-ish melody. It's mainly the act of how it builds in intensity that I'm calling this post-rock, but like I said, feel free to disagree.
I won't try and fool you by telling you that this is instantly amazing because it's different or because it's something you've never heard done before, cause by that standard alone, you would get nothing but a lazy opinion. No, this is great because the songwriting is stripped down and efficient, songs rarely reach even three minutes, which leaves you with songs that are very lean and aim straight for the jugular. It's the short but memorable melodies, along with the weird vocals, that make this record so damn good, the fact that the concept is out of the ordinary is just the icing on the cake. It's hard to really say these records are 'epic' because that word doesn't really fit with the whole vibe of the record, it's not overly extravagant with its compositions or with tons of additional instruments, but the whole thing just feels majestic, though I'm not sure that's the right word, either.
Is it a perfect record? No, there are some tracks on here that do feel a bit like filler. When you have two records that equal up to forty tracks, you're bound to have some be a bit more average than others, even for a project like this.
It's a bit lengthy, but with very little in the way of filler or dull moments, it's hard to even say this record is above average.
This will hopefully turn some heads and make even more people want to explore the realms of black metal in abstract ways. I can safely say that if you're trying to maintain a 'kvlt' attitude towards your black metal, this will tarnish that for you; but if you're interested more in hearing interesting takes on the genre, I highly recommend you look into this record.
Overall Score: 9/10
Highlights: Gorechid, Glycyrrhiza, In The Hall of Chamaerops, Summon Xanthostemon, A Rose From The Dead
The only thing I need to hear now is doom metal done with a hurdy-gurdy and I'll be able to die happily." -- Ian Flick, Don't Count on It Reviews, September 13, 2011
(#43) Botanist - I: The Suicide Tree/II: A Rose From The Dead [tUMULt]
"I'm not the first person to hold this double-album in high regard, and I won't be the last, but if you listen to it, you'll know why. The hammered dulcimer led take on black metal is certainly an interesting idea, but is expertly crafted and performed with care and precision. Each track is an individual with its own personality that manages to stand out from one another despite being primarily composed around the same three instruments. It's just one of those albums where the melodies just seem to come alive and just weave themselves around in your head. So the question is if you're missing out by not hearing this; the answer is obviously yes." -- Ian Flick, Don't Count on It Reviews, December 31, 2011
FROM THE DUST RETURNED
"The Botanist debut is one of those rare cases of an artist's creative instinct and innovative ambitions rapidly outpacing and outclassing his ability to organize and deliver musical content. But I should also qualify that by no means should that statement dissuade anyone from at least checking out what the San Fransisco act has manifest here, an unquestionably fascinating and poetic spin on the black metal genre which incorporates the dulcimer as its central component. Combined with its incredibly interesting use of botanical taxonomy in the song titling and lyrical explorations, the scattered and disheveled chaos of the brief and sporadic compositions, and the sheer magnitude of its 74 minutes and 40 tracks, I: The Suicide Tree/II: A Rose from the Dead is at a bare minimum, one of the most unique genre offerings in 2011, despite its largely left field pollination.
As the project's proprietor proves here, the dulcimer can be every bit as whimsical, chaotic and meticulous as the guitar when it comes to arbitrating the task of nihilistic dissent. You'll likely recognize the black rasping and generally faster paced drumming as staples of the black metal medium, but alternating the spastic plucking of strings for the familiar, distorted foundation does evoke a clamorous, almost cartoon-like surreality. Songs like 'Helleborus Niger,' 'Clematopsis' and 'Dionaea Muscipula' create undisputed flights of eerie grace above their tinny, blasted undercurrents, but by no means does 'The Botanist' restrain himself to bouts of acceleration, but often a jazzy, brooding steadiness that illustrates the potential here ('Rhododendoom,' or the bridge of 'Gorechid'). But what's even more compelling about the material is not just its uncanny instrumentation, but the strange, apocryphal lyrics of humanity succumbing to his leafy and lichen betters, and how the concept is entwined into the remarkably charming but minimal poesy of the lyrics:
Spinning verdant maelstrom
Of sepal, leaf, and branch
It's like A.R. Ammons writing for Attila Csihar, and that's (to me, at least) a fundamentally brilliant concept which alone deserves some fucking credit. As for the music itself, I felt that the sheer excess of available tracks here on the two albums do not always do it any favors. Most of these are brief, 1-3 minutes in length, and despite the sheer quantity of notes being hammered out, I feel like they often lack the 'riffing' money shots that make black metal what it is. Honestly, I've got no problem swapping up the instruments for something fresh and dynamic, but too often do these screwy exercises forsake their inherent possibilities to be over in a flash. Considering the tedious and prolonged processes by which shrubs, trees and certain other varieties of plant life age and evolve, it would be nice to hear a couple compositions that are more drawn out and less a burst towards the finish line. As it stands, only 'A Rose from the Dead' itself, on the second disc, has a substantial duration (over 5 minutes).
That said, I'd be lying to say that the idea behind this is not in of itself worth the very price of admission, and there are several among the brief and frenetic flurries that deliver despite their short-livedness. Botanist is not the first Plant vs. Humans concept I've seen in the extreme metal phylum, as the French death & roll band Phazm covered similar topsoil with their 2004 debut Hate at First Seed, but the music is almost wholly different here, and I rather prefer the serious, bitter irony of the imagery in this Californian's lyrics. I: The Suicide Tree and II: A Rose from the Deadare about as niche as niche gets, but the formidable, flowering imagination behind them is one that should be experienced by anyone thinking outside the planter-box.
Verdict: Win [7.25/10] (to surfeit on nectar effacing)" -- Autothrall, From the Dust Returned, September 12, 2011
FULL METAL ATTORNEY
Can music be black metal without actually being metal? That's one question posed by I: The Suicide Tree / II: A Rose From the Dead, the debut album of Botanist. Otrebor, the band's only member, contacted me with a review copy of the album. He handles drums, vocals, and hammered dulcimer.
The hammered dulcimer is an ancient stringed instrument played with mallets. Your only point of reference may be a xylophone, thanks to its popularity in children's alphabet books. Dulcimer completely takes the place of guitar and bass in this record, so it sounds entirely like no other band out there.
It was intended as two separate albums, but weirdo-friendly label Tumult decided to release it as a double album. When I first put on I: The Suicide Tree, I expected this to be gimmicky. But I was immediately drawn in. High-pitched melodies, dissonance, and rasped vocals, accompanied by weird, halting drum rhythms. It's hard to know what to make of it at first. Sure, it could be dismissed as merely an interesting experiment, but it's mesmerizing.
So intrigued was I at the first disc that I immediately played II: A Rose from the Dead. And it gets even better. Instantly I was met with a new sound: buzzing. The second album is more mature and engaging than the first. A wider range of techniques and more dynamic songwriting bring the second album to transcendental highs and eerie lows, pretty at times but evil at others. This is fully worthwhile even absent the gimmick appeal. I've played the full double album back-to-back more than a half-dozen times in the last few weeks.
The packaging only adds to the overall experience. The pictures could have been taken from old botanical illustrations, melding well with the story of a mad environmentalist "man of science" who lives in seclusion among his plants, waiting for the demise of mankind. My only complaint, in fact, is that the song titles tend to be on the cheesy side -- many are puns on the names of plants, like 'Sparaxis of Perdition' or 'Gorechid.'
The Verdict: I: The Suicide Tree earns an eighty percent rating from me, being as it is a superbly interesting and entrancing experiment that keeps me coming back. II: A Rose from the Dead earns a 90 percent rating as a full-fledged engaging experience. In answer to the question posed: yes, black metal has now outgrown metal and can stand on its own." -- Kelly Hoffart, Full Metal Attorney, August 28th, 2011
Easily the most peculiar and bizarre release I stumbled upon this year, Botanist is a one man black metal band which relies heavily – solely, at many times – on a hammered dulcimer for both its percussion and its melody. Coupled with the familiar but entirely unique gurgling squeal of vocals and other sparse and scarce elements, this album has created controversy within and caught the attention of the greater black metal scene. And for good reason. 2 full length CDs of this shit and it being a sort of plant worship conceptual project, it’s pretty out there. But it’s absolutely incredible, as well. Get it from tUMULt." -- Joshua Decker, Grindthieves, December 25, 2011
“'Special "thanks" to all those, real or unknown, who lacked the vision, commitment or ability to make a band happen with me' say the linear notes to this album. So Otrebor – otherwise known as The Botanist – decided to go it alone. This first offering from the black metal entrepreneur Botanist contains just three ingredients in the music: vocals, drums and hammered dulcimer. Black metal, for the most part, is not a genre known for taking immense leaps forward in terms of originality, so it’s refreshing to see a different instrument make its way to the foreground of a band’s sound. This release is a semi-autobiographical concept album which tells the tale of a reclusive sociopath known as The Botanist who lives in a lush, vegetation-filled environment called The Verdant Realm. Commanded by the demon Azalea, he creates an army of Mandragoras, known as the The Mandrake Legion, to wipe out humanity and return the Earth to its rightful owner, nature. It is for this reason that The Botanist describes his own music as “eco-terrorist”.
This album comes in a double gatefold pack bearing, unsurprisingly, multiple drawings of plant life. I can only imagine that the specific identities for each picture were painstakingly chosen by Otrebor and bear a relevance to something going on in the album’s story. I can’t personally lay claim to any expertise in this area unlike The Botanist, who seems to spend all his time researching plant life when he’s not bashing away on his drums and hammered dulcimer. The lyrics are highly complex, and I’ll be honest, difficult to understand descriptions of the slow asphyxiation of the human race through environmental means. As verbose as they are verdant, I couldn’t help thinking this is what I’d be hearing if The Mars Volta ever got involved in experimental black metal. What doesn’t help is the rather small but elaborate font in which the lyrics are printed, making reading them a real struggle, but fortunately in this marvellous internet age there are various other – and more comfortable – means through which to view them. The Botanist probably wouldn’t approve, but you can’t teach an old Luddite new tricks.
There are actually two separate albums here in one, and you’ll no doubt have noticed the immense quantity of tracks, numbering forty in total. However, in spite of the this large number the entire thing doesn’t go over 80 minutes, made possible by some extremely short track lengths. Most of the songs in this release don’t extend beyond two minutes, with some being a lot shorter than that. The Botanist’s vocals are some of the best I’ve heard in black metal – mid-ranged, guttural and spiked with a latent undercurrent of hatred. In a sense their timbre mirrors The Botanist’s state of mind – pained, angry but patient in resolve. His dislike for the modern world might well be vehement, but he has the time and forbearance to put his plan into action: when you’re commanding an army of plants, radical differences aren’t going to happen overnight. The album is all about gradual change after all, it is the slow unravelling of The Botanist’s plans, like leaves growing from a stem, which are mirrored in the lyrics and vocal delivery, though juxtaposed by the fast double kick drumming and pace of the instrumentation.
Let’s face it, the dulcimer is one of the main things which is going to attract people to this album, it certainty did for me when the promo was offered. It’s an extremely beautiful instrument and one which hardly ever gets a look-in in the metal world, but I can’t help feeling that it’s played with a good degree of limitation here. Black metal is a style suited primarily to guitars and drums, and transposing its style onto an instrument like the dulcimer just ends up crushing the quantity of that instrument’s output, like owning a mazarine butterfly but keeping it in a hamster ball. As a result, the dulcimer’s sound rings out beautifully in tone, but its notation is very limited indeed, being played more percussively than musically. The second thing which limits this album is the shortness of the track lengths. Hemming them in at around two minutes apiece doesn’t really give them room to move or breathe, and it’s in the longer numbers such as the five minute title track A Rose From the Dead when things really begin to take off.
In spite of this, both albums are highly interesting pieces of work, and some of the most unique stuff that black metal has come out with recently. My only wish is that Otrebor would give himself some slack with the track lengths; expanding them would, in turn, allow the creativity in the music to loosen up. The dulcimer is a wonderful addition in concept too, though at the moment it feels almost gimmicky since it’s not allowed the free reign it deserves, like a highly obedient sheep dog kept chained in the corner, dreaming of breaking free from its farmhouse and running uninhibited through the corn. In a way I’m reminded of the violins in Lake of Sorrow by The Sins of Thy Beloved: if you were to remove them from the music, you’d remove its only interesting element.
In my opening paragraph I referred to this release as semi-autobiographical for a reason. Like Lawless’s Jonathan in The Crimson Idol, Otrebor uses the identity of The Botanist as a thin veil for his own. Putting this album together in solitude and writing about the destruction of the human race gives me some clues as to his misanthropic mindset, and possibly why it was best that he attempted this project single-handedly. The power of the Mandrake Legion is obviously his exaggerated route for improving this planet, and one which I don’t entirely disagree with, we will all return to the Earth from which we came after all. With three more albums already in the works and nearing completion, I will be watching his progress with a keen eye. This double release is an admirable starting point, and I can only hope he continues on this path of creativity. Hopefully there are even greater – and more lavish – things to come. Rating: 3.5/5" -- Lysander, Heathen Harvest, January 8, 2012
HEAVY BLOG IS HEAVY
"Black metal. You either love it or you hate it. However, the thing about black metal is that it’s remarkably consistent. You know what you’re going to get before you get it. You know which bands do anger and violence, or beautiful and symphonic, or a combination of both. Black metal is black metal, right? Wrong. Meet Botanist, a one-man black metal project by a man who goes by the alias of The Botanist. Allow me to read you what it says on the sticker on the front of the album: 'Forty tracks of eerie and esoteric, buzzing and baffling, drum and dulcimer driven eco-terrorist black metal.' Yes, you read that correctly. The main instrument of this album is a hammered dulcimer. There are no guitars and no bass. A hammered dulcimer, a drumset that is equipped with a marching snare as well as a concert snare and the usual drumset fixtures, and The Botanist’s creepy, eerie voice are all that is featured on this record.
Before I get into the bulk of this review, allow me to warn you. This will be the weirdest, strangest, all-out perplexing album you will hear all year. It definitely takes some getting used to, but once you’re accustomed to the sound, you’ll find out quickly if you’ll like it or not. This is definitely unlike anything that you or I have ever heard.
The album is a concept album, and the story will continue on several more Botanist albums (at the time of this writing, he has 3 more albums completed). The story is about a man who loves plant life and hates the evil and corruption that human kind presents. He soon breeds an army of plants to eradicate all of human existence, while he watches the bloodshed via the 'Verdant Realm.' And yes, that sounds as absolutely crazy as it looks. The album’s song titles also show this, with the names being almost exclusively scientific names of plants.
While this story may be passed off as a novelty to some, for those that read the lyrics and discover how much botanical detail has been put into the lyrics, they will soon become engrossed in the story. With lyrics such as 'Rosette of seven / Petiole blade lethal / Strangled in cilia / Anthocyanin death,' 'Orchidaceae swamped in gore / Bloodstained Asparagales / Dripping crimson nectar / From the mutilated corpses of the dead,' and 'Tiny red bead / Black eye staring / Upon the doom / Of human life,' you can tell that, even if you don’t understand the botanical aspects, he really hates humanity.
Now to the music. This may be the most challenging record ever. As soon as you turn it on, you will either listen with amazement or be absolutely appalled and turn it off. It really just depends on who you are. The hammered dulcimer may be a hit of blasphemy for the more traditional metallers, but for me, it was a stroke of genius. It’s clear that The Botanist didn’t use standard black metal compositional techniques, but that he created the music around the instrument. Also, the clangy tones of the instrument allow the eerie-ness to come out more, allowing for a stronger effect. The drums also augment the effect. The Botanist is a hell of a drummer, as the record is full of percussion acrobatics. What’s even more charming is that the drumming isn’t perfect. Some of the rolls are off, and the bass drum is sometimes off time, but its misses and schizophrenic sound between the concert and marching snares adds to the chaos. All of this, however, is second to The Botanist’s vocal style, which may be as conflicting as Attila Csihar of Mayhem fame. It’s very throaty, as if a creaking door was speaking to you in a more bassy tone. Imagine Inquisition‘s Dagon, and you’re close to where it is. It meshes with the music perfectly.
However, the first part of this double-album, The Suicide Tree, feels a little bit goofy and lackluster in its execution. Some parts come off as a novelty (i.e: 'Gorechid,' 'Rhododendoom'). However, there are certainly some very good tracks on it, it’s just that its somewhat poor execution on a few moments mar it from being on the level of the second album in the double album, A Rose From the Dead.
A Rose From the Dead is easily some of the best black metal I’ve heard ever. Unlike The Suicide Tree, this one is considerably more focused. Its atmosphere is bleaker, and the chords and tones more dissonant. However, there still are uplifting moments, but they don’t come off as goofy like in The Suicide Tree. They truly sound beautiful. A couple of examples include 'Cypripedium,' which has a sound resembling folk, a sound that is no doubt primarily caused by the timbre of the dulcimer. Another is the last couple of minutes on the title track, which sounds absolutely beautiful, which may represent The Botanist’s happiness that plant life is emerging once again on Earth.
Also, this album uses an effect of a few songs that sounds like a bow from a violin is being used on the strings to create a very dissonant, grating sound that is very hard on the ears, signaling the chaos. One track that uses this to great effect is probably the highlight of the entire double album for me, Abrus Precatorius. After building the track using both black metal and doom influences, it slows to a crawl. The Botanist then uses this effect to create some of the most grating sounds I’ve ever heard. You can then feel the speed increasing, using a singular note to increase the tension. You can feel your heart racing. You begin to feel scared. Then all of a sudden, there are two bell hits. Finally, you get thrown into perhaps one of the most intense moments in all of metal. The hammered dulcimer pounds on a singular note, the drums perform a furious blast beat, and the most blood-curdling scream that I’ve ever heard is unleashed. If you’ve listened to the entire album and know the story, you can almost see the plants ending all of human existence. That scream very well represents the screams of humanity in its final moments, the fruition of The Botanist’s plan. It’s an unbelievable experience. The album package closes with a untitled track, which reprises standout track 'In the Hall of Chamaerops,' as well as adds a few beautiful parts that conflicts nicely with the album, and ends it on a high note.
This double album may very well be the start of a domino effect in metal. While there certainly have been albums that have altered the landscape, none have done so with such surprise or such success. It feels like the dawn of a new genre of metal. I only wish that The Suicide Tree, with its slight novelty overtones, could be at the same level as A Rose From the Dead. Regardless, it still has some fine tracks, but nothing up to the level that A Rose From the Dead. No matter what, you owe to yourself to listen to this album, regardless of whether you love it or you hate it. It’s a very unique experience." -- Gunnar "Deus Ex Machina" R., Heavy Blog Is Heavy, December 2, 2011
5. Botanist – I/II
"While most humans are completely baffled by this release (and I don’t blame them, this record is a perplexer), I immediately fell in love with it. Besides its unorthodox instrumentation, strange drums, and croaky vocals, this record has some amazing songs on it, and it reeks of emotion. And that emotion is fear. Listen to this record and see if you don’t get scared of flora." - Gunnar R., Heavy Blog Is Heavy, December 28, 2011
(English translation of Italian review follows)
Every blue moon something comes along in everyone's life that subverts every artistic and aesthetic canon, and ends up destroying any belief you have about it. Division and aesthetic crisis are widespread in the music world, but then, even today, something is produced that pushes the boundaries even further, either by creating new scenarios or amplifying what has already been done. In the case of black metal from the last decade, there has been a strong tendency to continuously exceed its own boundaries, far beyond the intentions with which the genre was born.
This original aesthetic has been enhanced, flipped upside down, upset, raped and regenerated from scratch.
Often times many of these texts were (and still are) inspired in a kind of Schopenhauer-esque way, in which nature and the sense of the unknown that assault the human soul in the presence of her beauty. The artist, alienated from the world, could not get a sense of belonging within so much beauty, which is a sort of romantic notion.
From the United States comes a one-man band that turns absolutely everything upside down, not only from the conceptual point of view of the above, but also the in terms of a compositional approach to music.
The Botanist double album needs an additional, necessary preface: This is stuff the likes of which you've never heard before... in spite of how Blut Aus Nord is considered the most valid and effective of contemporary black metal entities.
Behind the name Botanist is hidden Otrebor, the drummer of Ophidian Forest (a not unknown band that hangs out in the black metal underground). His first effort is a double solo album, composed of two different records, I: The Suicide Tree and II: A Rose From the Dead, which open a series of five works whose output has already been announced.
The instrumentation consists of a battery and a dulcimer. That's it.
This is definitely one of the boldest musical works I have ever heard. The albums' concept is centered around the world of insects and plants, with each song being an insane botanical description of what you think are the most harmless creatures in creation. The Botanist is the spokesman of this ecosystem, making himself a conduit amidst what is called 'The Verdant Realm.' He is dominated by 'Azalea,' a demonic and vengeful spirit that instructs on how to prepare the arrival of the 'Verdant Messiah' to ensure that the total annihilation of mankind will be fulfilled.
'Azalea' is the embodiment of schizophrenia, musically reproduced in a sublime way through the total disharmony and incompleteness of the compositional approach to distinctly grindcore-minded songs.
I: The Suicide Tree is pure madness, displaying the mental degeneration of the artist and protagonist, which exhibits raw, clinical nihilism and the collapse of all human values. Through the unpredictability of the songs and their cynicism, Otrebor achieves a veritable disinfection of the listener's psyche, which is inevitably overwhelmed by the cruelty that comes from his music.
II: A Rose From the Dead, in contrast, is more than any could expect from listening to the first disk. It is as if the world of plants and insects has already gotten a foretaste of the arrival of its messiah. All this translates into an epileptic choir of their joy, with the music taking on a reflexively visceral aspect, from which comes out an image of myriad swarms of dancing plants that bloom with a terrifying and disarming beauty.
Botanist's double album is perfectly beautiful, charming, and disarming. There is nothing in this record that does not go well. From the unthinkable concept to end up with such music that I dare say has as much in common with free jazz as it does with grind. With all that said, Otrebor never loses sight of the classic elements of black metal's aesthetic, while presenting one all his own, the kind that is on the level of Peste Noire, Blut Aus Nord, Portal, Gnaw Their Tongues, and so on.
Two disks that perfectly complement each other's artistic synthesis of plant-insect symbiosis.
This is one of the most terrifying and fascinating musical odysseys since The Work Which Transforms God, a package with a strong musical and cultural stratification that makes these two discs extremely difficult to manage. The tension between natural beauty and spiritual abomination is what makes this work exciting -- its chronicles of barbaric visions of domination and the burial of gender and the human spirit.
There is no other solution than to listen, as these two disks are the way black metal should sound in 2011.
And then let's be honest: Who would not want a Gorechid on his window sill? 10/10" -- Andrea Minucci, Heavy Impact, November 8, 2011
(original Italian review follows)
"Nella vita di ognuno giunge, almeno una volta cazzo, quel momento in cui ascolti qualcosa che finisce per sovvertire ogni singolo canone artistico ed estetico, che demolisce qualsiasi convinzione si abbia al riguardo. Di rotture, di crisi estetiche ce ne sono a bizzeffe nel mondo musicale ma giunge sempre il momento in cui, anche oggi, viene fuori qualcosa che spinge ancora più avanti il confine, sia creando nuovi scenari sia amplificando quanto già è stato fatto. Nel caso del Black Metal nell' ultima decade, si è riscontrata una forte tendenza ad andare sempre più oltre se stesso, superando di gran lunga i propositi con cui era nato.
La sua estetica è stata arricchita, capovolta, sconvolta, violentata e rigenerata da zero.
Spesso e volentieri molti testi erano (e lo sono tuttora ) ispirati, schopenauerianamente parlando, alla natura e al senso di incomprensibilità che assillava l' animo umano al cospetto della sua bellezza. L' artista si alienava dal mondo e non riusciva a sentirsi parte di cotanta bellezza, una sorta di romanticismo in sostanza.
Dagli Stati Uniti giunge oggi una one-man band che capovolge tutto d' un colpo tutto, ma proprio tutto (prometto di non cimentarmi più in giochi di parole come questo) ; non solo dal punto di vista concettuale di cui sopra, ma anche l' approccio compositivo musicale.
Ma al doppio album di Botanist occorre un' ulteriore e doverosa premessa: questa è roba che non avete mai sentito. Anche se considerate i Blut Aus Nord come la più valida ed efficace realtà Black contemporanea.
Dietro il nome Botanist, si nasconde il batterista degli Ophidian Forest (band non sconosciuta a chi bazzica nell' underground black) , Otrebor. La sua prima prova da solista è un doppio album, composto di due diversi dischi, I: The Suicide Tree e II: A Rose From The Dead , che aprono una serie di cinque lavori la cui uscita è già stata annunciata.
La strumentazione consiste in: una batteria e un dulcimer. Stop.
Questa è sicuramente una delle opere musicali più ardite che io abbia mai ascoltato, il concept dell' album è incentrato tutto sul mondo degli insetti e delle piante, ogni canzone non è altro che l' insana descrizione che fa un botanico di quelle che si pensano le più innocue creature del creato. Il botanico è il portavoce di questo ecosistema, facendosi strumento nelle mani del “The Verdant realm”. Egli è dominato da “Azalea”, demone e spirito vendicativo che lo istruisce sul come preparare il terreno all' arrivo del “Verdant Messiah” per far sì che il totale annientamento del genere umano si compia.
'Azalea' è l' incarnazione della schizofrenia, riprodotta musicalmente in modo sublime attraverso la totale disarmonia, l' incompiutezza compositiva e l' impostazione spiccatamente Grindcore dei brani.
I: The Suicide Tree è pura follia, degenero mentale e musicale di autore e protagonista, crudo nichilismo clinico e tracollo di ogni valore umano. Attraverso l' imprevedibilità dei brani e il loro cinismo, Otrebor pratica una vera e propria disinfezione della psiche dell' ascoltatore, il quale viene inevitabilmente travolto dalla crudeltà che scaturisce dalla sua musica.
II: A Rose From the Dead invece, supera qualsiasi aspettativa possa nascere durante l' ascolto del disco precedente. Qui è come se il mondo vegetale e quello degli insetti pregustassero già l' arrivo del loro messia. Il tutto si traduce in un epilettico coro polifonico di gaudio da parte loro, la musica assume un viscerale aspetto riflessivo, l' immagine che ne viene fuori è quella di miriadi di sciami che danzano e piante che sbocciano con una terrificante e disarmante beltà.
La doppia opera di Botanist è un doppio dalla bellezza perfetta, affascinante, disarmante, non c'è nulla in questo disco che non vada bene. A partire dal concept impensabile per finire poi con la musica che per come viene pensata e messa in atto ha molto in comune con grind e freejazz potrei azzardare. Ma in tutto ciò Otebor non dimentica mai, e dico mai, le lezioni di estetica e poetica Black Metal classico che si porta dietro. Postulandone una tutta sua, non meno valida di quelle di Peste Noire, Blut Aus Nord, Portal, Gnaw Their Tongues e così via.
Due dischi che si completano l' uno con l' altro, perfetta sintesi artistica dello stile di vita simbiotico del binomio piante-insetti.
Questa è una delle più terrificanti e affascinanti odissee musicali da The Work Which Transforms God ad oggi, un bagaglio musicale e culturale dalla forte stratificazione che rende questi due dischi estremamente difficili da gestire. La tensione tra fascino naturalistico e abominio dello spirito è ciò che rende questi lavori ancora eccitanti. Cronache di barbariche visioni di dominio e tumulazione del genere e dello spirito umani.
Non c'è altra soluzione che ascoltarli, perché alla domanda “come dovrebbe suonare il black metal nel 2011?” la risposta, ecco, sono questi due dischi.
E poi siamo sinceri, chi non vorrebbe una Gorchidea sul proprio davanzale? Chi? 10/10" -- Andrea Minucci, Heavy Impact, November 8, 2011
"Every once in a while I get sent an album that completely blows my mind, and not in the 'Wow, this is the best thing ever!' sort of way, rather a 'Wait, how'd they do that...what...what? How? Why?' and leaves me a bumbling, drooling, stupid mess. An album so strange, so mind-bogglingly experimental that I am left entirely unsure if I even enjoyed what I listened to. Was that part cool, or just something so different and new that my mind just processed it as cool before entirely understanding it? It is hard to tell, so I have to listen to albums like these over and over and over again until I can fully appreciate (or dislike) the music for what it really is aside from its novel face value.
From sunny California, home to oodles of bands of which I have named in past reviews, plant-themed 'black metal' Botanist 'welcome[s you] to the verdant realm' with one of the oddest releases I've gotten my hands on as a music reviewer. Eschewing the normal guitar-based route on which the "metal" style of music has stagnated since its inception, this solo project of the reclusive 'The Botanist' features extensive use of a concert-sized hammered dulcimer in conjunction with his strange, croaking voice and all-too-precise drums. To put it lightly, with the hammered dulcimer in place of the guitars, Botanist achieves a unique, strange, memorable, 'natural' atmosphere that, as strange as it is, almost makes sense. Seeing as this forty-some-odd song double album follows most normal black metal conventions as far as melody, song structure and overall atmosphere, the dulcimer, with its bell-like ringing, acts more as a new medium through which one can express the sentiments found in black metal. Sonically it's a very unique take on the genre, but melodically it has a lot in common with other more conservative bands found in the West Coast scene like Leviathan or Pale Chalice. Of course, since I am a fan of both of those projects, you won't hear any nay-saying from me, and with punny song titles like 'Rhododendoom,' the comedian inside of me can finally enjoy black metal without having to make fun of it.
Botanist's timbre-unique take on black metal, dubbed 'plant metal,' takes a strong stance against the normally guitar-oriented genre. Yeah, it sounds strange at first but if I've learned anything from the countless times I've listened to both discs of this album is that it's a grower for sure. These alien, almost emotionally vacant recordings present a new twist on a still-burgeoning 'scene' in the West Coast. Be sure to order both discs from tUMULt's official distributors at aQuarius Records ASAP." -- Jon Rosenthal, The Inarguable, August 1, 2011
"Making its way from the USA, today we have one album that has been generating a lot of fuzz and even my non-Metal hipster friends (I apologize for them) have been talking about the last few months, Botanist’s double debut release: I: The Suicide Tree / II: A Rose From The Dead. In this ‘release’ we have a dude tired of playing traditional music going full-retard and delivering something very unique and disturbing: Black Metal with a hammered dulcimer and an extreme plant-loving concept.
While we can’t deny The Botanist’s originality to some extent, we can also notice that the music is complete shit. Random attacks of aggression feature through the 17 + 23 = 50 total ‘tracks’ presented in this release. All songs are highly incoherent and are written around the crap hammered dulcimer elements with some random drums thrown in and so-so vocals. We love experimental stuff, but when these experimental sections sound like a retarded kid whacking at an instrument, we lose all respect for the album.
The plant-related concept is probably the best part of this album. Following the footstep of some Cascadian tree-hugging BM bands but with a twist, Botanist tries to get the hippie message across. Other than this we understand the need for creative music and that Black Metal is raw and powerful, but when you play songs by banging randomly on instruments you lose all real respect and creative power.
Not wasting more of your time and ours (we had to listen to this shit more than 5 times) we have to say that while Metal hipsters (and some regular hipsters) will flock to worship this dissonant pile of dung, if you appreciate yourself and Black Metal in general, you should just avoid this release like the plague." -- Dark Emperor, Infernal Masquerade, December 9, 2011
(translation from the review in German print magazine Legacy, courtesy of Ingmar Schultz)
"Honestly, what is the inclined listener to expect from Eco-Terrorist
Black Metal? The story behind it is simple, but basically consistent:
Botanist is embodied by a crazy scientist in self-imposed exile, awaiting the
end of mankind, waiting to see whether they finish one another off.
This exile apparently takes place in a garden, paying homage to nature
without any compromise, for all the pieces relate in one way or another
to plants, and the artwork looks like it's from an old botanist's notebook.
So far, so good -- and in some ways, innovative. Similarly, the
instrumentation of Botanist -- Guitar? None. Bass? Ditto. In these 40
pieces are only drums, vocals and dulcimer, more specifically, hammered
Sounds exciting. In the long term, 'I: The Suicide Tree / II: A Rose
From the Dead,' unfortunately tugs a little on the nerves. The
hammered dulcimer often conjures up memories of an old, very hard and
frantically hammered piano, which has a metallic sound and thereby
hardly allows for any warmth in the music. One may think of it every now and then of the soundtrack of an old horror film, perhaps from the days of silent movies. That will please at least one black metaller as it can also convey a
disturbing, creepy atmosphere.
On the other hand, all the pieces -- especially in connection with the also very hectically played drums and vocals slightly reminding of Abbath -- are in a comparatively uniform sound. Most are short and quick; slower tracks such as 'Rhododendoom' (yes, that's a song title), accompanied with a nasty whisper or the alternating 'In the Hall of Chamaerops are rare. In 'Abrus Precatorius,' the dulcimer sounds somewhat tortured in the beginning and bowed, before the track evolves hammering into rage and shouting. The untitled 40th composition, played only on the dulcimer, then forms a pleasantly calm conclusion.
In order to listen to both CDs in a row, packaged like a miniature double album in a sturdy gatefold, you probably have to either be on Valium or have a stoic, calm demeanor. In smaller doses, however, Botanist is really something different, and the gentleman from San Francisco is dilligent in addition. The next few albums have apparently already been recorded. 9 points" -- Endrew Stepan, Legacy #74, September / October, 2011
(transcribed from the German print magazine Legacy)
"Ehrlich, was soll sich der geneigte Hörer unter Eco-Terrorist Black Metal vorstellen? Die Geschichte dahinter ist einfach, aber im Grunde stimmig, Botanist wird durch einen verrückten Wissenschaftlicher verkörpert, der in selbst gewähltem Exil auf das Ende der Menschheit wartet, ob sie sich nun gegenseitig killt, oder dahingerafft wird. Dienses Exil findet offenbar in einem Garten statt, huldigt der Natur ohne Kompromisse, denn alle Stücke beziehen sich in irgendeiner Weise auf Pflanzen, und das Artwork wirkt wie aus einem alten Notizbuch eines Botanikers.
So weit, so gut -- und in gewisser Weise auch innovativ. Ebenso kann die Instrumentierung bei Botanist bezeichnet werden. Gitarren? Fehlanzeige. Bass? Dito. Bei diesen 40 Stücken kommen lediglich Drums, Vocals und ein Dulcimer, genauer gesagt Hammered Dulcimer (Hackbrett) zum Einsatz. Klingt spannend -- auf Dauer wirkt 'I: The Suicide Tree / II: A Rose From the Dead' jedoch leider ein wenig an den Nerven zerrend. Der Hammered Dulcimer beschwört oft die Erinnerung an ein altes, sehr hart und hektisch angeschlagenes Klavier herauf, das einen metallischen Klang aufweist und somit kaum so etwas wie Wärme in der Musik zulläst. Man mag dabei gelgentlich an den Soundtrack eines alten Horrorfilms, vielleicht gar aus Stummfilmzeiten, denken. Das wird den einen oder anderen Schwarzmetaller freuen und kann auch eine verstörende, unheimliche Atmosphäre vermitteln.
Dem steht entgegen, dass alle Stücke -- gerade in Verbindung mit den ebenfalls sehr hektisch gespielten Drums und den leicht an Abbath erinnerden Vocals -- relativ glechförmig klingen. Die meisten sind kurz und schnell, langsamere Tracks wie zum Beispiel das mit fiesem Flüstern begleitete 'Rhododendoom' (das ist doch mal ein Songtitel) oder das wechselhafte 'In the Hall of Chamaerops" haben Seltenheitswert. In 'Abrus Precatorius' klingt der Dulcimer anfags etwas gequält und gestrichen, bevor der Track hämmerend in Raserei und Geschrei übergeht. Das unbetitelte 40., nur auf dem Dulcimer gespielte Stück bildet dann einen angehem ruhigen Ausklang.
Um beide CDs, die wie ein Miniatur-Doppelalbum in ein stabiles Gatefold verpackt sind, in einem durchzuhören, muss man wohl entweder auf Valium sein oder ein stoisch ruhiges Wesen an den Tag legen. In kleineren Dosen hingegen ist Botanist wirklich etwas Anderes. Und fleßig ist der Herr aus San Francisco auch noch. Die nächsten Alben sind bereits aufgenommen. 9 Punkte." -- Endrew Stepan, Legacy #74, September / October, 2011
"I've been trying to write an appropriate review on this album for about three days, and in between making the album sound overly superflous (and using big boy words) or under rating despite its unique approach - and my benders of crystal meth and cartoon porn - I've yet to come to a conclusion.
So here's a review written while I'm not even listening to the album.. cuz, fuckit, we're doing it live.
Botanist is a one man project based out Califnornia who plays black metal in an interesting manner. That's right, fuckers, more 'obscure /hipster /shitpost /weird' black metal. Get on the dick train!
With other BM projects under his belt (Ophidian Forest, ex-Rubicon, ex-Utter Bastard) The Botanist as he calls himself on this projects kicks it up a notch with the use of a Hammered Dulcimer, drum-kit, and that's pretty much it. As one could guess, Botany/Flora and hatred for man are the main theme and concept, and reasoning/opinions of the orchestrator are worth reading just for the rants he goes on during questions.
Musically the most prominent elements are the dulcimer and the croaking wails of vocals that tell tale doom riddled plants and the story of a crazed man residing in a Forrest waiting on man to destroy himself. The drums play back seat here, almost transparent at times. I'm not sure if it's the production or on purpose, though if you read that review The Botanist takes great inspiration (albeit insulting at times) from other musicians and actually entwines that into songs - either through lyrical imagery or re purposing fills/patterns said influential drummers are known for. The eerie atmosphere that the dulcimer creates over the distant drum patterns moves from tranquil hypnotic to a crashing fury that consumes itself at times. Abrupt end!
If looking for something odd, 'unique' or overly ostentatious or just a giggle, The Botanist is an interesting stop to make on the muuuuuuuuuusical laaaaaaaaaaandscape." -- Wormpaste, Loadown, February 4, 2012
LOUDER THAN WAR
"Some say that all rock is backwards-looking, but has there ever been a one-man black metal band who sings songs about plants with Latin titles and plays the drums and a dulcimer in all the tracks?
Botanist is more proof that rock is as restless as ever and that there are a million new permutations left and that things are certainly going backwards.
With a brilliant imagination that stretches the tight formulae into a myriad of different directions, Botanist has arrived to confound all expectations.
This is from the fringes of black metal -- the zone where all the forward music is happening right now.
Botanist is a one-man band who plays drums and the dulcimer and sings in the guttural black metal style intoning dark and creepy and intensely atmospheric songs about plants.
The Dulcimer gives the Botanist tracks a real atmosphere and the drums the ferocious avalanche backbeat of the best black metal. His 40 track 'I: The Suicide Tree / II: A Rose from the Dead' is quite stunning and the following link is to the longest track on the album (most are a minute and a half long), titled ‘A Rose From the Dead.’
On paper this should be out-there music beyond the reach of most people but the dulcimer gives everything a great flavour, as the link proves.
Botanist was meant to be a band but no-one else got the concept and has ended up being a one-man operation (he is anon- so no name here…) The songs titles are all Latin names for plants and the concept from the artwork to the lyrics — is about flora and fauna, right down the scientific track titles like 'Glycyrrhiza' and 'Chiranthodendron.'
Botanist takes its cue from Norwegian black metat experimentalists Ulver and the nature loving end of black metal, that return the power and beauty of the deep forest and rain nature of the brilliantWardruna. It’s all in here -- the weird and slightly disturbing but always brilliant juxtaposition of the power of nature and the atmosphere of the deep forest and the grinding, guttural monolith of black metal. For Botanist himself it's about the worship and the misanthropy that goes with black metal — the isolation, excluding the world at large by being alone in the forest.
This is a remarkable and quite brilliant album and a new release is planned soon. it’s rumoured to be about Carl Linnaeus who classified plants…" -- John Robb, Louder Than War, September 4, 2011
LOUDER THAN WAR'S TOP 40 ALBUMS OF 2011 (#35)
"Black metal is one of the genuinely few areas in music where the frontiers keep moving. Botanist is a prime example of this and on this album the solo drummer makes music that sounds like nothing else. Recorded in the forest playing drums and a dulcimer this is atmospheric music that is about plants and the power of nature – every song title has a Latin name for a plant and the music, whilst retaining the aggressive passion of rock also has the scope and ambience of film soundtracks." -- John Robb, Louder Than War, December 17, 2011
"Botanist sounds and reads as an insect choir to the noblest aspects of garden couture. A menagerie of luminescent hymns that consistently veers toward the edge of insanity. Picture spindled-legged beings hanging on precipice cliffs of rose thorns, guzzling nectar, imbibing wares and decorating the quaint beauty of a flower with a raison d’etre. Anyone who has ever felt an affinity for the minute elements of nature, the incessant hype of an insect or the fleeting beauty of the garden flower will find Botanist and the Verdant Realm mesmerizing.
Finding melodies in the unseemly chaos of Botanist on first listen is an otherworldly experience. Monochrome buzzing and textured fragments of dissonance reverberate across the sonic palate. What is initially interpreted as wildfire gimmicks or sheer insanity on the creator’s part develops into glistening sections of clandestine beauty and transcendent release.
The Suicide Tree / A Rose From The Dead (double disc release) is a 40-piece movement cocooned in a shell far removed from anything thus far attempted under the ‘black metal’ moniker. Part of me shudders at the idea of labeling this black metal. The development of sound, vocal delivery and aesthetic feel of the release are undeniably black in scope. However, the instrumentation and ideas present far transcend this overtly limiting tag into pockets of sound vacant from my repertoire.
The Suicide Tree side of proceedings relies heavily on this black metal blueprint. The second disc, A Rose From The Dead, transcends expectations – ideas come into focus, sounds are developed and like the caterpillar to the butterfly, the music undergoes a brilliant transformation. A Rose From The Dead is more grandiose, refined and interesting. Buzzing, monochrome riffs evolve into fuller melodies. The interplay between instruments represents an artist communicating on his own level. One listen and you are under its spell. Spell being the perfect word for this intoxicating nectar.
Above, the manifold insanity of the Botanist’s set up becomes clear, with the lucid dulcimer and hammers taking center stage. Drums rhythmically pulse beneath the twanged discord of the captivating alien-like instrumentation. It is the hammered dulcimer that lends grandiose flavourings to microscopic proceedings. Halfway between a broken, disheveled harpsichord and an acoustic guitar, the dulcimer bounces and builds off the halted drum mechanics to achieve melodies buzzing and dissonant in nature. The melodies range from simple and effective variations on templates laid down time and time again to refreshing unfoldings of delicate interplay. Unique and bizarre are defining characteristics of this release, growing perniciously on the edge of a cliff, blossoming to reveal new colours, smells and sounds.
In truth, little can prepare you for the experience of Botanist, which represents one of my favorite forays into the avant-garde I have heard in years. Botanist proves once again that tUMULt is a label that should be on top of your ‘to watch’ list. Hit up the Botanist site to order until the new tUMULt site is up and running." -- Alex, Lurker's Path, September 1, 2011
"Black Metal vokills, drums, and the... Hammered Dulcimer! Those are the instruments that are mutilated on this one-man Black Metal project known as The Botanist. This 2 CD set (billed as albums 1&2) contains some of the most strange and eerie black metal songs ever recorded. Yet, they are very soothing and mesmerizing. Chilling vokills, blast beats, double bass drum kicks, and the sounds of the dulcimer are complimented by the album(s) unique theme... plants! Who would have guessed that one, right? The production itself seems very grim and cold -- fitting for this work of art. The interesting thing is, it completely works! This is the new Extreme! 4/5" -- Grim Gaijin, Maximum Metal, October 19, 2011
MEAT MEAD METAL
There’s an old episode of the 'He-Man and the Masters of the Universe' cartoon that introduced the heel character Evil Seed, who is hellbent on making Eternia a home for his plant life to survive and who will suffocate all living things. Of course, his methods were of the purely selfish variety, and after the obligatory struggle in order to fill out a 22-minute episode, He-Man prevailed. The good guys won.
The world of The Botanist is much like that of Evil Seed’s, just without the self-serving rhetoric. He sees humankind as having a hand in the destruction of the green parts of our world, and many people would be hard-pressed to disagree with that assertion. The ones who do disagree are called Republicans, at least for the most part. The Botanist, who is both the name of the musician responsible for this project and the name of the main character in the story, isn’t afraid to bandy about a term such as eco-terrorism, and while that action has negative connotations to it, his protagonist sees it as the only way to battle against the very people who are trampling the green life he holds dear. In his eyes, this is self-defense.
While the philosophies of the Botanist’s music are very real and ever so timely (especially with the next presidential election potentially having a giant impact on environmental protection going forward), there are some fantastical elements as well. Our main character hails in exile in a place called the Verdant Realm (the musician hails from San Francisco), and while on his throne of Veltheimia, he awaits the day that plant life rises up and chokes out those human forces that seek to destroy it who, along the way, do irreparable harm to their own fellow man and woman. You have two Armageddons playing out at once, and in the end the Botanist hopes to be the one who survives, along with his beloved greenery. It’s bizarre, thought-provoking, and even a little psychotic, and just flipping through the booklet that accompanies this effort helps the listener see the leaves and vines rise up and prepare to rule their kingdom. They’re intertwined with the Botanist’s words, that speak for the foliage. It’s fascinating stuff. On the Botanist’s web site (the link is below), you also can find all of the elements that make up this entire realm, which will help flesh out the concepts and philosophies even more. Some of the plants have voices, too, and they help the Botanist create his vision of destruction.
This doesn’t even begin to dig into the music. Last week, I told you we’d visit an album that may be the weirdest metal record you’ll hear all year long, and this is the one. It’s black metal. But think about what you come to expect, sonically, from black metal. The only one you get here are the monstrous, creaky faucet growls and warbles the Botanist uses to tell his tale and explain his future, but other than that, it’s nothing you’ve heard before. The primary instruments are rattling drums and hammer dulcimer, an instrument that hardly has an expectant seat at the genre’s table. But the Botanist makes it work like the most sinister of guitar lines, the most guttural of all riffs, and it becomes a creepy, terrifying weapon. Typically the strange-looking instrument, that often sounds like one is strumming piano chords, typically is used for folk music, but not much here sounds that like form of music. It does, however, suit the deep forestal heart of this project and sounds more fitted for this music than any electric guitar ever could.
If you need a crash course on the instrument, go here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hammered_dulcimer
The Botanist not only is ambitious in his message and goals, but also in his music. The double album I: The Suicide Tree / II: A Rose From the Dead is comprised of 40 tracks and are spread over two CDs. That may sound like a lot of material to absorb at once, but it really isn’t. It’s more like two separate movements of music, where the tracks seamless are attached, so you’re more inclined to want to take this thing on as a whole in order to fully understand it. Most of the songs are pretty short, with the longest coming at the tail end of the entire production, with 'Abrus Precatorius' and 'A Rose From the Dead,' so usually, if you’re not paying attention to the track listing, you’ll be deep into this thing before you even know it. The songs are buzzsaw raw and typically throbbing, but there’s also a rich, hearty melody in these cuts, too. They’re catchy and theatrical. There’s a sense of showmanship. It sort of reminds me if The Dresden Dolls tried to do a black metal album. They’re stripped-down songs that drip with life but conversely include the premonition of death. The album opens with a warning – 'The beast rises' – on 'Dracocephalum' as it sets the stage for what follows. 'Helleborus Niger' has a classical feel and is oddly playful in spots; 'Dionaea Muscipula' is dissonant and sorrowful; 'Bromeliad' sounds Shakespearian yet also quite ominous; 'Convolvulus Althaeoides' actually has some savagery built in, with the dulcimer struck as violently as ever; and 'In the Hall of Chamaerops' even has a gothic pop melody line to it, making it damn-near approachable. I could go on and on, but there’s a lot of ground to cover, so hopefully you have some kind of idea of what is in store for you if you enter the realm of the Botanist. Yet how could the picture be complete with hearing these strange passages?
Admittedly, it took me a few listens to get with the Botanist, but I never was turned off from what’s on the double effort. It just took a little adjustment from what I’m used to hearing, but that was a refreshing transformation for me. It was getting out of my comfort zone and accepting something dressed in a way I don’t expect. But, as odd as this record sounds, make no mistake it’s metal through and through. It’s threatening, dangerous and passionate, sort of like the Nordic musicians of the early ’90s, only more mature, and scary enough, based more in reality. As crazy and abstract at this story is, everyone can understand the Botanist’s plight, and even if you don’t agree with his methods or are shaken by his psychosis, you should heed his word. Despite what some may insist is a myth (because of special interests, natch) we are in a dangerous time, surrounded by deniers and naysayers who are armed with nothing more than a political affiliation. Maybe we need more people like the Botanist to wake us up before he ends up our ruler. Evil Seed would end up seeming like the wacky cartoon character he is in comparison." -- Brian Krasman, Meat Mead Metal, September 6, 2011
"23. BOTANIST, 'I. The Suicide Tree / II. A Rose From the Dead” (tUMULt): If ever there was an Occupy: Earth movement, where the world’s plant life rose and struck back against the humanity that disregards it so, metal fans likely will think the Botanist will be behind it. He’s the sole player behind dulcimer-and-drums project Botanist, and his double-album debut provided a scary look into a weird Apocalyptic future when our throats are bound by choking vines. It’s a bizarre record that sounds like no other metal album you’ve heard. Ever. It takes a while to get adjusted to the off-kilter music and Botanist’s creaky storytelling, but once you’re in, you’ll find yourself enraptured by a world you don’t understand. Yet." -- Brian Krasman, Meat Mead Metal, December 27, 2011
METAL HAMMER NORWAY
(In "Hammer Stereo" section, where the magazine's writers list what albums they've been listening to. Rough translation from Norwegian: "Crazy eco-terrorist BM with only drums, hammered dulcimer and vocals." -- Victor Farinelli, Metal Hammer Norway #5, October, 2011
"You have never heard anything like this before. Not simply because it’s a bit more on the obscure side, but because there is nothing on this dying planet that sounds like Botanist. The words “experimental” and “progressive” get thrown around willy-nilly by any band who’s ever owned a Yes record, but how many of them have composed a double-album suite played entirely on hammered dulcimer, accompanied by various percussion and one inhumanly twisted voice? That’s what I thought. The idea behind Botanist is rooted in ecological awareness and a deep love of the natural world; the Botanist himself professes a desire to see “ the day when humans will either die or kill each other off, which will allow plants to make the Earth green once again.” As for the music? It’s gloriously weird, saturated with otherwordly tones and startling transitions, both ambient and jarring, intriguing and alienating, harsh yet lush. Black metal’s misanthropic core and trademark nihilistic croak anchor it all in place, but that’s where the similarities between this and metal as we know it end abruptly. Enter the Verdant Realm – but don’t stray too far from the path, lest you never return." -- Grim Kim, Metal Injection, December 20, 2011
"Certainly the most bizarre and head-scratching record from the last quarter, hell, the entire year, comes from one-man project Botanist called “I. The Suicide Tree / II. A Rose From the Dead.” It’s weird, it’s unconventional, and if you let sink in the theme of plant life rising up and choking out the human species that give them no regard, it’s scary. It’s a far-fetched idea, sure, but considering we live in a world where a group of politicians won’t even consider global warming as a possibility, it’s also a real thought-provoker and a challenger that refuses to back down from its stance. The two-disc album also stands out from the rest of the metal world by featuring only hammered dulcimer, drums, and creaky, garbled vocals as its instruments. It takes some time to adjust to what’s on this piece of work, and it’s not easy to make the adjustment, but it forces you earn it. It’s also so intriguing that, no matter how you feel the first time through, my guess is you’ll return for more just to see how you react on subsequent visits. It’s black metal at heart, but there’s plenty of chamber and baroque influences, as well as some goth pop strains, whether that was intentional or not. Go get this thing and prepare to have the way you think about metal, and the world, re-programmed." -- Brian Krasman, Meat Mead Metal / Metal Maniacs, October 7, 2011 / October 21, 2011
"Abandon even the vestiges of your expectations. They have no place here in the garden of the Botanist.
Encapsulated in a fascinating fictional lore, the Botanist takes the familiar theme stemming from nature and the crimes against it by man and contorts it into the bizarre verdant realm of the entity known as the Botanist.
So, this is hammered dulcimer black metal. No guitars. Nope, none at all. Just drums, vocals and that unusual hammered dulcimer. The effect is initially disorientating and bewildering to say the least. In terms of structure this is relatively standard black metal fare though, pollinating 40 tracks of "eerie and esoteric, buzzing and baffling, drum and dulcimer driven eco-terrorist black metal" (Ah, "eco-terrorist black metal", haven't heard that since Velvet Cacoon). The result is fast and frenetic "riffs" with an almost tremolo-picked ferocity. The sole familiar aspect of the Botanist's music is the 30-a-day smoker's croaks, which instantly plants it into black metal territory. The highly critical of you may question why conform to such a stereotypical approach when everything that circles it is so obscure? This grounding fundament of grimly rasps quashes the sheer un'knowableness of the band as a whole, making it all that bit more palpable, and creating an audience which it can veer toward, like dark phototropism.
Whether or not this extends beyond pure novelty is up to history. This may well wilt like a winter rose and become lost in the annals of time or it may grow upon listeners like a creeping vine. Experimentation within the genre is not always welcomed with open arms but I certainly believe that this is something that should be investigated with open-minded intrigue. This isn't exorbitantly brutal metal, nor is it an indulgent exercise in harsh noise designed specifically to break the listener's most basic programming. In fact, when all is said and done this is perfectly listenable music with a rich and colourful background and with a little dedication could bare the most wonderfully exotic of fruit.
Botanist raises an important question: what makes something black metal? For all intents and purposes this strides far and wide of the often cited qualifications, yet paradoxically it could only be regarded as so. Botanist further expands the realms and possibilities of a genre which has proven itself most vigilant in branching off from the roots of its basic protocols whilst incorporating the exterior forces of unusual and unthinkable elements that in the end make up the tapestry of modern day black metal.
All pretension, imagery and puns aside, this is a damn excellent record. It's pretty rare that a totally unique take on something is discovered and for that reason alone you should get your fingers green and give this a blast." -- !J.O.O.E.!, Metal Storm, July 2, 2011
"#9: As if we needed any more evidence that black metal’s most forward-thinking exponents can rival the avant-garde of any form of music, here comes the bewildering debut from Botanist, a one-man show from San Francisco’s Otrebor that replaces guitars with hammered dulcimer to inscribe its 40 paeans to the dominion of flora. Those tinny tonalities take some getting used to, but it’s a testament to Otrebor’s craft and vision that I: The Suicide Tree / II: A Rose from the Dead is just as expressive as the best black metal." -- Etan Rosenbloom, Metal Sucks, December 1, 2011
"Botanist is a one man black metal project from the Bay area of the USA, and they create a very distinctive & one off sound with a very unusually set of sonic tools. The project uses just drums, vocals, and most unusually a Hammered Dulcimer. This double CD album is seemingly the projects first release, and it certainly gives one a very unequal & grimly usually take on the blacked metal form.
The projects sound here is mainly fairly clamouring & fast in its execution, with slight detours into more mid-paced atmospheric moments here & there. Sonically the tracks are a mixture of galloping 'n' battering drums, melodic yet mostly manic Hammered Dulcimer attacks and rasping guttural black metal vocals- all which creates an interesting mix of manic harmony & grim dissonance. Most of the 40 tracks on offer here are short, sharp & violently gothic in there attacks. For the most part the tracks run between a minute & a half and just under the three minute mark, through there are a few tracks which break over the five minute mark.
Theme wise both of the albums are grounded in eco-terrorist & the love of flowers/ plants. The two disc come packaged in a thick cd sized gatefold that features a 12 page lyric booklet that features elegant drawings/ coloured prints of all manner of flowers & plants.
Without doubt both CDs here offer up an very original take on black metal, and there are some moments of real greatness here.. in particular when the pace slows a little. But sadly for the most part I felt many of the tracks on offer here where more than a little interchangeable, samey & not varied enough. Through-out both of the disc it often feels like the same tracks speedy by you again & again, and when interesting or more atmospheric moments appear they are offten quickly pulled away from you for more clamouring attacks.
So to sum Botanist are certainly offering something new & distinctive to the black metal scene, but it's a pity they haven't managed to vary thier sound or pace much over this two disc set. Sure this is an effective & orignal opening shot, and it will be of interest to those who enjoy off-kilter blacked metal fair….just don't expect to be too blown away by compositional variation or change of pace." -- Roger Batty, Musique Machine, January 4, 2012
NATIONAL PUBLIC RADIO
-- Lars Gotrich, National Public Radio, November 30, 2011
The following is the original post translated into English. The original Italian version follows the English translation.
"I want to inaugurate my blog with an album that contains what will be the guidelines in choosing music for review, ie a disc of dark, weird and intense music. I: The Suicide Tree / II: A Rose From the Dead is a double album containing the first two chapters of the experience that is Botanist, the solo project of the drummer from Ophidian Forest, Otrebor.
The album in question is a wonderful lesson in black metal: a demonstration of how this genre is primarily about feeling and attitude. Otrebor foregoes the guitar, bass, amps or distortion, instead entrusting their music only to drums and dulcimer, a struck or plucked stringed instrument that originated in Persia. The result is surprising: seventy minutes of nervous and ominous black metal, supported by rhythmically wild and shrill-sounding, delicate dulcimer.
The forty tracks that make up the album are short shrapnel that recall the power of the schizoid grind and hypnotic textures of free jazz. The tension that pervades the world casts a morbid restlessness and creeping malaise that makes listening tiring, but no less fascinating or intriguing.
As if all this weirdness were not enough, The Botanist presents an apocalyptic concept about rebellion against mankind and its subsequent destruction by nature and its plants! I: The Suicide Tree and II: A Rose From the Dead is an introduction to the Verdant Realm, the physical and conceptual space in which The Botanist moves and where he hears the voice of Azalea (demon of the plants, the vengeful spirit of nature, or simply a personification of schizophrenia), who gives instructions regarding the destruction of mankind and the coming of the Verdant Messiah.
In no way is this album inferior to any in terms of madness, Botanist is a name that rightfully belongs among the ranks of the brilliant freaks of the U.S. black metal scene and carry high the banner of free music, wild and without compromise." -- VoodooMonkey, Never Ending Disagio, December 26, 2011
And the original Italian posting:
"Voglio inaugurare questo mio blog con un disco che racchiude in sè quelle che saranno le linee guida nello scegliere la musica da recensire, ossia un disco di dark, weird and intense music.
I: The Suicide Tree / II: A Rose From the Dead è un doppio album contenente i primi due capitoli dell'esperienza Botanist, solo project del batterista degli Ophidian Forest, Otrebor.
Il disco in questione è una bellissima lezione di Black Metal: la dimostrazione di come questo genere sia principalmente fatto di feeling e attitudine. Otrebor rinuncia infatti a chitarra, basso, ampli e distorsioni per affidare la propria musica unicamente a batteria e dulcimer, uno strumento a corde pizzicate o percosse originario della Persia.
Il risultato è sorprendente: settanta minuti di black metal nervoso e inquietante, sorretto da ritmiche selvagge e dal suono ora stridente e ora delicato del dulcimer. Le quaranta tracce che compongono l'album sono brevi schegge impazzite che richiamano la potenza schizoide del grind e le trame ipnotiche del free jazz; la tensione che le pervade proietta un mondo di inquietudini morbose e di strisciante malessere tale da rendere l'ascolto sfiancante, ma non per questo meno affascinante o intrigante.
Come se tutta questa bizzarria non bastasse, The Botanist inizia con questo disco un concept apocalittico che ha il suo fulcro nella ribellione e successiva distruzione dell'umanità da parte della natura e delle sue piante!I: The Suicide Tree e II: A Rose From the Dead sono un introduzione al Verdant Realm, lo spazio fisico e concettuale in cui The Botanist si muove e dove riceve da Azalea (un demone delle piante, il vendicativo spirito della natura o semplicemente una personificazione della schizofrenia) le istruzioni riguardanti la distruzione del genere umano e la venuta del Verdant Messiah.
Senza nulla da invidiare a nessuno in termini di follia, Botanist è un nome che a buon diritto può prendere posto fra le fila dei geniali freak della scena black metal americana e portare alto il vessillo di una musica libera, selvaggia e priva di compromessi." -- Voodoo Monkey, Never Ending Disagio, December 26, 2011
THE NUMBER OF THE BLOG
"Fucking Hell. This album is weird. And when I say weird, I mean really fucking weird. The concept and imagery behind this band is weird (a misanthropic botanist creates a bunch of evil plants to try and destroy mankind), the song names are weird, the lyrics are weird, the artwork is weird, and most of all, the music is weird. Nominally a black metal album, at least in terms of some basic song structure, this album is notable for its odd instrumentation. No guitars are used on this album, but rather, the main instrument is a hammered dulcimer. A really evil hammered dulcimer, but a hammered dulcimer nonetheless. There are also drums and croaked vocals rounding out the sound. I have no idea if I like this album or not, even after half a dozen listens. It’s just so weird that it boggles the mind. Even if you end up hating it, it’s something that you owe it to yourself to listen to." -- Tr00 Nate, The Number of the Blog, November 2, 2011
Another album that deserves its own honorable mention is Botanist's I: The Suicide Tree / II: A Rose from the Dead [tUMULt], an, as tweeted, "eco-terrorist black metal" project using voice/drums/dulcimer on tracks about plants & flowers. Truly weird, engrossing stuff that, again, doesn't seem to conform to a list's hierarchy. -- Brandon Stosuy, Pitchfork, November 28, 2011
"This anonymous solo artist goes by the pseudonym 'The Botanist' and all the songs on his debut double album are about flora and have the Latin names of plants. And that’s far from the strangest thing about this band. The Botanist puts more casual nature-lovers like Wolves In The Throne Room to shame with not only his plant-themed lyrical compositions but also his highly sustainable approach to the black metal sonic framework – that is, he only uses hammered dulcimer and drums. The result is music that disobeys every rule about black metal, sounds nothing like black metal, and yet can’t really be called anything but black metal. In that way, Botanist could be the fullest realization of the post-black metal concept yet, and that makes the future awfully exciting." -- Brad Sanders, The Quietus, April 9, 2012
"Conventional wisdom dictates that there is really no creative endeavor that one can undertake which might be seen as genuinely new. Reviewing music for any amount of time generally confirms this, as even artists who seem to possess some radical angle with which they approach their craft tend to rely on some juxtaposition of influences, however incompatible they may seem at first. But every now and then, something comes from so far afield that it can be difficult to really grasp the strangeness at hand. The double-album debut by Botanist offers a good example of this latter type of artist.
To get some vague understanding of what Botanist's work entails, we must first look at a series of statements about the band. First, Botanist is a black metal project, at least in the broadest definition of the term, that of a descriptor which seems to encompass increasingly disparate artists' output. Second, the lyrics concern themselves, as one might expect based on the band's name, with flora and fauna. Third, the music is performed by one man on drums, vocals, and hammered dulcimer. Any of these elements might seem perfectly normal on their own, some might even combine with another without seeming too incongruous, but the three in conjunction make some of the strangest albums that has been released this year.
It may be a stretch to call this black metal (some genre purists would bristle, but they would likely have that reaction towards anything that doesn't sound like Burzum). The guitar has so long held a preeminent place in heavy music that its absence is more than a little bit disconcerting - it's fairly easy to take a distorted wall of sound for granted. There are certainly demonic vocals (somewhere between a traditional black metal shriek and the croaking intonations of a band like Inquisition) and blasting drums, both key black metal signifiers, but the use of hammered dulcimer as the sole melodic component can be something of an acquired taste. Whereas a good deal of black metal relies on a sort of droney buzz that results from so many instruments playing rapidly under a wash of distortion, the notes and rhythmic structure of the dulcimer are placed front and center. While each cascading overtone rings atop its predecessor until harmony and dissonance blend into a knotty tangle, the notes and melodies themselves are clearly audible. In its more mid-tempo moments, the melodic content can resemble the microtonal experiments of composers like Harry Partch, but the songs rarely break from rapid tempos long enough for these elements to shine through.
Lyrically, reflections on the natural world seem to take the foreground, and while these aren't necessarily unheard of in black metal (much of the Cascadian black metal scene, most notably the ever-divisive Wolves In The Throne Room, bears some inclination towards ecology, never mind the less agenda-driven meditations on nature put forth by black metal bands almost since the genre's inception), from what I can discern there are several thematic threads at work with Botanist's output. The most obvious is the emphasis on botany and botanical concerns. Almost every song title derives from the Latin name of some flora or fauna, with echinosereus, glycyrrhiza, and xanthostemon all afforded the sort of attention metal bands would normally only pay the devil himself. And while some of the lyrics read like some sort of interdisciplinary biology/poetry course ('The glory of the dawn / Photosynthesis miracle / Solitary bloom of peduncle long / Mallow weed bound' begins 'Convolvulus Altheaoides'), there is a strong undercurrent of apocalyptic misanthropy. According to the artist himself, the Botanist project refers to an eponymous character, a scientist driven from human society's destructive impulses to live in nature, awaiting mankind's destruction and apparently communing with plants. According to a handful of interviews on Botanist's website, this scientist character is something of a fictionalized, extrapolated version of the artist himself. While he's not necessarily scurrying around the forest attempting to converse with fungi (from what I could discern at least), his disenchantment with humanity as a whole is a palpable driving force, and acts as the project's underlying current, tying together the fictional, the hypothetical, and the concrete.
Some of these concepts are spelled out bluntly, with the most explicit mentions of an agenda present in songs like 'Euonymous in Darkness,' which features lines like 'Contempt for all mankind / Sickness and plague upon those who would consume him / As winged beasts leer above.' That the song is titled after a deciduous shrub is perhaps easy to overlook (especially as its name bears a strong resemblance to that of a certain murdered metal musician), but the juxtaposition of an uncaring though ultimately just natural world and an ignorant and self-serving mankind is on full display. This isn't to suggest that the whole project is immured by the sort of bleakness normally present in black metal. For something described by its practitioner as “eco-terrorist black metal” (an interesting choice of nomenclature, especially since the last prominent band to claim such a title – Velvet Caccoon – turned out to be an elaborate ruse), the albums are a celebration of life even in the face of the adversity that is humanity. They even indulge in a few sly jokes – a practice almost unheard of in the genre – with titles like 'Rhododendoom' and 'Wings of Antichrys' (the latter featuring references to inverted chrysanthemums) imbuing the proceedings with a weird levity, a sort of dry humor that might fly over the heads of anybody who didn't pay attention in biology class.
But I think the 'eco-terrorist' tag should be taken with the largest grain of salt possible since, from what I can tell, there's little in the way of a specific agenda present, with the songs instead favoring a narrative retreat into the wilderness and only the occasional reference to humanity's trespasses but never really a suggested change of course. Ultimately, until the CEOs of B.P., Shell, and Massey take up blastbeats and corpse paint, the world won't see any true eco-terrorist black metal – though the nihilism and wanton destruction those few companies have wrought puts all the church-burning and murder of actual black metal bands to shame. Perhaps I'm misunderstanding the intent behind that particular description of Botanist, but it seems like a good example of how even the smallest element of an artist's aesthetic can introduce a pretension that does little to support a project's strengths.
And this debut by Botanist is certainly strong. Both sonically and conceptually challenging, it achieves what few metal bands can: the distinction of being truly unique. It's not a comfortable listen, and is decidedly not the standard version of metal that exists only to elicit a visceral reaction, but rather acts a rejection of normative measures, and attempts to demonstrate the standardization settled upon by even the most seemingly discordant and aggressive artists. Despite the misanthropic currents present throughout the album, it stands as a testament to humanity's better impulses – the pushing of boundaries, the rejection of conformity, and an awareness of life's interconnectedness." -- Graham Scala, RVA Mag, December 6, 2011
SATAN OWES US MONEY
translation of French text:
"The good savage, haha. Exactly as they are, whichever of the following you want : Robinson Crusoe, an Ent, a guy with a beard, a ragamuffin, someone covered with twigs, a shrillness carried by the wind, Huron, Harvey Keitel, Pocahontas, a frog-monkey in the deep Chinese forest... As soon as no one is looking, as soon as Rousseau and his camera crew are gone, as soon as he's along in the haven of his cave, what do you think he'll do? In his secret garden of stone where the gravel is so many little teeth, and the bonsai are tied with rope made from his own hair? Under the dreary jade eye of a piece of eager 'Land Art' (Vitral Végétal)? Hammer of clarity, font of dementia, a crankshaft of joy: fierce, celestial, astringent, he plays his Luciferian jig like one of the lost." gulo gulo, Satan Owes Us Money, January 13, 2012
original French text follows:
"Le bon sauvage, haha. Tous autant qu'ils sont, celui que vous voudrez ; Robinson Crusoë, l'Ent, le barbu, le déguenillé, le couvert de brindilles, l'aigre-sous-le-vent, le Huron, Harvey Keitel, Pocahontas, le crapaud-singe au fond de la forêt de Chine ... Une fois les regards détournés, une fois partis Rousseau et son équipe télé, une fois entre soi dans le havre de sa grotte, que croyez-vous qu'il fasse ? Dans son secret jardin de pierres où les graviers sont autant de petites dents et les bonsaïs ligaturés de cordelettes faites de ses propres cheveux ? Sous l’œil de jade glauque des vitraux végétaux avides ? Marteau de clarté, fontaine de démence, villebrequin de joie : acharnée, céleste, astringente, il joue comme un perdu la gigue du Porteur de Lumière." -- gulo gulo, Satan Owes Us Money, January 13, 2012
Today we tend to see ecology as a matter of large-scale gardening. Eco-freaks want to save the plants and exploiters want to exploit them, but both groups agree on the central point, which is that the world is manageable and it’s up to us to manage it. We preserve the frogs by reducing our greenhouse gas emissions—or else we don’t really care about the frogs and go ahead and emit away. Either way, the emphasis is on human agency, what we want and what we can do. As in the Garden of Eden, the critters are there for us to name and cultivate.
The thing is, though, we got kicked out of the Garden of Eden, and as a result the world is not necessarily ours to mess with. On the contrary, you could argue that it’s the earth which will get the last laugh. Pump as much or as little CO2 into the air as you’d like, but eventually we’re all fertilizer, and the worms or their mutant descendents will eat us.
If anyone knows this, it’s Botanist, a one-man black metal seer who creates music to become plant food by. His two CD set (Botanist I: The Suicide Treeand Botanist II: A Rose from the Dead) has just been released on Tumult, and it is a 74 minute, 40 track tribute to the demonic power of flora. The first song on The Suicide Tree opens with Botanist gargling in that black metal evil yoda voice, “The beast…rises”—only this isn’t your uncle Deicide’s beast. Forget Beelzebub; Botanist is talking about a different creeping horror; “Up from the foliage dense/Reptilian flora/As if to fire spew.”
Black metal is often explicitly anti-human, reveling in a pagan force which tears open bodies like candy wrappers to get at the juicy soul. Botanist takes this thematic obsession and gives it a half twist. This isn’t paganism as demons or Norse gods, but rather paganism as fecundity; the remorseless mastery of twisting tendrils and bursting seedpods. His ethos is a kind of inverted hippie eco-folk.
That’s true not just thematically, but musically as well. Botanist uses no guitars or bass. Instead, the sound is built around frantically thunking drums and… hammered dulcimer. The result is weirdly familiar for black metal listeners; the shimmering, tinkling atonal washes substitute nicely for the typical keyboard and guitar black metal buzz. The hiss of blurred noise creates an evil trance in which the garbled vocals grate, muttering half-heard dreams of foliage.
At the same time as it rhymes neatly with black metal past, though, the album also recalls other pagan traditions. Particularly, the acoustic weirdness reminds me elliptically of Comus, the prog-rock godfathers of cracked folk fecundity. Botanist’s “In the Hall of Chamaerops” from Rose from the Dead, for example, is melodic and pastoral, with the ritual drums and the demon vocals adding an air of dread. It may be taking a different path, but it’s definitely the same forest that houses Comus’ drawn-out manically giggling odes to satyrs and Greek rapist gods.
The common ground for both Comus and Botanist is the ground, which they worship for its fearsomeness. Botanists' “Euonymous in Darkness” makes this explicit. Over a staggering dulcimer line that veers between almost-melody and tolling church bell, Botanist turns a common bush into a symbol of eternal dread.
Frugivorous raptors circle.
Royal servants of propagation
Instruments of princely immortality
Their prize, valved pods of red
Beckoning amidst serrated thorns.”
Rather than shaping plants to their will, the birds here are at the beck and call of the shrub, which uses them to secure its own deathless power. A bird or a human may think it is acting on its own desires, but really it does only as it’s told, directed hither and yon by nature’s blind ambitions. The botanist is not the plant’s master, but its servant. The garden crawls over us, to ominously joyful chimes." -- Noah Berlatsky, Splice Today, July 18, 2011
"I’m entirely enamored of the hammered dulcimer. The instrument sounds like the mutant offspring of a piano, harpsichord and harp. Botanist employs the instrument’s powers for evil; it’s a refreshing and ingenious idea. The band crafts twisted black metal in which the hammered dulcimer replaces guitars altogether. The results exceed all possible expectations. Botanist’s ambitions, however, don’t end with this sonic switcheroo; the music is augmented with a vicious, verdant lyrical narrative.
Botanist doesn't possess any of the somnambulant torpor of the 'world' and 'new age' music that usually features the hammered dulcimer; these are fucking sinister compositions. Botanist is the brain child and product of one enigmatic man bearing the pseudonym Otrebor. He accompanies these manic orchestrations with well trained beats and blasts, overlaying it all with a crepitating croak.
The most stunning aspect of these songs are the riffs. Each track is filled with distinctive and memorable musical phrases that ebb and flow with sonic tension. Creeping, chromatic formations battle with abject dissonance and fascinating harmony. Vibes of victory, loss and sorrow take to life, enveloping the listener in a sylvan cocoon. The hammered dulcimer is produced with perfect clarity, making excellent use of the stereo field to transmit its staccato tintinnabulations.
Otrebor's drumming prowess imbues the hammered dulcimer with a particular vehemence. The peculiar synergy of blastbeats and hammered strings radically rethinks black metal's tremolo picked raison d'être. Botanist unmoors a staggering raft of rhythms; I'm repeatedly inclined to bang my head to this music.
Tossing orthodoxy to the wind, Botanist ably embodies black metal's chaotic ethos. Otrebor's saurian vocal ministrations convey only the utmost misanthropy. Infinite care is given to the meticulous, poetic lyrics, which detail the constituents of The Botanist's Verdant Realm. The eponymous character tends his flock of deadly flora as if they were family. With melancholy and hatred, our narrator eagerly awaits the annihilation of mankind. It's unclear whether or not he'll personally participate in the impending holocaust.
Don't fear this new horizon of sound; Botanist has produced something coherent, compelling and crucial. Botanist's music won't please all ears, but don't discount these xenomorphic anthems without due diligence and an open mind. Do beware the gorechid. 91/100." -- Atanamar, Sunyata - Mindful of Metal, December 23, 2011
(transcribed from the print magazine Terrorizer)
"Meet Botanist. The band's sole member, The Botanist, describes the project as 'an avant-garde, experimental take on black metal, whose music consists entirely of drums, vocals and hammered dulcimer.' The end result is just as weird, and sometimes wonderful, as you might expect. On Botanist's latest release, 'I: The Suicide Tree / II: A Rose From the Dead' (tUMULt) the juxtaposition of whispery rasps with clanging dulcimer, raw as fuck blasting, and harsh, howled vocals is jarring, yet oddly appealing. Add in the fact that the entire concept behind teh project is essentially one man's dream of seeing nature's reclamation of this violated planet. To wit, 'The Botanist awaits the day when humans will either die or kill each other off, which will allow plants to make the Earth green once again.' Sounds alright to me." -- Kim Kelly, Terrorizer #217, December, 2011
(English translation of the original French article)
"Some artists have arisen from our little extreme music world in the past few years who abandon darkness in order to communicate another sentiment -- insanity born out of a blinding light. I'll leave it up to genealogists to explain this genre's origins and to name what does not yet exist. I'd rather cite some of the most outstanding works of this particular kind of artist, like the latest Liturgy release, Aesthetica, where one's impression of listening to "joyful" music is quickly supplanted by a feeling of being under the yoke of a totalitarian whiteness, where the sense of purity feels even more intense than the unwholesome themes we have become accustomed to from the genre.
Botanist is in the same genre / style / movement / esthetic (call it what you will), and presents itself as a reject child of parents who they themselves had succeeded in flipping black metal over. First, Botanist's form, which will no doubt be hated by many, as the one-man band pushes the notion of "black metal that isn't" even further via the implementation of of unconventional instruments. Otrebor, the man behind the project, uses exclusively a drum kit and a hammered dulcimer, along with typically faded, screamy black metal vocals... suffice to say that it's a surprising listen.
But it's not only by these means that Botanist is dizzying: that the melodies are rooted in repetition of themes invoking a Krallice piece reduced to its most simple elements; that this album is in fact two works driven by a shared preoccupation, with some minor variations from the first album to the second, giving the whole a progression into madness (some tracks on II: A Rose From the Dead have an airiness that have royal-sounding sonorities that evoke the latest stuff by Hunter Hunt Hendrix's band); that the abundance of uncompromising material is played to tempos approaching grindcore; that the lyrics are based on the study of plants... all make Botanist seem incomprehensible. Actually, Botanist is incomprehensible, and the temptation to declare its dementia as something along the lines of a "Impaled Northern Moonforest" taking itself seriously must be great for someone who is neither prepared for Botanist, nor who is an adept of the bizarre (if so, better not go check out tUMULt Records, the label who put out Weakling, Burmese or Leviathan -- amongst others -- if you want anything that is short of classic).
The only thing that is like Botanist is Botanist. Its personality is so pronounced that name dropping proves difficult. At first, the music sounds like Bloodiest as interpreted by Robinson. Then, it sounds like nothing that could be real, as its evocation becomes like a hallucination, with the image of a monomaniacal hermit who is an expert of a new, intriguing, cruel floral art form. The decision to only rarely let up on the tempos makes for a need to pause between the two halves of this album in order to appreciate them fully, but is enough in itself to transmit Otrebor's animated overexcitement, his will to attack with plants that which has become a nuisance, to baffle via the constant use of the hammered dulcimer's chromatic scales, while suggesting a beauty close to transcedence, but in reality is more like being cut by glassy screams. Botanist's music is feverish, its power lying entirely in one's interpretation of it, always targeting the listener's nerves, showing that if it indeed could be considered as "experimental," then it is an outcome in itself (something that The Botanist seems to have taken into account, as the first samples of his 2012 work, III: Doom in Bloom, present atmospheric sections that are opposite of what is on his first works.)
Despite a slight quality difference between I: The Suicide Tree and II: A Rose From the Dead (the latter being better balanced and memorable, most notably during the album's last third, where the sadistic becomes majestic), these albums should be listened to as they mark the beginnings of an entity that may eventually wreak havoc in the metal scene via its atypical personality that can only elicit adoration or detestation. Those who will try to listen will find Botanist strange. Those who will continue to listen will find their heads turned into bonsai trees, which Botanist takes care to meticulously prune, repot, and provide light for, until peace is achieved. I personally recommend looking into this." -- Ikea, Thrashocore, May 13, 2012
(Original French posting follows)
"Ces dernières années sont apparus dans notre petit monde des musiques extrêmes des artistes délaissant la noirceur ou le contraste pour transmettre un autre sentiment : la folie naissant d’une lumière aveuglante. Je laisse aux généalogistes la tâche d’expliquer les débuts et nommer ce qui ne l’est pas encore et me contenterai de citer l’un de ses exemples flagrants avec le dernier essai de Liturgy, Aesthethica, où l’impression d’écouter une musique « joyeuse » est vite supplantée par celle d’être sous le joug d’une blancheur totalitaire, la pureté devenant plus intense et conductrice que le malsain habituel.
Botanist s’inscrit dans le même… genre / style / mouvance / esthétique (appelez ça comme vous voulez) et s’impose comme un rejeton de parents ayant déjà réussi à retourner le Black Metal pour le rendre autrement dérangé. Par la forme, d’abord : sans doute sera-t-il haï de toute part quand le fiel déversé sur le Cydonien cherchera à se répandre, car le one man band pousse un peu plus loin l’idiome du « black metal n’en étant pas » par l’accouplement peu conventionnel d’instruments. Otrebor, l’homme derrière le projet, utilise exclusivement une batterie et le hammered dulcimer, qu’il appuie d’une voix éteinte et criarde typiquement black metal – autant dire que ça étonne. Mais ce n’est pas seulement par ce biais qu’il étourdit : ses mélodies basées sur la répétition de thèmes rappelant l’écriture d’un Krallice réduit à son plus simple appareil ; le fait que ce disque est en réalité deux conduits par une préoccupation commune malgré de légères variations donnant à l’ensemble une progression dans la démence (II: A Rose From The Dead usant de plages plus aérées aux sonorités royales comme on peut en trouver dans la dernière création du groupe d’Hunter Hunt Hendrix) ; l’accumulation de morceaux déjà foisonnants et joués à une vitesse proche du grind le moins propice au compromis ; des textes centrés sur l’étude des plantes… Botanist paraît incompréhensible, est incompréhensible et la tentation de déclarer qu’il tient d’un délire proche d’un Impaled Northern Moonforest se prenant au sérieux doit être grande pour celui qui n’est ni préparé, ni adepte de bizarreries (en même temps, il ne faut pas aller voir du côté de Tumult Records – label s’étant occupé de sorties de Weakling, Burmese ou Leviathan entre autres – pour escompter du classique).
Botanist ne ressemble qu’à lui-même et sa personnalité est si prononcée que le name-dropping s’avère difficile. Il fait penser un premier temps à du Bloodiest joué par Robinson, puis à rien de réel, l’évocation devenant hallucination, image d’ermite monomaniaque et expert d’un nouvel art floral intriguant, cruel. Le parti pris de ne ralentir le tempo qu’à de rares occasions oblige à la pause entre les deux parties pour les apprécier pleinement mais suffit à lui seul à transmettre cette surexcitation animant Otrebor, sa volonté d’attaquer de végétal devenu nuisance, de tromper par l’utilisation constante de l’échelle chromatique avec laquelle compose essentiellement le hammered dulcimer en suggérant une beauté proche de la transcendance bien qu’en vérité coupante de claironnements vitreux. Une musique fébrile, sans puissance autre que celle de l’interprétation, et visant constamment les nerfs, montrant que si ce double album pourra être considéré comme « expérimental », il est un aboutissement en soi (et cela, le botaniste semble l’avoir pris en compte, les premiers extraits de son œuvre à paraître cette année, III: Doom in Bloom, présentant des parties atmosphériques se situant à l'opposée de ce qu'il jouait auparavant).
Malgré une légère inégalité entre I: The Suicide Tree et II: A Rose From the Dead, ce dernier étant plus équilibré et mémorisable que son prédécesseur (notamment dans un dernier tiers où le sadique devient majestueux), la totalité est à écouter car elle marque le début d’une entité qui, à terme, risque de faire du grabuge dans la scène metal par son caractère atypique ne pouvant qu’entrainer adoration ou détestation. Ceux qui essayeront trouveront ça étrange. Ceux qui continueront trouveront leur tête transformée en bonsaï, celui que Botanist prend soin de méticuleusement tailler, rempoter et éclairer, jusqu’à trouver la paix. Personnellement, je conseille de poursuivre." -- Ikea, Thrashocore, May 13, 2012
(transcribed from the print magazine The Wire)
"...Botanist, who, as his name suggests, finds inspiration in plants and flowers, hammering out his songs on a dulcimer rather than the genre's regulation electric guitar. Though his creative stance is rooted in Black Metal, on this record The Botanist spins a weird, wild web of sound from his chosen instrument's almost ancient tones, which evoke memories of early Moondog, Japanese koto music and Sun Ra's Strange Strings." -- Edwin Pouncey, The Wire, October, 2011
(transcribed from the print magazine Zero Tolerance)
You're not gonna hear anything like Botanist's I: The Suicide Tree / II: A Rose From the Dead this year, or the next, or the year after that. These are record for which the word "unique" was invented. Skittering, cattering, nerves on edge -- pittering, pattering, the cacophony ceaseless and rising in its roar. And yet, there's something strangely ebullient about all this. Why? Because of the hammered dulcimer. Yes, hammered dulcimer, combined with half-tech / half-chaotic drums and grim, hysteric vox -- and in a black metalled context, no less, across 40 songs between two disks. But it gets better...
'All of Botanist's songs are told from the perspective of The Botanist, a man of science who fears and loathes humanity for all its crimes against nature,' begins the man who is Botanist (or perhaps even 'The Botanist'). 'Because of his abhorrence, The Botanist lives in seclusion in a place he calls The Verdant Realm, where he surrounds himself with flora. He sits upon a throne of densely tangled Veltheimia and awaits the coming of the floral apocalypse, The Budding Dawn, when humans will kill themselves or each other off, at which point the earth can be reclaimed entirely by plants. The Botanist does not sit entirely idly -- his chronicles of the Plantae World often feature how each specimen will help bring about the downfall of man. He is directed on how and when to act by the voices he hears in his head -- the voice of the demon Azalea, the equivalent of The Botanist's Satan. In this regard, the concept of Botanist is eco-terrorist -- not in a political sense, as politics would favor the cause of one group of people over another, but in a blindly misanthropic one.'
Indeed, Botanist's 2CD I / II set is as bewildering -- and fascinating, if not more so -- as what you just read. So, why hammered dulcimer? 'I'm primarily a drummer,' comes the simple reply. 'The music that flies around in my head is of a rhythmic nature; when I get a brainstorm or musical ideas are really flowing through me, I primarily hear the rhythmic textures or progressions, or at least get a sense of that element first. An instrument that allows me to approach making melodies by hitting things in time with sticks, allowing for application of essential drum rudiments and patterns, and where the possible pitches are all laid out chromatically before me, is the kind of melodic instrument that will be the most intuitive -- it will provide the most direct conduit between what spins around inside me and what is able to be recorded.'
'So why not the xylophone, the steel drum, or the glockenspiel? It's how the hammer dulcimer is a stringed instrument and, as such, yields tones and chorused harmonies that evoke a more classical sound, something that might evoke a little piano mixed with a harpsichord and a classical guitar. Classical music, with its melodic and harmonic progressions -- or at least my interpretations of it -- are major influences in how Botanist's songs are composed. So, of course, is black metal, as well as melodic drone... look for that last influence to play increasing roles in Botanist albums to come.'" -- Nathan T. Birk, Zero Tolerance #43, October/November, 2011