Collective Waste (Italian)
K-Club Barmy Army (Japanese)
Metal Italia (Italian)
Mortem Zine (Czech)
ALL THE WORLD'S A REVIEW
"As regular inhabitants of the Rage Cage know, I am a rather huge metal fan. My reasons for this have changed over the years as I've gotten older, wiser, and much more inclined to complain about the weather. One enduring trait, however, has always been metal's capacity for growth. Lurking in every darkened corner of the extreme music realm is some truly weird stuff and, over the years, I thought I had lost my capacity for wonder. That is until I discovered Botanist.
Botanist is a one man band, which is pretty much it's own metal genre these days. Through five albums (this one, the fifth, is called VI because who knows), this band has bent black metal around it's greasy, chlorophyll soaked fingers, until it has created a unique sound, truly unlike anything I have ever heard before. How? Well, simple, dear readers. All the songs are composed by two (and only two) instruments: drums and hammered dulcimer.
Wait . . . what?
Yup. All the music is made by the drummer pounding the hell out of a hammered dulcimer. With some vocals that sound like a dude licking the side of a moss covered gravestone.
And that's why metal is awesome, ladies and gentlemen.
So how does it work? Over four full albums, wouldn't that get a bit old?
Nope. The songs rock. It's amazing what Botanist have managed to create using these self imposed limitations as fuel for a supremely creative machine. Flora veers comfortably between black metal to more drony, shoegazey-type bits, and really illustrates the depth and expanse of the extreme music genre. More ponderous than the older releases, not many blast beats, and more "normalized" song structures make this their most listenable album yet. The speedy parts are used to great effect, and slowing things down has allowed Botanist to explore the ethereal qualities of the songs and build layers on layers of fuzzy, strange thunder. Not for everyone, for sure, but also (most importantly) not a gimmick, but a great example of raw beauty. Check it out- I can guarantee you haven't heard anything like this before. Check out one of the heavier songs on the album, Gleditsia, and have your mind stomped on- politely, of course." -- Jersey Style 9000, All the World's a Review, October 13, 2014
"Another mysterious missive from the verdant realm, which can only mean one thing, the return of THE BOTANIST, our local eco-terrorist drum and dulcimer black metal band, who in fact, have actually expanded into a proper band, and have been playing shows throughout the US recently, which we have witnessed and are pretty incredible. We can also say, that in some ways, they're even better than the records.
Odds are you've likely never heard dueling hammered dulcimers, amplified and projected at great volume, accompanied by blasting drums and wheezing sruti box. But ultimately hearing the strange metallic tones of the dulcimers are (sic at) extreme volume, it's kind of transcendent.
That's not to take away from the records at all, this new one, the fifth in three years (and that's not counting a split with Palace Of Worms, or the fact that they/he skipped number five for some reason), is another fantastic , psychedelic, bizarre and beautiful assemblage of sounds, most of which at this point are really only tangentially black metal. Vokill rasps, check. Furious blast beats, check. But beyond that, Botanist tend to explore some other sonic world entirely, one that's droney and atmospheric, minimal and MAXimal at the same time, the melodies of the dulcimers, no matter how much they're meant to emulate blackened riffing, sound way more alien, and abstract, in some ways it reminds us of the just intonation black metal of Jute Gyte, but the furious flurries of notes, the harmonics and the overtones, all blend into one glorious, constantly shifting organic field of sound, that's utterly mesmerizing and totally immersive, as if all the other elements are just window dressing for these thick, hypnotic, psychedelic swirls of sound.
And very much like on IV: Mandragora, the songwriting seems to continue to follow a similar path, one that gets less and less black with every release, with many of the tracks here downright melodic and lovely, sans the harsh vokills, they sound more like Mono or Mogwai, epic and majestic, sun dappled and hopefully, burnished with some inner light, the melodies glowing, the sound emotional and lush, prismatic and heart wrenching. And yeah, sure there are moments more grim, but those just offer shadow, to the rest of Flora's sonic light." -- Andee Connors, Aquarius Records, September 12, 2014
"The latest chapter in a series of LPs released by Botanist, the brainchild of Bay Area music savant and naturalism-enthusiast Otrebor, Flora marks a significant step forward for the 'black metal with a hammered dulcimer' concept. The album offers a more textured, resonant and rich-timbered sound than previous releases, and contains moments of rare, strange beauty that prove the dulcimer is no gimmick.
Botanist´s sound benefits from being both alien and familiar. The drumbeats and simple repetitive riffs recall nineties black metal. But the winding, ascending notes and resonance of the dulcimer create a bright, iridescent quality that suggests ever-changing sunlight filtered through a floral prism. The music tends to crescendo, as the hammer strikes louder and more assuredly, providing a warm, summery and yet wholly unconventional mood that always seems to be working towards something. Whereas simply having a guitar might generate a pleasant gray but ultimately flat hum, the dulcimer sounds out with an almost brassy percussive bombast, functioning as secondary beat as well as a melody. It comes packed with its own reverb and delay, sounding almost electronic in the black metal-esque context, but also feels ancient, like a simple mantra calling down through the ages.
I use 'black metal' here as convenient shorthand (so you know to expect shrieks and blast beats), but nothing in Botanist´s current sound relates to the old, and admittedly stale, Norse ways. There is no grim or depressive pretense, frostbitten sparseness, or any effort to conform to genre expectations—only the drums and growls anchor it to tradition. Otrebor has embraced the possibilities of the hammered dulcimer, adding a sense of excitement and joy to his ongoing botanical obsessions, instead of reveling in the bleak mood of ecological apocalypse that sometimes animated his earliest efforts. Flora makes you want to visit the forest or greenhouse instead of running away from them.
Sometimes the simplicity of the music slides too comfortably into a slightly dull repetition where the sameness becomes overpowering and, to be perfectly honest, a little boring. This is in part a limitation of the instrumentation, the narrow expressive range of the dulcimer as a melodic instrument. But it´s a small price to pay for something truly new, an expansion of the heavy metal toolbox, and I hope Botanist´s music helps open a path to more percussive, resounding sounds in metal, instead of just using major chords and calling it innovation like some other US 'post' black metal bands that shall remain nameless. Botanist may have a gimmick, but it´s a powerful one that points to new, more potent directions in this music." -- James Slone, Avantgarde Metal, February 16, 2015
"Who said you can’t create black metal with hammered dulcimer? The San Francisco band’s fourth album turned out to be their strongest, achieving moments of astonishing beauty and, peculiarly, power." -- Basement Galaxy, December 30, 2014
"If you know anything about Botanist, you know that the band and the music is utterly unique. Gorgeous, atmophere-laden black metal played on a hammered dulcimer is not something you encounter every day. This is not a terribly 'metal' metal album, but it is dark and beautiful and truly wonderful. This isn't a band for everybody, it takes the right audience. That said, I think every metal fan (and maybe even every music fan in general) owes it to themself to find out if they're part of that right audience." -- Patrick, Beards Etc. Top 25 of 2014 (#12), December 30, 2014
THE CIRCLE PIT
"I have to say this is, by far, some of the most original Black Metal (Green Metal?) I've heard in awhile. Botanist is a band that has successfully rethought the traditions of genre, more or less flipping it on it's head. They stripped away the typical instrumentation and submerged their musical ideas in post-metal format. There is NO guitar in this band (with the exception of a bassist). The line up of instruments used are hammered dulcimers, a harmonium, a 12-string bass, drums and voice. Where one would typically hear tremolo picking and general mayhem, this band fills in booming sound scapes which resonate with every note.
This San Francisco band has been around a few years, putting out a number of releases in the process. Their latest, "VI: Flora" was just released in August of this year. It weaves in and out of 11 magnificent tracks, all bringing their own colors and ideas into focus. The album has been well received and it's no mystery why. I highly recommend you give them a listen, especially if Black Metal and creativity fall under your realm of enjoyment." Mike, The Circle Pit, November 5, 2014
"Botanist è una one-man-band che, come si può evincere dal titolo, è al suo sesto album. Si tratta di black metal sperimentale, che non usa sangue e riferimenti satanisti ma solo estetica vegetale, bio, verde.L’estetica delle foglie intricate, l’alchimia della mandragora, la carnalità della natura nella sua forma più immediata.
Rispetto alle precedenti produzioni questo album è passato attraverso un raffinamento, anche se lascia ancora spazio per altro lavoro (le vocals sono eccessivamente “coperte”, per esempio). Album da 40 minuti con alti e bassi, ma che si trova pur sempre in un contesto particolare e nuovo.
La musicalità viene dal (molto citato) post-black metal, o atmospheric black, genere che sempre di più trovo introduttivo ad una branchia della musica poco esplorata, solcata ancora da (sembra) pochi avventori.
Complimenti e tanti auguri al botanico del metal, sciamano moderno accerchiato da rami, steli e fiori, di cui lui solo sente l’aura." -- Manuel D'Orso, Collective Waste, November 13, 2014
"I’m not sure what I was expecting from the new Botanist album. That’s kind of what I enjoy about this band. It’s hard to label them as they are all over the place musically with black metal maybe being the anchor. It’s definitely experimental and not music to casually listen to. The microtonal effect is back, which is kind of what Botanist has based their sound around, but the blackened parts have seemed to been reduced. There are beautifully haunting passages on Flora as Botanist dives deeper into the “post rock” side of the pool. It’s a crazy sound, both chaotic and serene at the same time so if you haven’t heard them before I would give them a try." -- Creephouse Comics, August 16, 2014
"So Fucking Original…So fucking amazing…So freaking Magical…So freaking breathtaking…the new BOTANIST album out now on Flenser is PERFECT! Not only is this one of the best black metal albums of the year, it might just be one of the best albums of the year hands down…Don’t take my word for it, listen for yourself below…All hail BOTANIST…" -- Meghan, Cvlt Nation, August 12, 2014
"As has been proven for decades now, California’s Bay Area has given rise to a host of black metal bands, among them Weakling, Leviathan and Deafheaven. From Weakling’s vast, meandering sound to Leviathan’s nail-biting dirges to Deafheaven’s genre-blending, the eccentricities that sprout forth from San Franciscan soil appears to be endless. One seed of note is Botanist, whose numerically-organized records craft imagery that is in contrast to the genre’s usual frozen landscapes and dark psyches, instead painting a mythos of a geocentric pantheon consisting of wrathful gods intent on punishing mankind for their abuse of Earth. VI: Flora is the newest canto in a larger body of work. Elegant over harsh, Botanist weaves this collection of eleven into a seamless whole that blooms ever-wider as the album progresses.
The Internet will likely curse it up and down for the standard pieces of black metal it lacks – the formula applied here is inarguable in its uniqueness. The musicianship is taught, passionate and realized, crafting a piece that should be praised for what it does with black metal, versus that which it denies reiteration. The use of the hammered dulcimer and unique lore have all the trappings to be gimmicky; Botanist, however, denies that logic any semblance of victory, planting life into the dream of a fictional, maddened eco-terrorist. Similar to albums like Kentucky and Pale Folklore by peers Panopticon and Agalloch respectfully, they embrace the quirks of folk music, successfully grafting them to black metal’s often reactionary template. VI: Flora is absent of Pale Folklore’s isolating sprawl and Kentucky’s culturally-charged fervor, propelled instead by ethereal rage and delicate soundscapes.
Said rage is wreathed with charred petals against a halo of morning sun, uninviting yet full of life and resplendent death. Dulcimer and drum race headlong as would the wind across green fields, beating along like rain that falls at varying intensities. The instrumentation itself is so emotive, it is a wonder why a solely instrumental album has yet to be sown. The vocals and lyrics verge on superfluous, almost spoiling the imagery and meaning that the dulcimer conjures. The mythology that aids in supporting Botanist’s message is, of course, conducive to the overall collection. Laced with an encyclopedic use of botanical jargon, the whispered vocals creep, ensnaring the songs’ structures like vines through a trellis. Botanist emasculates its metal foundations, gifting it with the power of creation over wanton destruction, taking black metal’s naturalistic leanings to evolved heights. The record is amorphous, subject to a seasonal cycle that ranges from spring to summer on repeat, ignorant of winter’s genocidal tendency. Botanist does not long for the natural world, rather for it to take up limb and root against parasitic man. Consider VI: Flora to be the green-hued war song that incites that culling." -- Bruce Wolfbiter, Cvlt Nation, September 2, 2014
"If you are looking for an original take on the metal genre, one needs to look no further than California’s Botanist. Wielding a hammered dulcimer as the instrument of choice, Botanist tells the story of The Botanist, who lives in his self-sequestered land of the Verdant Realm, envisioning the end of humanity and the eventual take-over by plant life. To the uninitiated, it may sound like that movie The Happening, but this is much more conceptually nuanced and rich, and of course, much more metal.
While firmly rooted in black metal, each Botanist album has brought some different aspects. I and IIhad an almost grindcore feel at spots, III (Doom in Bloom) brought a doomier vibe, and IV (which was featured in a Bandcamp selection) really just delivered the black metal vibe, with fuzzy distortion on the dulcimer and very froggy croaks. Jumping straight to Flora (or VI if you prefer), Botanist continues to grow and expand on its sound. Slightly less conceptual than previous efforts and instead focusing on the beauty of the plants themselves, to the Botanist initiate, this is a great place to start. For one, the sound is much clearer this time around and the vocals are a bit buried in the mix, making them less abrasive than on IV. While still immediately identifiable as Botanist material, much of the malice present has been converted into beauty. The dulcimer leads the way here, with almost ethereal beats. The balance between raging and sullen moments is what truly sells Flora, particularly in the way that both forces can be acting at the same time.
With Flora, Botanist has created something truly special. The maturation and variability of the Botanist sound should find an even more captive audience this time around. While still very much a love it or hate it approach with all of the unique elements going on, it’s no less compelling. Perfect for a quiet retreat into the hills. (9/10)" -- Kyle McGinn, Dead Rhetoric, August 14, 2014
"The latest release from the prolific San Francisco project just might be its best to date, as I don’t think I’ve ever heard Botanist’s blend of black metal, post-rock, and shoegaze coalesce as beautifully as it does on Flora. Unlike other 'metalgaze' efforts, Botanist keeps things a little left of center on this record, the bombast toned down and even muted in a way, always contrasting beauty and extremity, yet always mindful of not letting one side overwhelm the other. It’s a bit unsettling at times due to its unorthodox approach – take “Leucadendron Argenteum” for example – but as a whole it’s a wondrous, colorful piece of work." -- Adrian Begrand, Decibel, August 20, 2014
FULL METAL ATTORNEY
"Fawning over 'Flora.'
It’s always important to know where a reviewer is coming from. So in case you missed it, I’m a huge Botanist fanboy. I’ve been covering the band since the beginning, posting one of the earliest reviews and interviews with the band. The band has made multiple appearances on my year-end lists. I also have a Botanist patch from supporting the recent Kickstarter.* With that record set straight, you should also note how I’ve turned on bands I once loved in the past, when they’ve failed to deliver. But that won’t be an issue here.
Even if you don’t like what Botanist does, you must admit that it’s fascinating. In case you don’t know, this is the “black metal” band with an eco-terrorist storyline and hammered dulcimer instead of guitars. So with that ground completely unexplored, you can see there has been a lot of room for experimentation. (You might say it’s fertile ground.) This latest full-length has been a completely new experience, just as each before it, and it just might be the band’s best.
The Greater Context
To give the brief history, Botanist has always been working far ahead of the release schedule, with several albums written before the first was even released. The band’s first two albums were a double-album. These were, in retrospect, a crude but compelling direct port of black metal to the dulcimer. III: Doom in Bloom slowed things down considerably and added denser arrangements, for more of a doom angle. IV: Mandragora synthesized those approaches into a more fully-realized sound.
The fifth record has not yet been released, the stated reason being that the sixth is the better follow-up to the fourth. At first I speculated that it could just be the band/label being cute, or behind-the-scenes dealings holding up the fifth album (the band’s projects have been on several labels apparently by design). But upon hearing it, I believe it could be a very calculated decision to strike while the iron is hot. VI: Flora sounds like Botanist’s take on that brand of black metal so adored by the black metal tourists over at NPR and Pitchfork. The uplifting kind of black metal. So releasing Floranow makes perfect sense; in another year’s time, the mainstream fling with this kind of music may be over, so they might be getting more exposure and profit through that decision.
When reached for comment, Botanist mastermind Otrebor pointed out the first three songs were recorded before the first Botanist album was released, and the whole album was recorded before the end of 2011. This was before that style had garnered any mainstream notability.** This underscores the band's credibility and authenticity without refuting my theory about the release schedule. The historical record of course backs him up, as samples of several unreleased albums have been on botanist.nu since the beginning.
The Review Proper
Opener 'Stargazer' is nothing if not beautiful, while bright and shimmering notes abound throughout the recording. The caustic black metal rasping has been buried in the mix, as well. I also wouldn’t call the slower songs ('Rhizophora' and 'Wisteria') doomy, as the slower songs from the previous two full-lengths. But don’t mistake that for a de-fanged Botanist. (Or de-thorned, as it were.) The album is exceptionally dynamic, so there’s plenty of room for brutal blastbeat drums and unnerving dissonance between those more positive intervals. Yet even when it does sound positive, there is an undercurrent of menace. Longest track 'Leucadendron Argenteum' is a fine microcosm of the album, alternating between light and heavy to glorious effect.
It’s almost a postscript to note that, as with the previous two albums, other instruments have been added to make the soundscape more lush (the harmonium is a notable inclusion). It’s not a thing that’s immediately apparent when you listen, but it is a nice touch.
It's also nice to see the return of the seemingly innocuous botanical illustration as cover art. I find that somehow more effective than the more traditionally 'metal' illustrations that graced the last two covers.
Though I can’t say for certain without hearing V, it appears this is the next logical step for the Botanist. (Another fruitful experiment, perhaps.) VI: Flora keeps all the elements that make the project the stunning wonder that it is, pushing it to new frontiers with the added confidence and experience the previous efforts have accrued to its creator. Don’t be surprised when you see this one high on my list at year’s end.
The Verdict: 5 out of 5 stars
*And, full disclosure, I was sent a beanie as a gift because of my 'journalist' status.
** The first Botanist album was released in July 2011, while Roads to Judah and Aesthethica were released in April and May 2011, respectively. This is certainly long before Sunbather sounded a brown note in the hipster press." -- Kelly Hoffart, Full Metal Attorney, August 18, 2014
HEAVY BLOG IS HEAVY
"The ominous tones of the dulcimer coupled with the thumping drums echoing the spirits of shoegaze and the cushioning synths creating a massive wave of euphoria. Blissful." -- KG, Heavy Blog Is Heavy, July 25, 2014
I LISTEN SO YOU DON'T HAVE TO
"from the flames of purification it rises anew
We are now on the fifth chapter in the story of the Botanist — a story that takes place in the Verdant Realm, where the protaganist pines for the end of mankind and the reclamation of the planet by plantlife. This is a story told in the form of black(?) metal(?) compositions written for a dulcimer (rather than guitar) by a man from San Francisco who calls himself Otrebor. The concept has always intrigued me, but the music has been too abrasive. The first four chapters sounded like something went wrong in the recording process. VI: Flora is a major step forward in production value, even though it’s still lo-fi by any definition of the term. This is repetitive music, but there is something beautiful about it — something soothing. This is an album I can go to sleep to. It’s calming, but powerful. Something about this album just moves me." -- Martini, I Listen So You Don't Have To, December 25, 2014
IDIOT IN REMISSION
"In many ways, Botanist are no surprise. While the concept of black metal played on a dulcimer may turn heads, one listen to Roberto Martinelli's bold project will quickly dispel any misgivings. For the past three years, Martinelli's misanthropic black metal anthems about plants destroying humanity (yes, seriously), painted against the eerie not-quite-percussion of his dulcimer, have explored a dimension in black metal that, while at first requires some adjusting, rapidly makeS sense. Botanist, at its core, embodies the folk-y essence bands like Ulver introduced to the genre of black metal early on, as well as the dearth of atmospheric black metal acts the genre has produced, but at the same time seeks to explore what makes black metal, intrinsically, black metal. Is it the atmosphere? The instrumentation? Both? And by limiting itself to one instrument (besides the drums), thus, Botanist is as much an experiment with unusual instruments as it is a study of what, technically, constitutes the genre.
Flora, the project's sixth release, continues this trend, and while earlier Botanist records went for a rougher, more "raw" (though hardly in the traditional sense) sound, Flora's glowing, summery colors and layered instrumentals give the record a lush, almost carefree texture. 'Dianthus'' moves flawlessly between spring sunlight and eerie tension that recallsWhite Light-era Swans, while 'Callistermon' opens with what could almost be a post-punk section.
The record features Martinelli's prowess with the dulcimer at an all time high, as he switches rapidly between the more heady attack of Botanist's earlier work and new, starry instrumentation. The dulcimer layers upon itself beautifully, contributing to the verdant atmosphere the record paints with erudite brush strokes. Record opener 'Stargazer' evokes imagery of post-black acts like An Autumn For Crippled Children or Lantlôs, with Martinelli's dreamy dulcimer sweetly and gently easing the listener into the record's bizarre-yet-beautiful radiance, but nevertheless the intricacy of many of Flora's songs is what drives the album forward.
Flora is an album dripping with its own atmosphere, as much as Alcest's 2009 full-length Ecailles de Lune's ethereal dreamscapes did the same. Botanist prefers not to limit itself to one mood, instead switching between mysterious and brilliant, and there's even a hint of Cascadian mysticism in the closing section of 'Pteridophyte'. But that's not to say all of Flora is effervescent, post-rock like atmosphere. For as much as the record is a departure and a refinement from previous work, Martinelli pushes the attack as the record comes to a close, focusing less on summery textures and on more driving pieces, oftentimes breaking up the marching drums with yawning chasms through which one or two dulcimer notes manage to float through.
With every release, Botanist explore a new corner of the genre, and with FloraMartinelli seems to be determined to sniff out the essence of post-black metal, exploring the starlit textures that define it, while weaving the massive, peaceful atmospheres that spring up in spite of the stormy drums and howled vocals. Martinelli does a deft job, as always, but between the sheer depth of Flora's eleven tracks and the scope of the experimentation, the newest Botanist outing is the band - and one of the year's - strongest treats yet." -- Idiot In Remission, August 16, 2014
K-CLUB BARMY ARMY
素晴らしい!!" -- K-Club Barmy Army, November 6, 2014
"Representing a different sort of black metal from their elitist Norwegian forerunners, San Francisco’s group Botanist conveys a message that is inherently not destructive but productive or even regenerative, making it more akin to 'post-black metal' one might have the gumption to say.
Just their use of the hammered dulcimer, an acoustic percussion instrument, in place of the usual buzzy electric guitars suggests their deviation from the over-trodden path of nihilistic, hopeless black metal.
When playing live, the band members don earthy brown cowls covered in tentacle-like vines to confirm Mother Nature, not Satan or some other demonic figurehead of rebellion, as their muse.
Every other element of archetypal black metal is still present (blast beats, screeching vocals, cavernous reverb, etc.) but the overall tone on this record is decidedly hopeful, due in large part to the lyrical content that legitimizes the natural sound of the hammered dulcimers.
Like many other prints from the genre-bending black metal label The Flenser, this record is not simply a dreary black or grey, as would befit a record from keystone outfits such as Mayhem, Immortal or Emperor. Instead, it is a splatter of yellow, black and green, like dappled sunlight on a dark forest floor.
The first track off the sixth part to the ecoterrorist group’s narrative, 'Stargazer,' finds them in a rapturous state, proclaiming that Earth is now undergoing a state of 'rapid growth, within solar rays resplendent.'
Shoegaze comes to mind when the bright, dreamy chords of 'Callistemon' create a wall of impenetrable sound, enhanced by dramatic imagery like 'legion thirty-four strong, come the vernal equinox,' before surging into the chaos of the third track, 'Cinnamomum Parthenoxylon.'
Though the latin-based jargon of such titles might seem to implicate the misdirected ramblings of some overzealous horticulture major, the poetry throughout is stirring for anyone who listens closely enough to decipher the garbled vocals.
In 'Gleditsia,' the plant is anthropomorphized as a wizened god-like being: 'Clustered thorns turning red with age, growing from its face as jagged warnings.' The fifth track, 'Rhizophora,' narrates the cyclicality of the natural world through blast beat-backed cacophony as it thrives 'in brackish water' before 'flowing to the sea.'
Listeners might feel a sense of catharsis, even without understanding the homage to the carophyllaceae as a 'godlike carnation,' by the time the initial intensity of 'Dianthus' boils down to a tranquil dulcimer progression, marking the end of Side A.
Once the dulcimer-wielding druids return on 'Leucadendron Argenteum,' listeners are immediately bombarded with august tones, evoking the feeling of a royal procession: 'The light shimmers off velvet leaves, silver-sheened guardian beacons.' On 'Pteridophyte,' equally deferential sonic and lyrical phrasing is used to describe the immaculate, yin-and-yang-esque symmetry of plant-life: 'via spores it disperses, genders entwined, as antherida and archegonia converge.' 'Wisteria' and 'Erythronium' both serve to build once more to a narrative climax, as the now sprawling forest tightens its grasp on civilization’s remaining outposts using the 'immense strength' of the wisteria and 'bulbous teeth' of the erythronium.
Side B closes much the same as Side A did, with pensive piano-like pounds on the dulcimer, but this time with a sense of eternal triumph, as if what was won on Side A could be considered nothing more than a minor thorn in civilization’s side compared to the stranglehold achieved by the very end of the album.
One might compare Botanist’s campaign against unnatural powers to the spreading of wildfire, searing through the very skins of plant, animal and human alike, but that would be missing the point entirely. What truly separates these guys from the crowd of black metal songwriters is that their ideology projects a utopia versus a dystopia, a world in which civilization is overthrown so that man and nature may finally achieve harmonious coexistence instead of splintered sovereignty." -- Thom Stone, KDVS, October 29, 2014
"Ever since his first album, Botanist has been churning out a constant stream of bizarre blackened doom at a pace that's almost hard to believe. Each Botanist album shows an impressive amount of evolution and maturation on his trademark formula of experimental metal made with just drums, vocals, and a hammer dulcimer. VI: Flora just might be his best work yet, with a newfound emotional core that propels it to a level of power far above and beyond its initial gimmick, VI: Flora is defnitely an interesting concept, but its foreward-thinking beauty and intricate songwriting will keep you coming back for more even once the initial curiosity fades.
Top tracks: Leucadendron Argenteum; Rhizophora." -- Bunny Gamer, Kvlt Blogspot's Top 100 Albums of 2014 (#81), December 25, 2014
"Quarta entrada na saga panteísta dos Botanist, uma das mais curiosas e singulares propostas saídas da nova vaga do black metal norteamericano. À semelhança de grande parte dos grupos contemporâneos do estilo, o misterioso projecto liderado por Roberto Martinelli vai beber muita da sua inspiração directamente ao curto fundo de catálogo dos Weakling, sendo que -- pela natureza ambientalista das letras -- acaba inevitavalmente por suscitar comparações aos Wolves in the Throne Room.
Felizemente o músico de São Francisco mostrou ser mais que um mero clone desde cedo, desenvolvendo uma identidade própria muito à força do uso de um dulcimer como principal fonte para a melodia que conduz o repertório.
Resultado: pegando nos elementos primordiais do black metal (sejam os blastbeats ou a atmosfera fria, cortante e sinistra), Martinelli consegue contornar os clichés, equilibra o tenso com o etéreo -- e o post rock nunca tinha tido uma influência tão forte como neste disco -- e, mesmo que tenha de o passar através de pedal de distorçao, faz um instrumento medieval soar estranhamente contemporâneo, materializando o carácter inovador dos onze temas.
Daí que ñao seja estranho ver 'VI: Flora' chegar aos escaparates com selo The Flenser, entre os mais atentos ao que de bom se vai fazendo hoje no extremismo leftfield. (8/10)" -- José Miguel Rodrigues, LOUD! #163, October, 2014
MARCEL'S MUSIC JOURNAL
"Botanist’s new record is easily the black metal one-man band’s most refined, fully-realized, and all-around crowd-pleasing release yet.
I don’t know why, but there’s something about Blackgaze that makes it one of the most beautiful genres of music out there. There’s something about the gentle clash between abrasiveness and sheer beauty that makes it pure magic for the ears. While bands such as Alcest, Deafheaven, and Lantlôs have proved themselves as staples in the genre, none of them have ever challenged the very thought of the genre quite like San Francisco’s Botanist. The black metal one-man band’s latest installment in his trilogy of albums is easily his most refined work yet. After releasing albums such as I: The Suicide Tree / II: A Rose From the Dead and IV: Mandragora that were mediocre to the point where it was a struggle to listen to them all the way through, Botanist, a.k.a. Roberto Martinelli, has finally come into his own with an LP that is easily his most fully-realized work thus far. Once again using the unique yet ultimately gorgeous effect of a hammered dulcimer in place of an electric guitar, VI: Flora is drenched in beautiful fuzz and melodic elements that give this album an otherworldly feel.
From the very start of this thing, VI: Flora feels and sounds like and uplifting album. Between the instrumentation, songwriting, and all around atmosphere, this LP pushes the limits of what real black metal can do. Martinelli proves that you can create pure black metal music without the sound of an electric guitar. And even when the hammered dulcimer isn’t the main focus on this record, this album is still a pretty solid experience. Opening with the track “Stargazer” are these clashing drums that soon give into a crushing yet dreamlike atmosphere. This vibe continues throughout this record with songs that beautifully flow into one another. All aspects of this album are on point, and even at times when they’re not, it isn’t a huge disappointment or anything like that. You’re not getting any songs on this thing that are below subpar. And when this LP does have subpar moments, it’s a very rare occasion.
On tracks such as “Callistemon,” “Rhizophora,” and “Leucadendron Argenteum,” Martinelli creates an atmosphere that you can easily sink into. Despite the at times pummeling drums and gruesome vocals, this LP feels very serene and natural. Which I can only assume is one of the things Botanist was trying to achieve when he made this record: An album that resembles plant life in a way that these songs have a very beautiful and natural element to them, but there are very mysterious and dark undertones that are waiting to be explored. If VI: Flora were a type of flower, it would probably be the strangest and most unidentifiable type out there. At least, that’s the vibe I get from this thing.
Overall, while this album isn’t all that game-changing or revolutionary in the genre of Blackgaze, it’s still a worthwhile and highly enjoyable LP. Although this thing does have some weaker moments on it, as I said before, the weaker moments don’t really hurt the record all that much and are never really too far under subpar. They still keep the flow going on the record and, to me, that’s one of the most beneficial things to this album: Everything just feels so cohesive to the point that it sounds heavenly to the ears no matter what. (3.5/5)" -- Marcel's Music Journal, November 3, 2014
"If there’s one thing that San Francisco musician Roberto Martinelli, a.k.a. Botanist, proved to us this year, it’s that you can still make incredible black metal without an electric guitar. Martinelli, once again using the gorgeous effect of a hammered dulcimer in his music, creates an atmosphere unlike any other. It’s very light, pretty metal that is also incredibly avant-garde. It’s definitely one of the prettiest metal records I’ve heard in a long time and one of the best metal albums from this year, period." -- Marcel's Music Journal's Top 50 of 2014 (#46), January 7, 2015
MEAT MEAD METAL
"BOTANIST TURNS FOCUS TOWARD PRAISE, ADULATION OF BELOVED GREEN LIFE ON JOYOUS ‘VI: FLORA’
Really great music is a labor of love. You can feel that in your bones when you come across an artist or a record that is filled with genuine emotion and passion for what’s going on musically and thematically. It’s not something that needs to be explained; it’s something that grips your heart and lets you know what’s there is true.
I’ve always felt that way about Botanist, the one-man, dulcimer-and-drum-led project of one Otrebor. Over the past several years, he has given us a glimpse into his Verdant Realm, where plant life and nature is the only thing that matters, and its human central figure the Botanist surrounds himself with the greens that he loves and takes care of so dearly. But there’s always been a sinister, dark edge to the record and the songs (especially on 'III: Doom in Bloom' and 'IV: Mandragora'), mainly because the Botanist and his surrounding creatures hope one day to bring humankind to their knees for the atrocities they have committed against plant life. But the intentions are noble. The Earth has spiraled out of control into a place of corporate-driven agendas, political fighting, and the strangulation of the very idea of scientific theory by some very short-sighted people. The Botanist imagines a day when nature rises again and reclaims what is her very own. These tenets play right into the heart of black metal aesthetics, where Botanist’s music has its base, but in a way no one ever really imagined before.
But on 'VI: Flora,' the scene changes a bit. Not that every bit of music Botanist has put out has necessarily been devoted purely to the Botanist character’s crusade, but this one is the most unique out of the entire catalog. I mean that musically and emotionally. This record is more of an adulation to the surrounding plant life in the Verdant Realm. It’s a genuflection, a devotion, an embrace of all of the elements of nature that make the Botanist’s very human heart glow. You can feel that shine through in the music, as these 11 songs are some of the most upbeat, emotional, and catchy of his entire run, and it’s impossible for anyone who listens to this record not to be carried away or even shed a tear for what’s being expressed here. It’s utterly jubilant in spots, and even when the music bears its edges, it’s more of fierce devotion rather than the will to maim. It’s an amazing, breath-taking collection that fits with the whole but truly has its own place.
Opener 'Stargazer' gives the record a triumphant feel from the start, with the vocals veering toward whispery and washed-out creaking. The melodies glimmer at times over this track, and eventually it fades out and sets the stage for 'Callistemon.' The song has an upbeat, almost post-punk feel, as the composition stings with power, and the vocals lie low in the layers of sound. Toward the end, the drums really burst with life, as Otrebor plays like Neil Peart in a burst of spastic, jazzy fury. 'Cinnamomum Parthenoxylon,' named a critically endangered type of evergreen tree, is treated with faster tempos, explosive emoting, and a blazing attitude, as if the focus here is to lash out over this creation’s fragile future. It’s the first real hint of deep-seeded darkness on this record. 'Gleditsia' bursts with life from the start, with drums rumbling, the dulcimer hammered with gusto, and turning into a catchy pace that could sweep you up to sing praises back yourself. 'Rhizophora' trickles slower, with some buzzing, a nice dose of drone, and noises hanging in the air that feel like a hovering insect. It’s a mesmerizing song that can make you feel a little woozy inside.
'Dianthus' is another song with a really strong melody that packs a punch. It’s a catchy, steady track, with the vocals coming out as whispers again, and the back end of the song is damn near poppy! 'Leucadendron Argenteum' is the longest track on here, running more than six minutes and establishing an amazing sense of atmosphere. The piece builds out of that spaciousness, and the tempo kicks up like so many of the other tracks on this record. The song is packed with heartfelt passion, both musically and vocally, and once the main body of the music burns out, quiet dulcimer takes the remains to its exit. Really strong. 'Pteridophyte' has some noisy elements, as that energy washes over the music and gives it a rougher edge. Again, the outer edges appear to glimmer and practically give off a euphoric shine. 'Wisteria' is launched by stick cracks, and then it’s off into the haze, with clean singing lurking. It gives a different feel to the song and also offers another new glimpse into this project’s heart. 'Erythronium' emerges from the final notes of 'Wisteria,' and it takes a colorful, driving push forward. The vocals again are whispery, the presentation is sweeping, and joyously so, and the song makes for one great last burst of praise. The final cut '…Gazing…' is 54 seconds of emotional comedown, as the dulcimer quietly leads us out of the Verdant Realm and back to reality.
Botanist has been one of the most prolific projects in metal the past half-decade, and each new chapter is enthralling and a another step up from what came before it. 'Flora' is a very different record for this gifted artist, and it’s one that you can feel in every ounce of your being. You don’t necessarily have to understand everything that’s being said right away. You can sense the wonder and love in each note. It’s been an amazing ride we’ve taken with each new Botanist release, and Otrebor always has something new to reveal. If anything, maybe this record can help more listeners feel the love the artist and main character possess for nature around us and make us think twice next time we take it for granted. That’s worth hailing indeed." -- Brian Krasman, Meat Mead Metal, August 14, 2014
"Way back when I was in high school, I saw a TV ad selling the promise of microtonal music. Of course, they were selling that 'promise' in the form of crap you could buy, like books, cassettes, and probably even vinyl. A bearded, professorial man explained that music based on the 12-tone scale was 'dead' because everything that could be composed had already been done, and if you wanted to be cool and interesting, you needed to start using microtones ASAP. This was clearly an idiotic way of looking at things. Microtonal music is a fascinating and worthy endeavor, but judging the potential of all future music solely on the number of notes available to you is like deciding there's no reason to paint anymore because we've already seen all the possible color combinations a person can use.
For me, Botanist is a prime example of why Beardy McMicrotones was so off base. Botanist mastermind Otrebor has taken an instrument not well known outside of folk -- the hammered dulcimer -- and has created five full-lengths and a split of compelling music that falls in, around, and beyond black metal. For me, the genius in this remains that no matter how outside of the musical mainstream Otrebor is working, his songs are still held down by rock-solid composition and melody.
So has Otrebor run out of ideas on VI: Flora? Hardly. In an interesting twist, the vocals have been pushed very deep into the mix, but instrumentally, Flora finds Botanist sounding equal parts bombastic and melancholy. Album opener 'Stargazer' has a majestic sweep to it, almost as if heralding the arrival of a hero king, before ending with a delicate, piano-like outro. Botanist continues to play the percussion/stringed instrument duality of his instrument in the next track, 'Callistemon,' making sounds that more closely mimic the chiming guitar of alt rock. 'Cinnamomum Parthenoxylon' and 'Gleditsia' both pit grinding, eerie dissonance against slow-moving melodies and furious drumming. After a whirlwind of an album, '...Gazing...' offers a barely-there reprise of the album opener's melody, full of both devastation and relief.
I could go on and on from my notes on these tracks--my descriptions are sprinkled with words like 'jagged,' 'symphonic,' and 'gossamer,' which give a pretty good idea of the range of musical ideas in this work. It's possible that I've become a hopeless Botanist fanboy at this point, but there aren't a lot of artists who have held my interest so thoroughly through six (and counting) releases. Maybe it's the music nerd in me that's hooked by this multi-album concept work, or the fact that a tale of a coming post apocalypse fits so well with the kinds of books and movies I enjoy, but maybe it all boils down to a unique musical vision that remains fascinating and completely uncompromised." -- Justin Collins, Metalbandcamp, August 8, 2014
"I californiani Botanist, vuoi per la natura sorprendente della loro musica, vuoi per la infrequenza con la quale pubblicano lavori, vuoi per la timidezza che da sempre li caratterizza, sono sempre stati una band di punta della Flenser Records, una di quelle band che la label di San Francisco ha sempre trattato con i guanti di velluto. Inoltre, va rimarcato come la musica fatta dai Botanist esista solo entro i Botanist stessi, e da nessun’altra parte. Parliamo infatti di una delle proposte più originali mai apparse in ambito black metal. I Nostri infatti si vestono come piante e suonano con il salterio invece delle chitarre elettriche.
Il risultato è uno scintillante tintinnio di corde percosse dalla bacchette del salterio che creano un effetto straniante e obiettivamente molto gradevole e intrigante, quasi la musica dei Nostri fosse fatata o comunque dominata da tratti quasi fiabeschi. I concetti dal taglio naturalistico-apocalittici proposti dalla band esplorano una drammatica anti-umanità tramite gli occhi dei loro “fratelli piante”, esseri divini e superiori per loro e legittimi padroni del pianeta terra di cui un giorno riconquisteranno ogni singolo angolo preso degli uomini. La terra un giorno tornerà ad essere una giungla lussureggiante priva di uomini e la musica dei Botanist esplora questa coraggiosa storia di conquista da parte delle piante.
La formula insomma è del tutto fuori dagli schemi e oltre ogni più fantasiosa elaborazione; inutile spiegare dunque che la band desti parecchia curiosità. Del black metal nella musica dei Botanist però rimane solo la batteria frenetica, sempre tarata su dei blast beat forsennati, e le voci gracchiate e disperate del vocalist, che possono ricordare Burzum o Xasthur (seppur da molto lontano), ma tutto il resto è di quanto più inaudito si possa concepire: spastiche e lunatiche progressioni di indie-metal ultra minimale e dal taglio altamente nerd che hanno come propellente primario solo le corde del salterio e un basso a dodici corde timido e schivo, perso nel sottofondo. Se all’inizio della carriera dei Nostri il tentativo rimaneva maldestro, adesso invece sembra che i Botanist abbiano capito la loro stessa proposta e che ora la controllino meglio, riuscendo a creare un vortice di colori e umori a tratti davvero incredibile, in cui melodie esaltanti e “riff” dalla grana finissima sgorgano fuori copiosi e ininterrotti.
La cosa che va apprezzata maggiormente dei Botanist forse è proprio questa: che complicandosi inutilmente la vita optando di utilizzare uno strumento fuori dalla grazia di Dio per il metal come il salterio invece delle chitarre, essi sono alla fine riusciti a controllare il difficile mezzo e ad usarlo a loro vantaggio, riuscendo infine a materializzare una formula a tratti titubante e molto snella che però funziona alla perfezione e che davvero mai nessuno si sarebbe mai sognato di proporre con un simile successo. Bisogna anche considerare il rilevante fatto che il salterio ha evidentissimi limiti usato in questo ambito, questo va detto. Manca la distorsione, le composizioni che è possibile creare sembrano essere limitate in questo ambito per via dell’uniformità del suono e della mancanza di feedback; inoltre non è possibile – o è molto difficile – suonare a determinate velocità, per cui le ritmiche rimangono pacare e ariose, per non parlare del suono che sembra molle e privo di spina dorsale, privo di pesantezza e intensità ed estremamente fine ed emaciato. Sono tutti aspetti da considerare nella valutazione complessiva, ma non si può negare che i Botanist in questo siano una band dal coraggio incredibile e tra le cose più originali mai sentite in ambito black (e non)." -- Mattia Alagna, Metal Italia, October 2, 2014
"If you ever needed a prime example of black metal's growing shift towards the unconventional in our recent times, you need look no farther than Roberto Martinelli's Botanist. A curious concoction of vocals, drums, and hammered dulcimer, the debut of the project took the more obscure fringes of the genre by storm, fusing seemingly unfitting elements together for the achievement of a refreshingly original creation. While perhaps not as radical, VI: Flora seeks to continue this pattern, and it does so wonderfully.
VI: Flora essentially continues the new model for the project set by the previous IV: Mandragora (the question of what happened to V in this chronology is currently a secret still being held deeply within Otrebor's gardens). The dulcimer is indeed still distorted, once more helping to give the music a more of an actual black metal aesthetic that, while still distinctlyBotanist's, seems to approach a sense of more familiar structures. This may strike some listeners as more accessible of a sound, and those who preferred the less controlled nature of debut may be slightly put off by it, but if anything it also seems more sophisticated, as though Otrebor has now harnessed some of the arboreal chaos of his earlier work and channeled it into a more direct and guided delivery.
What really makes Flora, however, is its superb attention to the creation of a grand harmony of sorts. Here it seems as though Otrebor has been experimenting with the exact sound of his dulcimer perhaps more than ever before. Less rhythm-focused than the previous album, the music here flirts around with a lot of hazy textures and melodies, for a very emotive, transcendental experience. There's some deep, immersive feeling going on here: the ending of "Stargazer," "Dianthus," and "Wisteria" especially all seem to be playing heavily with this technique, approaching some fantastic levels of atmosphere somewhat resembling shoegaze. Otrebor's vocals also seem a little bit more buried in the mix than usual, making them feel like whispers from within the great forest his music creates, which builds excellently upon this vibe.
VI: Flora is thus yet another worthy chapter in Botanist's pantheistic saga. While somewhat lessening the "out there" element, the music still doesn't fail to maintain its uniqueness or its gravity, and Otrebor's composition is no less interesting, even if it may be focusing on a different point of view. If this is the proverbial "next step" in the project's evolution, I'm very interested in seeing where things go from here." -- Apothecary, Metal Storm, September 7, 2014
"I didn’t expect to find the new Botanist so fresh after last year’s excellent Mandragora, but it’s grown on me like a fungus on feces. Hammered dulcimer has proven steadfast over the years, constructing layer upon layer of dissonances that twine around each other in unexpected harmonies. The vocals make such little impact that this album feels instrumental; it also barely feels like black metal anymore. Flora adeptly manipulates time – it feels like decades pass over the course of a single three-minute track, as if we’re tracing the growth and senescence of an individual plant. It brings us right up close, microscopically focused, and it’s deeply personal in that regard. Some albums necessitate a certain mood before you can appreciate them, whereas other albums generate that mood. Flora is one of the latter. Put it on and watch your walls turn green." -- Dave Mustein's Top 15 Metal Albums of 2014 (#9), Metalsucks, December 2, 2014
"Imagine: You are born with three eyes and spend your young life stressing about an eternity of awkward social interaction. It’s awful for you — friends and foes alike define you as the dude with 50% more eyeball than usual and stare a lot. What a drag. But one morning you wake up to find that a new trend is sweeping the nation of hipsters and glamor phonies: extra eye implants. Yep, the most image-crazed and deplorably superficial waiters, tattoo artists, housewives, and cafe dads in your town are now sporting an extra eye kinda like yours. Suddenly, your suffering is different but exponential: Now normal people no longer consider you a freak, but now they conclude that you’re a money-flushing, needy, corny swag turd who undertook an expensive and irreversible mutilation of your face. But really, you’re just being yourself. Shit.
Well, that dazzling analogy may illustrate the challenge for fans (and members) of Botanist, an unusual metal act whose central instrument is the hammered dulcimer. That thing looks like an autoharp whose strings are struck like a xylophone with two backscratchers, and it sounds pretty amazing when put to use in ambient black metal. (You’ll hear 12-string bass and fancy organ, too, in Botanist jams.) But like that plastic-surgery eye, is this set-up just a flashy hook for attention? Or is it an expression of Botanist’s very being, like that naturally-occurring but weird third peeper? Gimmick or identity? Probably both, but man, I bet the Botanist dude has nightmares about constantly explaining his novel, awesome style. Shit!" -- Anso DF, Metalsucks, August 12, 2014
A METAL STATE OF MIND
"While it’s been quite a long time since black metal has evolved from its anarchistic, church burning beginnings, it still amazes me how far the genre has come. Bands like Deafheaven, Agalloch, Moonsorrow, Wolves in the Throne Room, and Septicflesh have taken the genre in such wildly different directions and opened up what was a very closed community to many more fans. And to be completely honest, I would have never learned to appreciate tr00 kvlt black metal if it weren’t for those bands (and Emperor) easing me into the insane harshness of the genre.
Now taking the genre down a different path is Botanist. Utilizing major keys, a love of Sonic Youth, and a dulcimer (it’s an instrument in case you’re wondering) Botonist have crafted ‘happy black metal’. Flowers, plants, love for nature, all that lovely stuff personified in the music really make their new record, VI: Flora, pop. Thematically, the record is very black metal. It recounts a tale of a man becoming a hermit to escape all the hate and pain of the world and to surround himself with the beauty of nature and await the day when humanity eradicates its self and Mother Earth can reclaim and begin to regrow. Anyhoo, environmentalist warnings aside, this is a beautiful record filled with sounds and themes yet to be explored in black metal.
This is one of the more unique records I’ve heard this year and it’s well worth your time, if only to hear how far black metal has come since the days of Mayhem and Darkthrone. Give a listen and let us know what you think. And as always, if you like what you hear, toss the artist a few bucks and grab a download of the record. Enjoy!! Peace Love and Metal!!!" -- RiffRaff, A Metal State of Mind, August 12, 2014
"It sounds like what might happen if a chorus of environmental-doomsaying aliens covered Mayhem, which is to say it sounds fucking incredible." -- Ellen Cushing, Modern Luxury, August 28, 2014
"Když jsem poprvé narazil na americkou one-man kapelu BOTANIST, první, co mě napadlo, bylo, že je skutečně fascinující, do jakých směrů a hloubek se black metal může rozvíjet a v jakých originálních, doposud nevídaných a „divných“ formách nakonec může k posluchači dorazit. Ještě než napíšu cokoliv dalšího, hned na úvod musím předznamenat, že BOTANIST produkuje typ black metalu, či spíše typ hudby obecně, který jste ještě zaručeně neslyšeli, a možná Vás ani nenapadlo, že je vůbec možné něco takového vytvořit. Skutečně, seznámení se s BOTANIST působí na nového posluchače tak, jako kdyby objevil něco nového a zároveň tak jiného, že by nevěřil, že je vůbec možné na něco takového v našem světě narazit. Je to jako srážka s absolutní jinakostí odněkud z jiných světů. Pojďme si tedy kapelu BOTANIST stručně představit.
Jak jsem již uvedl, BOTANIST je projekt tvořený jediným člověkem, kterým je Američan Roberto Martinelli. Ještě než se dostaneme k představení alba a konceptu kapely, zastavme se na chvíli u hudebních nástrojů, které Martinelli užívá. Tím však možná některé čtenáře hned na úvod odradím. Ve výčtu užívaných nástrojů totiž nenajdete kytaru. I bez kytary je však míra „blackmetalovosti“ u BOTANIST dle mého názoru daleko vyšší než u celé řady jiných klasických kytarových black metalových kapel. Jaké hudební nástroje tedy tvoří hudbu BOTANIST? Dvanáctistrunná basa, bicí, harmonium a nástroj zvaný „hammered dulcimer“. Zatímco harmonium je vzduchový klávesový nástroj podobný varhanám, hammered dulcimer je nástroj podobný cimbálu. Pro lepší seznámení se s tímto nástrojem však doporučuji zadat si „hammered dulcimer“ do Googlu či na YouTube a poslechnout si, jakými možnostmi tento nástroj disponuje. Anebo si rovnou pusťte BOTANIST, jehož hudba je na tomto nástroji prakticky vystavěna.
„Hudební vyjádření Přírody jakožto božství. Vstupte do Zelenajícího se světa,“ zní základní popis BOTANIST přímo od Martinelliho. Album „Flora“, o kterém tato recenze primárně pojednává, je již šestým albem odehrávajícím se právě ve „Verdant Realm“. Z výčtu desek je patrné, že BOTANIST patří mezi ty kapely, které hudbu tvoří jak na běžícím pásu. Jednou z výhod tohoto přístupu je však konkrétně u BOTANIST ta skutečnost, že lze mezi deskami vystopovat poměrně znatelný kvalitativní vzestup. Zatímco předchozí desky byly v mnohém nedotažené a působily místy amatérsky či neúplně, nové album „Flora“ již těmito nedostatky nedisponuje.
Hudba BOTANIST se tedy odehrává v jakémsi fiktivním, Martinellim vytvořeném světě, který je ideově velice propracovaný. Na Last.fm si již BOTANIST vysloužil různé roztodivné a neotřelé tagy, jako třeba raw plant metal, green metal či označení eco-terrorist black metal. Nutno dodat, že nic z toho není úplně mimo realitu. Martinelli sám svou hudbu jakožto green metal označuje, avšak s tím, že green metal chápe v rámci široce pojatého black metalu. O ideovém ukotvení BOTANIST si udělejme obrázek z následujících slov, kterými Martinelli myšlenku svého projektu popisuje:
„Skladby BOTANIST jsou vyprávěny z perspektivy BOTANISTy (The BOTANIST), šíleného muže vědy, který žije svůj život dobrovolně co nejdále od veškerého lidstva a jeho zločinů proti Přírodě. Ve svém přírodním azylu plném fantasie a zázraků, který nazývá Zelenající se svět, se, hledajíc útěchu ve společnosti přírodního světa, obklopuje rostlinami a květinami a ve svých vizích si představuje zničení člověka. Zde, v tomto svém přírodním království na velthemiovém trůnu (trůn vytvořený z rostlin Velthemie), BOTANISTa čeká na moment, kdy se lidstvo samo vyhladí, což umožní rostlinám, aby se Země opět zazelenala.“
Tímto odstavcem popis Martinelliho idejí, které vypráví prostřednictvím kapely BOTANIST, nekončí, pro detailnější obrázek si můžete více vyhledat buď na oficiálních stránkách či Facebooku. Pro alespoň základní představu o ideovém konceptu BOTANIST však tento první odstavec dozajista stačí.
A jaké je tedy samotné album „Flora“? Jedním slovem absolutně dechberoucí. Flora působí doopravdy neskutečně uvolňujícím, pohodovým a bezstarostným dojmem. Poslouchat skladby pojmenované po různých rostlinách, jako třeba „Callistemon“, „Cinnamomum Parthenoxylon“, „Rhizophora“ či třeba „Leucadendron Argenteum“, to je vážně mimořádně svěží vítr a zpestření pro jakéhokoliv blackmetalového posluchače, který si rád rozšiřuje své obzory. Co bych zvláště vypíchl, je ona naprosto jedinečná a velmi silná atmosféra, která z alba dýchá, jelikož se jedná o něco diametrálně odlišného, než na co jsme zvyklí z tradičního black metalu. Uvolňující, pohodový, bezstarostný – to rozhodně nejsou charakteristiky, kterými by se dala popisovat blacková hudba jako taková. U BOTANIST však tato slova nejlépe vyjadřují to, co z desky čiší na míle daleko. Je to, jako kdyby Vás na místo nekompromisního a mrazivého blackového chladu do nosu udeřila extrémní dávka kyslíku, vyprodukovaná nekonečným zástupem zelenajících se rostlin.
Flora tak působí jako jakýsi balzám na duši. Připomíná nějakou specifickou relaxační, možná meditační hudbu. Avšak tentokráte relaxační hudbu v (black) metalovém provedení! Melodie, které dokáže Martinelli za pomocí výše uvedených názorů vykouzlit, působí opravdu tak, jako kdybyste se ocitli uprostřed nějakého zeleného pekla. Jediná kapela, u které považuji srovnání s BOTANIST za alespoň trochu opodstatněné, je francouzský Mystic Forest, jehož hudba se taktéž vypořádává s přírodou a atmosféra některých alb působí alespoň vzdáleně podobně. BOTANIST však tuto atmosféru dostává ještě o několik levelů výš.
Album „Flora“ od americké kapely BOTANIST bych rád doporučil naprosto každému. Je mi sice jasné, že zdaleka ne každému Martinelliho tvorba sedne, nicméně alespoň za zkoušku nic nedáte a za odměnu získáte velice neotřelý hudební zážitek, který je, jak se skutečně domnívám, na hony vzdálený všemu, co jste doposud slyšeli. Poslouchat BOTANIST, to je jako procházet se po nádherné botanické zahradě, pouze s tím rozdílem, že veškeré rostliny a květiny vidíte v jejich nikoliv fyzické, ale zhudebněné podobě. Je to botanický orchestr prapodivných melodií, který stojí za to okusit. Prakticky mě nenapadá nic, co bych mohl Floře vytknout. Album nemá slabý moment, nepřestane nudit v žádné své pasáži. A tak mě od vyššího hodnocení odrazuje pouze pomyšlení na to, že tohle ještě není vrchol, že BOTANIST bude pokračovat ve své evoluci a ve svém kvalitativním růstu, a že se na některém z dalších alb dočkáme ještě detailnějšího proniknutí do Zelenajícího se světa. (9/10)" -- Pavek, Mortem Zine, October 16, 2014
"On this record Botanist fixes almost all issues I had with his previous album the biggest one being the vocals. Even though this is a black metal record that has quite raw and lo if recording, it is very beautiful and dare I say accessible? It manages to be accessible without feeling tacky, gimmicky or dumbed down. That is a big presentation in my book. I hope he continues in this direction in the future.
Highlight(s): Stargazer, Dianthus, Wisteria, Erythronium." -- Neko Chan's Top 20 Albums of 2014, January 2, 2015
NEW NOISE MAGAZINE
"Sometimes food or art is best experienced in conjunction with something else. Cheese is great, but pair it with a fine wine, and it’s magical. Believe it or not, experiencing music in conjunction with reading can be the perfect union. I usually prefer instrumental music, but sometimes a pairing is too great to be ignored. In this case, experimental black metal is paired perfectly with environmental horror.
Botanist is quite the interesting band. The group eschews guitars as a primary instrument and substitutes them with a hammered dulcimer (go ahead and Google it…), with surprising results. Vocally and rhythmically, Botanist is most similar to a black metal group, with incoherent vocals buried in the mix between harsh drum-work and impassioned string work. However, the hammered dulcimer adds a glossy sheen to the music that’s beautifully jarring. The melodies are fascinatingly bright yet melancholic, especially in tracks like 'Dianthus.' Call this a novelty act at your own peril; this is impressively performed and quite the interesting listen. The album does have a few homogeneous movements, but these seem to be purposefully done in support of the album’s theme.
Oh yeah, that theme is terrifying. Botanist’s long-running story is of a man who is fed up with humans and decides to live among plants while they together plot humanity’s destruction. For those of you that don’t recall roman numerals from school, this is the sixth album in the series; however, it is the fifth release because The Botanist decided it was a better sonic step up from album number five. One listen to VI: Flora will certainly leave listeners in agreement. The album is hauntingly gorgeous, symphonic and very visceral. It’s an experience that is not necessarily fun, but it’s difficult to argue against the results.
Back to the beginning, this group’s music is perfectly paired with one of my new favorite environmental horror novels: Jeff Vandermeer’s Annihilation. No spoilers here, but Jeff’s tale of an ecology-gone-horrifying is the fine pinor noir to Botanist’s creamy havarti. I highly recommend both separately and together. Should we start calling Botanist’s odd musical tales 'Green Metal'? -- Nicholas Senior, New Noise Magazine, August 15, 2014
"If there were ever any proof needed that black metal is not limited to consisting of tremolo picked guitars recorded in a Norwegian forest at midnight then Botanist are that proof. The driving instrument behind this project is the hammered dulcimer, which really gives this album a distinct feel, somewhere between Blut Aus Nord and Jesu. From the first notes of album opener ‘Stargazer’ it’s clear that this is something special. I can’t help but feel like if every black metal fan were to take the time to listen to and appreciate what is going on in this album then perhaps there would be slightly less elitism in black metal." -- Dave, Noizze's Top 10 Albums of 2014 (#10), January 6, 2015
"Here's another selection from my rather metal-heavy pile this week. This one's from California's Botanist and is the sixth in a lengthy series of albums which will eventually make up a grand sci-fi/fantasy narrative about 'The Botanist,' a twisted scientist who lives in the "Verdant Realm", isolated from humanity and its crimes against nature, plotting their downfall. No, really.
I'm not sure what I'd call it...redemptive metal, maybe? Life metal? There's a lot of uplifting melodies and big shimmering multi-guitar chords, along with drums and vocals buried low in the mix, black metal style. In places it has that consistently frantic smoothness that keep bringing to mind Burzum's 'Filosofem' or a higher-fidelity Darkthrone, but there's a fist-pumping cheeseball positivity buried not far below the surface in a way which keeps making me think of a cross between Fucked Up and Deafheaven. It could be much worse. When they really unleash their full distorted power on tracks like 'Cinnamomum Parthenoxylon' it's undeniably powerful and dramatic and accessible all at once." -- Mike, Norman Records, August 21, 2014
"I feel like I missed a couple numbers from San Francisco-based environmentalist black metal unit Botanist along the way, but they’ll nonetheless issue VI: Flora on The Flenser next month, furthering their marriage of destruction and beauty and insistent percussive expression. The spaces Botanist — a one-man project from Robert Martinelli — create feel ritualistic without the dramatic posturing that pervades much of the genre, and sound, somewhere between raging and mournful, is hypnotic. Whatever your expectation might be, Martinelli seems pleased to use it to their advantage, and ultimately, defy it. Post-human, hammered dulcimer-laden black metal. It would be harder for Botanist to not be unique." -- H.P. Taskmaster, The Obelisk, July 8, 2014
"The seam of black metal that erupted in the Bay Area in the early part of the century and its brusque legacy has taken some intriguing detours on its evolutionary path. That evolution is at work at the heart of Botanist, an enigmatic outfit with a remarkable discography of its own. VI: Flora is another distinguished addition to it, a sinuous blend of post-rock bliss and extreme metal flourishes.
Botanist's rigorous approach is lavished upon the world of plants, and inspired orientation that results in exemplary sonic hybrids, garlanded with exquisite guitar melodies and forensic rhythms. The whispered vocals add a layer of supernatural menace that is entirely in keeping with the album's unnerving atmosphere.
Both melancholy and exultant, Botanist has created a glorious tumult." -- Kevin McCaighy, Rock-A-Rolla #51, August/September 2014
SCENE POINT BLANK
"The whole concept of one-man black metal projects is quite old. From back in the ‘90s you would have acts like Burzum and Ildjarn(although they would feature also Nidhogg occasionally.) Those acts were great and it was quite nice to see that other musicians today would adapt the same philosophy and try to create solitary projects, with excellent examples being Panopticon and Leviathan. But even within that crowd, Botanist seems to score even higher in the nihilistic scale. A one-man project created by an actual botanist, who according to his own website: 'lives in self-imposed exile, as far away from Humanity and its crimes against Nature as possible,' while awaiting the demise of humanity. Well if that is not black metal attitude and thinking I do not know what is.
Botanist has an underlying folk-y vibe within his black metal. But that comes almost solely from the feeling that this album gives to the listener and it seems like the structure of the songs and its melodic lines are just a testament to that. While with the inclusion of the hammered dulcimer Botanist is able to acquire a unique sound, I mean come on… how many black metal acts are out there that use a hammered dulcimer? The results are amazing, with the instrument standing out in the spotlight, and what is even more impressive is that it highly enhances the structures of the band’s songs. And when you have on top of that the frenzy patterns that the band is laying out, you cannot go wrong with VI: Flora.
Still, what is even more remarkable is the ability of Botanist to find a fine line between melody and dissonance. Take 'Cinnamomum Parthenoxylon' for instance, with the track beginning in a horrific manner, making your brain melt and then Botanist are somehow able to put melodic lines buried, but still perceivable, within the track. The result is insane, with the merging of these two sides causing real cognitive dissonance. A similar pattern is followed in 'Dianthus,' with Botanist starting things off with a more melodic mentality before unleashing waves of discord and mayhem, and in a much more interesting extent in 'Leucadendron Argenteum.'
Then there are those moments when Botanist just want to suck all the light out of this world and really get down to it. When you hear a track as dark and dim as 'Wisteria,' you get a glimpse at the true darkness that lies within the heart of this band. But, what is even more impressive is that there still are moments within VI:Flora where you are able to find catharsis in Botanist’s songs. The amazing melodies of 'Pteridophyte' have an almost cleansing effect on the listener, while, on an interesting note, the opening track 'Stargazer' brings in an almost sentimental tone from Botanist. And on top of all that, Botanist is able to craft songs that are fucking epic in nature. Take 'Rhizophora' for instance, with its mid-tempo groove and huge melodies creating vast sonic landscapes. And with that sick effect on the vocals you will not be forgetting this one anytime soon. A similar epic feeling can be found within the faster paced 'Erythronium' within the folk vibe making a strong appearance in this one.
Botanist has really outdone himself with this one. Even though the nihilistic element is always there, the album contains a few interesting twists that the band is coming up with, making VI: Flora a great experimental black metal album. (9/10)" -- Spyros Stasis, Scene Point Blank, September 29, 2014
THE SONIC SENSORY
Botanist is a black metal band promoted by The Flenser, a well known label that have released some truly amazing records this year, including bands like Have a Nice Life, White Suns, Wreck and Reference, and Planning For Burial . Botanist takes a slightly different approach than the rest of that group by making a less dark brand of music and deciding to move into a more hopeful direction. The biggest question is always when The Flenser will release something that is disappointing, and Botanist will not end their streak of greatness and argument for label of the year with their sixth full length album, Flora.
Botanist take one of the strangest approaches of any band this year. Instead of utilizing heavy guitars that parade all over the tracks, a dulcimer really takes control throughout the album. This can be a jarring shift for most metal fans, including myself., but the result is surprisingly fantastic and creates one of my favorite examples of instrumentation all year. The drums are also truly amazing throughout the record, never taking a back seat or disappointing during the eleven tracks. The contrast between blazing fast tempos and slow but powerful drum kicks are palpable. Bass is not a massive element of the mixing, but when it shows up, listeners will notice the pretty rhythms. Vocals are thrown to the back of the mixing, barely registering over the dulcimer and drums on most tracks. This is a not a distracting idea though, which allows the excellent musicianship to command the album.
Flora is packed with solid songs from beginning to end but four tracks highlight the experience as a whole. The opening track, 'Stargazer,' is a stunning achievement. The massive drum and cymbal melody that kicks off the track is a sign for the quality to come, while vocals and a dulcimer line enter the mix soon after. The mixing almost gives off an ’80s synth-rock feel with a minor sense of drone building in the background, and it also gives way to slow picking near the end which is utilized well throughout the whole album. 'Dianthus' leads off the second half in a slightly darker direction. The dulcimer and drums create a beautiful melody as a lead-in, while the vocals are seemingly heavier and more angry than anything before it. The second half is punctuated by a great middle breakdown that gives off a punk-vibe.
The next track, 'Leucadendron Argenteum,' is the best song on the album. The fuzzy string instruments to open up the song are disorienting, while the drums drive that feeling even further. The vocals are mixed to sound their most sinister, almost coming off as angry spoken-word. The middle presents bass drum kicks and sped-up guitars that create a heavenly rhythm, while the ending is slow and longing, like a horror film soundtrack. The second to last track, 'Erythronium' is Botanist performing at their most accessible. The track is marked up with powerful bass work, punchy dulcimer and guitars, and lightning fast drums. This is easily the most upbeat attack on the whole album and is much needed after the first nine songs that precede it.
There are some problems throughout Flora to note though. Despite creating a truly original sound with the odd instrumentation, many of the songs sound similar in tone. Flora feels longer than it’s 38 minute running time for this precise reason, which is a shame because the walls of sound created are really fun to dive into. Luckily the best songs are spread throughout the record to keep the ride with enough momentum to drive the ideas forward. The one other main issue is the closing track to the album. '…Gazing…' is not only a seemingly non-existent track, but to end a glorious album on such a whimper is a tough pill to swallow. Flora could have easily ended on 'Erythronium' and the ride would have ended on a beautiful note instead of a disappointing one.
Botanist are back with their best foot forward. The aggressive, yet hopeful, walls of sound that Botanist put out are truly mesmerizing. The idea to prominently feature a dulcimer on a metal record is a risky gamble, but it plays off handsomely for their truly unique sound. Despite the large grouping of tracks lacking a roller coaster effect that is desperately needed and a weak closing track, Flora is a solid release from a truly unique band. (3.6/5)" -- Robert Garland, The Sonic Sensory, August 7, 2014
"In the interest of full disclosure, I am by no means an expert on anything green or floral. I studied English, media, and communications. So, understand that when I say that an album, one that stretches far beyond a 'concept' album, about plant life retaking the world from man, was intimidating to tackle. In this world, the Verdant Realm as it were, the character of the Botanist is witness to the ending of the world. But what is more difficult than allowing yourself to become a part of that world without a long study session, is trying not to be pulled into it at the hands of Otrebor. And by hands, we mean quite literally, as he uses a chorus of drums and the hammered dulcimer as his main source of sound and melody. In this, the next installment in a growing and impressive saga, the only rules are those of sound and fury. And yet still,VI: Flora breaks them all.
Within seconds of the opening, Stargazer has already given you so much to ponder and digest. The instrumentation, through use of drum and dulcimer, carries a very familiar weight, without stepping into any sort of normal routine. There are textures to each movement, with each lingering sound pausing, almost in mid air, to be dissected, all before a piano plays you out. You'll find more with each listen, particularly when following the complex and engrossing story the album portrays. Lyrical poetry, as you find in Callistemon, only enriches the barely audible anguish that lies just below the layers of distortion and fervent drumming. To that point, songs like Cinnamomum Parthenoxylon beg to be blasted at head splitting volumes, concussive in the cloudiness of the mix. This world that encapsulates the story, as created by Otrebor, is a vivid one, made so by the use of language few wold understand without a glossary of terms. Then again, when a hammered dulcimer is your prime vessel, that isn't a far fetched idea.
That dulcimer, as noted in his 2012 interview with The Quietus, 'Beyond that basic premise, is it hard to play? Sure, especially if one's scope of hitting something with a stick goes from a surface area in which ten inches is an acceptable margin of error to one in which any more than three quarters of an inch is total disaster.' It makes each distinct sound wave on Gleditsia and Rhizophora all the more profound. It touches on a fractured and eerie harmony that, in a way, isn't harmony at all. But the latter is a hazy ride through the night sky, and no, it would be nearly impossible for me to clarify that. It is a tumultuous journey, cloaked in darker imagery and negative, if not brightly disguised ideals. This is certainly not to say you can't find positive connections here, but tracks like Dianthus offer beauty at a cost; in exchange for the end of the human world. This character, The Botanist, is brought to life, not only lyrically but musically. You hear the words 'From the flames of purification it rises anew, to shine on once again,' over the critically accurate swing of a stick. And somehow, that goes beyond a musical composition.
Despite the crackle of speakers and overall rough nature of the mix, there is no lack of clarity. At a point, somewhere near a minute and forty seconds into Pteridophyte, you reach a moment and sound that is like the apex of a jump on a trampoline; one outside of time and space. It's a strange feeling, almost like that of being outside of yourself, if only for that fifteen second frame. Each strike of a drum is pin point in its precision, and it rings true here. But Wisteria stands above the rest, an intricate and swaying affair that has a way of silencing you in a wash of your own thoughts. The spaced out piano keys that take the track to an end, however sparse they may be, strike a moody chord. There is a fair bit of uptempo work on the album, with Erythronium occupying a significant space in the story. Once again, the language used here in the description of the floral world is intriguing, and unavoidably rich. And what better way, I ask you, to end the album buy with the soft, somber...Gazing...?
You can walk away from any album under the false idea that you somehow 'got it.' We do it all the time; we know exactly what the artists was thinking, doing, eating, smoking, or what have you, when they wrote and recorded this piece. I almost feel proud in this case to readily admit that I simply can't wrap my mind around the world that Otrebor has created for his character. I don't have the knowledge, the understanding, or even the IQ to put myself into that space. However, a working knowledge of botany or floral life isn't required here; The scope of the album itself isn't rooted in your ability or desire to imagine the world lost to the plants. It's in your appreciation of something outside the realm of normal metal, or music as a whole. I'll take my chances walking through the garden today, but VI: Flora has made me think twice about passing up a dulcimer lesson, should it present itself. (9.5/10)" -- Sorrow Eternal, August 18, 2014
"Black metal isn't without its quirky characters and Otrebor is surely one of them. He records music under the title, Botanist and has put out four LPs and one split so far. What makes Otrebor and thus Botanist more intriguing than your average black metal band is that he trades out the typical guitars for a hammered dulcimer, oh and there's his whole backstory about living and recording in the Verdant Realm where he laments what has happened to the precious earth and hopes for the one day when mankind obliterates themselves and allows for the plant world to take over. Once you're past the artifice of his approach your left with the music and on VI: Flora, Botanist has finally embraced the spring.
Like those deciduous trees whose leaves fall off by winter and then reemerge in springtime, Botanist here is entering into a new growth cycle for his music. The album from beginning to end is filled with energy, melody and radiant light--full of movement and promise. Effectively using the dulcimer, Otrebor creates lush landscapes of affirming black metal. Gone are the song structures where the dulcimer stood out like a sore thumb and instead we are left with tracks that cascade harmoniously throughout the runtime. In fact, it is quite astonishing how pop like, or should I say poppy, the melodies have become. Even the cover, aptly chosen with brilliant colors and textures sees the Botanist move away from the grief and sorrow of his other covers and soundscapes and perhaps move towards an acceptance of sorts. That yes, eventually the plant kingdom will take over but that there isn't a pressing need, at least not on this album, to mourn the epoch we live in now and instead to bask in the warm, tender feelings of spring and the new life that is blossoming all around.
Tracks like 'Stargazer,' 'Gleditsia' and 'Dianthus' display Otrebor's direction as the progressions used are bouncy, uplifting and full of vibrancy. In VI: Flora it is clear that Botanist focuses his attention on attempting to create something more affirming than previous efforts. Whereas in past albums, lingering traces of melody and hopefulness could be found, on the new LP they are elevated to the forefront and take center stage. There are moments of darker ominous tones on the album but they are usually an afterthought and quickly replaced with more cheerful, inspirational melodies. The vocals, which before were an area of complaint as Otrebor employed more of a croak than traditional black metal rasp, have been pushed down into the mix and don't come off so jarring or off-putting as his previous efforts. In tracks like, 'Rhizophora' or 'Pteridophyte' the vocals act like pacifiers to the music as they come in with a bit of processing, adding a sort of trill or reverberation to them. Of course, they lack any sort of burst but fit the music perfectly as they hover tranquilly over the compositions. The drumming provides a stable dose of fills and interesting time signatures to keep the listener intrigued and at times Otrebor even utilizes keyed piano lines to reaffirm this springtime reverie.
VI: Flora isn't the prefect album however, many listeners might get tired of the repetitive nature of the riffs and song compositions. While there are intricacies in each track that require an attentive ear, some might claim that the songs tend to sound all alike and that they just flow into each other without any differentiation. 'Leucadendron Argenteum,' the longest track on the album, displays more experimentation than other songs but doesn't really offer anything too different than most of the record. Another thing to note is that, yes while Botanist has cleaned things up in terms of production and ushered in a more upbeat sound he might have lost some of the items that made him such a character in black metal to begin with. Like mentioned before, the croaky frog-like vocals have been replaced, the doom elements of previous albums IV: Mandragora and III: Doom in Bloom have also been tossed to the wayside. Hell, even the dulcimer doesn't stand out quite like it used to but even with losing all those elements, VI: Flora is Botanist's most complete and unified album in terms of vision. Setting out to present the wondrous splendor that graces the earth every spring, Botanist manages to deliver a solid album and something worthy of a listen to any fan of black metal." -- PiedraDeLuna, Sputnik Music, August 13, 2014
TINY MIX TAPES
"Cut the ties on the scroll bearing glyphs of the Botanist saga and let it unfurl. Since 2011, Bay Area-based multi-instrumentalist Otrebor has steered his one-man avant-black-metal project through a series of concept albums that detail the conquest of humankind at the many tendriled hands of a sentient plant race — weaving scientific, philosophical, and literary research into a rich mythology intractably tethered to his sonic experimentation. Botanist proves his commitment to his extramusical ideas with each baroque album cover, roman numeral-bearing title, and liner note-laden physical product, and has established himself as a singular auteur in a style of music already rife with oversized personas and conceits. But for all its sensational details, Botanist’s thematic transfiguration into a hermit who awaits humanity’s destruction from the safety of his 'Verdant Realm' serves as an exercise in humble self-negation, rather than a grandstanding gesture, by virtue of the tenets at the heart of his mythos: respect for the environment, isolation, the insignificance of humanity in the face of nature’s grandeur. Shielded behind two nested monikers (Botanist and Otrebor), the 'real' person behind the project sunk into a bed of moss long ago — and we’re lucky enough to bear witness to the music issued from this hideaway.
Our notion of what constitutes black metal continues to evolve with each communique from all the Alcests and Lantlôses and Deafheavens out there, as the signifiers that the genre emphasizes (blastbeats, tremolo picked guitars, howled vocals) stand as reliable signposts within expanding cushions of synth and shoegaze guitar textures. While other artists push deeper into the drift and explore the possibilities of abstraction within an ostensibly “metal” project (as if we can reasonably carry any expectations with that distinction anymore [see for example: WITTR’s recent full-on Popul Vuh-core 2xLP opus, or pretty muchevery release in The Flenser’s catalog]), Botanist codes a balanced mixture of atmosphere and brutality into the DNA of his unpredictable compositions. 'Stargazer,' a cut from the forthcoming VI: Flora premiering below, finds room in its expansive mix for billowing harmonium- or synth-like washes, distorted melodic leads, and bruising drum fills. The track stretches across clattering rhythms and wraith vocalizations on its way to a subdued outro performed on an instrument central to the Botanist sound: the hammered dulcimer, with tightly wound strings quivering like vines ready to snap under the force of human interference." -- Muqks, Tiny Mix Tapes, July 24, 2014
WCBU RADIO (The Answer Is in the Beat)
"Botanist is easily one of my favorite concent (sic concept) bands of all time. Plant-themed hammer dulcimer black metal! It’s almost too good to be true. All of the music is created by one guy, but they’re an actual band for live performances. I’ve only heart Botanist’s 2011 double(!)-album debut, but this is its 6th chapter, including an un-numbered split EP from last year. The project seems to have softened a bit since its debut. The lyrics used to be about plants taking over the world and destroying humanity (best song title: 'Rhododendoom'), but this album finds Botanist at peace with his plants, and appreciating their natural beauty. The vocals here aren’t so much growled as they are whispered, and the hammer dulcimers have such interesting textures to them, sometimes they sound like layered sheets of guitar, and sometimes like pianos, and even sometimes like a harmonium or some other droning instrument. And of course there’s the hyperspeed drumming. It definitely sounds more like a band than a solo project. Unless he really is playing other instruments on this one and it just doesn’t mention it in the liner notes. Regardless, this is truly original, astounding music." -- Paul Simpson, WCBU Radio, August 21, 2014
WVUD'S THE REVIEW
"Botanist re-envisions black metal with shoegaze drones, cheery harmonies and worship of the natural world.
Black metal has undergone quite a few makeovers since its genesis in the early 1980s. No more are the satanic rituals during shows, or the outright refusal to play shows in general for that matter, or the burning of century-old Norwegian churches. No, the black metal of old, composed of bloodletting bands such as Mayem, Celtic Frost, Mercyful Fate and Hellhammer, has been replaced with the warm fuzzy black metal of groups like Botanist.
Yes, there exists a black metal band, releasing their sixth album now titled 'VI: Flora,' called Botanist. They associate themselves not with the eternal damnation of unrepentant souls, not with cultish dark rituals to daemons, but with plant biologists and the flora they study. The band’s page invites you to 'enter the verdant realm.'
So how is this black metal at all? Well, the blast beats are still there, punishing drum heads in force to cement the mix. And guitars are still distorted beyond the normal ear of strings, but not to excess. Whereas the original intent of black metal was to craft music that would be nigh unlistenable, especially for mainstream audiences, Botanist’s output should not immediately turn away those who aren’t entrenched in the metal genre. The distortion, instead of scraping and gnashing, melds together into a woodsy drone akin to shoegaze music. In 'Rhizophora' the reedy sing of a bagpipe chimes in.
The vocals refrain from black metal’s usual topics of satan, death, chaos and gore. Or, we may assume that they do because the vocals are so buried in the mix that they are completely indiscernible. The occasional background growl of the vocalist serves to spice up the track, like a bit of extra seasoning here and there. Those whose spines twinge at the sound of gritty vocals might still cringe, but fans of mainstream punk will appreciate Botanist’s unique utilization of the blood-curdling scream.
Yes, the album does stride into heavier territory, such as in the war-march groove of 'Cinnamomum Parthenoxylon' or in 'Pteridophyte' but the brutality is oddly flesh with harmonies that would be way out of territory on what one would expect from black metal. And some tracks, such as 'Erythronium' feel positively cheery. The lead guitar riff during the 'verse' (black metal is notorious for non-traditional song structure) sounds akin to church bells ringing on Christmas morning in time with light snowfall.
What Botanist exhibits today, and looking retrospectively, is rock and roll’s continued capacity to evolve beyond existing boundaries and conventions. Sometimes even critics become jaded, as they end up identifying music only by artists that it sounds like, instead of struggling to come up with new terminology and verbiage that describe a unique sound. But with Botanist, there aren’t too many bands to look to for comparison (except for Deafheaven, another fabulous group). So don’t fret if you’ve felt musical dévà vu recently, the industry has plenty of room to grow. In the meantime, warm your frozen black heart with 'VI: Flora' from Botanist." -- Jake Kairis, The Review, November 3, 2014
A WHIRLING DERVISH
"This is amazing and even if you hate anything Blackened or metallic it deserves a listen. Black metal played on a harmonium and amplified dulcimers. I shit you not and it is BEAUTIFUL." -- A Whirling Dervish, December 27, 2014
"The creative concept behind Botanist feels like it should have run its course five albums ago. Here was a reclusive gent from San Francisco (Roberto Martinelli, going by the stage name Otrebor) making black metal that featured the hammered dulcimer, a Celtic and folk instrument, as its primary melodic force. Add to that a loopy backstory — the songs are missives from an actual botanist who, frustrated with the environmental state of Earth, has retreated to his own personal greenhouse where he calmly awaits the end of humankind — and you’d be forgiven for laughing the whole thing off.
But listening to his work, it’s hard to dispute the music’s surprising power. The all-out assault of early Botanist work, a frenzy of pinging dulcimer lines and high-pitched blast beats, blows out the senses like a Neti pot full of vinegar. More recent efforts are strengthened by Martinelli’s expanding sonic palette, with a shoegaze influence synthesizing into the mix.
VI: Flora is both a scaling back and an expansion of his current sound. The dulcimer is used sparingly, with two-note chords ringing out and hovering over the songs. Occasionally, it’s sent through distortion pedals and made to sound like a blanket of vellum covering the tracks. There’s also a few new instruments added to the mix as well, primarily the steady drone of a harmonium, which anchors the whispering vocals and rhythmic clamor of 'Dianthus' and 'Gleditsia.'
The press notes talk up how the album focuses on the 'reverie' of the plants in the Botanist’s kingdom. Knowing that, and hearing Martinelli reduce his voice to a rumble or croon, adds to the strange beauty of even the most bustling songs. But a familiarity with his music prior to Flora only leaves you wondering when the calm will subside and the nettle will sting or the flytrap will clamp down around you. That that moment never arrives only adds to the wonderfully unnerving quality of this unique and exceptional work. (4/5)" -- Robert Ham, Wondering Sound, August 11, 2014
Flenser Records have been on a steady flow of fantastic black metal releases this year. Black Monolith, Wreck & Reference, and now the new Botanist. An eco terrorist with a knack of using multiple instruments to their advantage, Botanist has driven story after story of plants and their earthly endeavors. What makes the group so unique is their lack of tremolo picked guitars. Instead of wall after wall of distortion, hammered dulcimers spew the dark overtones.
VI: Flora is the dreamiest album in comparison to the previous full lengths. This album romanticizes the plants with a ghostly aura from the Botanist himself. It’s as if in the afterlife of mankind, a spectral being is left to narrate the fauna utopia. Using the black metal with a hint of post rock instrumentals to bring the entire idea to life, the one man project from the Bay Area has caused a surge in radical thinking of black metal..
Honestly, this outfit works because of the dulcimers. They ring out with such grace that it takes care of the usual rapidly paced guitars. Instead, sonically decadent notes are allowed to pulsate and create a strong build and pull for the music. Take a listen to the song 'Wisteria' for an immediate example. The notes vibrate back and forth, establishing a delicate lead with an ominous rhythm section. And then the dramatic pause, leaving just dulcimers to cry out. It works here, but with distorted guitars it may fault.
Opening track 'Stargazer' throbs with melodic instrumentals over atypical drum patterns blasting away with speed and intricacy. The bass guitar moves along with the parts well, establishing roots for the music to grow with, like on 'Callistemon.' The vocals across this LP are not the usual black metal vocals, but what about Botanist is regarded in the 'norm' anyway? The whispers/gargled bellows are done in a monologue fashion, atmospherically connecting to the music.
What makes this band even more special is their significant change in musical approach since their last album, IV: Mandragora. On that particular record the dulcimers were much heavier, forcing out a dark presence. Flora offers a much more harmonious nature, branching away from doom metal and into a more spacious flow of post-rock, all while still maintaining the frantic nature of black metal. Gone are the off-putting croaks in the vocal approach, instead relying on distantly mixed screams.
This record, to me, is a step above what Botanist have done in the past. Maybe it is the more dreamy approach, maybe it is the idea of the record, maybe it just the simple fact that the melodies across this new LP are beautiful. It is something that you can jump into listening at any song, and be captivated and find yourself on repeat of the entire album.
VI: Flora is a well done record. The experimentation continues to grow. This sounds more mature, as if the plants really have reached their stage of harmony after eradicating humanity. Take a listen and join the movement. (4.5/5)" -- Sean Gonzalez, Yell Magazine, August 8, 2014
"Botanist are an enigma. The radical ecology that underpins mastermind Otrebor's post-black metal vision -- largely realised using that most metal of instruments, the hammered dulcimer -- is a standpoint that has crept into black metal circles since the millennium.
While there may be a whiff of the tongue-in-cheek in Otrebor's website statement that he 'awaits the time of humanity's self-eradication, which will allow plants to make the Earth green once again,' there is no denying the veracity nor indeed the brilliance of his music -- his green (black) metal.
VI: Flora marks something of a wild change for Botanist, the croaky, whispered vocals sinking into the mix, like buzzing flies being swallowed by a carnivorous plant, leaving the dulcimer to weave its magic over the punk-influenced drum fills and harmonium lines. The songwriting is ratcheted up a notch and improves on IV: Mandragora, with opening track 'Stargazer,' the euphoric 'Callistemon' and the more wistful 'Leucadendron Argenteum' (named after the endangered Silver Tree) proving particularly stubborn earworms.
Evolution without compromise rules, as Vi: Flora disdainfully swats away any notion you might have that Otrebor is running out of ideas. The Flenser, meanwhile, continues to be the go-to label for experimental black metal. (5/5)" -- Geoff Birchenall, Zero Tolerance #61, October/November 2014