Reviews of Ecosystem




Ave Noctum

Blessed Altar Zine

Dead Rhetoric

Everything Is Noise

Games, Brrraaains & A Head-Banging Life

Heavy Blog Is Heavy

Immodest Webzine (Italian)

Infernal Masquerade

Invisible Oranges (review)

Invisible Oranges (track premiere writeup)

Kvlt Kolvmn

Meat Mead Metal

Merchants of Air (German)

Metal Art (French)

Metal Injection

Metal Reviews

Metal Storm

Metal Trenches

Metal Utopia

Scholomance (French)

Sound Not the Word, The

Sputnik Musik

Streetclip (German)

Thrashocore (French)

Toilet Ov Hell

Zware Metalen (Dutch)






"Releasing his sixth album in eight years, as well as three EPs and a collective, Otrebor has been a busy guy. Formerly the brains behind online music zine Maelstrom, the San Francisco native moved away from music journalism to release music under the guide of Botanist – an entity champions the demise of humanity so that plant life can claim back the earth. You’d think that creating music solely about flora and fauna would be a limiting creative output, however, with 10 releases under his belt to date that is apparently not the case! Latest opus ‘Ecosystem’ sees Botanist further expand upon his empire of plant based metal.

Using only hammered dulcimers, drums and a bass creates an otherworldly soundscape that feels limitless in its sonic capabilities. While the term “black metal” is often thrown around when describing Botanist’s musical output, this feels lazy – while there are plenty of black metal influences at play, there is so much more to the dynamic of this project and ‘Ecosystem’ sees Otrebor explore territory that could almost be described as post metal. It’s much more subdued, when compared to the raging fury of previous albums such as ‘IV: Mandragora’, however, it’s no less bizarre.

Botanist is in no way accessible – if you’re a first time listener then don’t press play on this release thinking it will grab you straight away. There’s a lot to unpack; ‘Ecosystem’ ranges from flurried, angry hammer dulcimer blasts to a much gentler, almost shamanistic approach with a harmonium. If you’re prepared to keep an open mind and invest the time to get to grips with meandering musical journey this album takes then it’s an incredibly rewarding listen. The last eight years have seen a rapid and expansive music evolution for Botanist – much like the growth of a plant – and, for a musician who is able to create so much from so little, it’s exciting to ponder what will flower next. (7/10)." -- Angela Davey, Ave Noctum, October 21, 2019

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"Plant metal, green metal, flower…no, no I’m going to stop there, I’m going with green metal.

Never have I ever experienced anything that was labeled as such, but then again, there is the first time for everything.

I’m not entirely sure, but I believe what I just heard was the upcoming album from BOTANIST. Hailing from San Francisco the album Ecosystem is scheduled for release on the 8th of coming November.

What immediately caught my attention is the band´s absence from The Metal Archives. Now, being nosy, of course, I had to know why, and sure, it became quite obvious when I heard what the music was like. It’s not that it’s bad, or not metal, in fact, it’s quite black metal entwined with botanical influences, however, it is the fact that there is no guitar, and therefore, no metal riffs.

But (almost) no matter, I can survive without the guitar riffs, at least for an hour or so…I think.

Some sharp sounding instrument started the opening track of Biomass. The skill needed to play such an instrument and keep on the beat has to be high, it sounded like an attack on my brain with the increasing speed of the drum fill-riff. Even for the screaming vocals I still felt the effect of the absent guitar, the music sounds somewhat empty.

The Unidentified Stringy Instrument, or USI, is fine to fill the intros, but I wasn’t too keen on it being the main instrument for this type of music. Alluvial was alright with its fair arrangements but it all just reminded me of the MIDI-songs that were a thing before the first MP3s came along. And with Harvestman following upbringing forth a cluttered hell breaking loose with the bass and drums and of course the USI, it all just felt like a very inappropriate marriage.

By now I had figured that the USI was actually a hammered dulcimer. Fair enough.

Acclimation brought forth some different segments. Some more held back parts that sounded alright, although I can’t help but feel that it could have been tighter. This is by no meanBOTANIST´s first album at all, on contraire I believe this one is the 9th or 10th even since 2011, and being signed with a record company I personally wondered if the band did not have some pretty good people at the quality checkout before releasing something. Abiotic includes some clean vocals that did not sit well, the drumming lacks tightness, the bass can barely be heard, the dulcimer is ever present and at the bottom end there really isn’t anything to back the whole thing up.

Red Crown is all guns blazing with all this band has to offer. Fast and sloppy drums drenched in too much compressor. Muddy bass guitar that can hardly be heard at the low end of the drums with an un-tight dulcimer way too present on top of the whole pile.

And that is the bottom line. Someone had a grand idea and wanted to execute it but for me it was a hit and miss. Which is really a shame, this is something completely different from anything else out there but perhaps for some, it won’t be so easily forgettable. 2/10)" -- Julia, Blessed Altar Zine, October 30, 2019

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"Seems it’s been a while since the ‘green metal’ act Botanist has popped back onto the radar, at least in comparison to the speed at which their first few releases came about. That said, 2017’sThe Shape of He to Come was the first ‘band’ effort – meaning it was a collective, as opposed to the one-man act, it used to be in the beginning. Ecosystem also acts as a collective, and sits nicely next to the band’s last release.

The main area of attraction for Botanist is still that of it’s focal point of using the hammered dulcimer as opposed to a guitar, and it gives the band a unique sense of both eeriness and beauty. Often weaving in between these two areas is where Botanist is most comfortable sitting. You get some tracks that have some real terrifying moments, as the harsh vocals atop the dulcimer (see “Disturbance”) are quite prominent, making for a mysterious vibe as blastbeats and the bass swirl in the background (something the collective piece has made even more notable). At the other end of the spectrum is where things become more haunting and grim from a more melodic perspective, such as the foreboding “Abiotic,” where clean vocals and a slower tone almost feels akin to a funeral march. The album is not without some real beauty to it as well though, as the closer “Red Crown” effectively taps into that euphoric, post-metal vibe that acts as a wonderful climax to the music that has come before it.

Given the vast swing of emotions at play, there’s plenty to take in. Of course, the use of dulcimer is going to be a variable in one’s enjoyment of the process, but it’s always been this way with Botanist. Those who ‘get it’ are going to enjoy this one just as much as previous efforts, as Botanist continues to conjure a fresh and unique vibe in their material that other band’s just can’t replicate." -- Kyle McGinn, Dead Rhetoric, October 29, 2019

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"Welcome, and step right into the green sanctuary of the Verdant Realm, where the crazed Botanist resides – or maybe not so crazed now that I think about it. The once incomprehensible ramblings of The Botanist who locked himself away from the world intent on destroying itself are maybe more sane than they once seemed. Either way, take everything you once thought of as normal and throw it away for now, because we have entered into the green world of Ecosystem, the newest release from Botanist and the latest in their ‘Collective’ series.

For those not familiar with Botanist, they are a black metal band turned green. They’ve flipped the switch and adopted their own unique way of playing, dubbing it green metal. Botanist replace the heavily distorted wall of noise that the guitars of black metal create and instead use a hammered dulcimer. They have a sort of DIY mentality when it comes to creating and crafting their sound, which has improved greatly over the last few years. What was once harsh and sounded like it was recorded on a damaged tape recorder has become a very enjoyable take on this kind of music. This was ultimately part of their charm.

Ecosystem is a more melodic album, I want to say, and a little more forgiving than their usual forays, at least musically. Every instrument is able to stand out on its own and is able to distinguish itself from the others. The vocals have undergone a similar transformation as well: on top of there being much more clean vocals, they are much more crisp, which is made especially apparent in the song ”Abiotic”. I can only speculate here, but the cleaner sound is maybe Botanist’s hope for what the world can and should be in the future – cleaner and easier to breathe. All of this is carrying on what they have accomplished in their previous albums, VI: Flora and Collective: The Shape of He to Come.

Likewise, Ecosystem has a pretty short runtime that flies by quickly, lending support to my theory about wanting things to be more breathable. For the uninitiated with Botanist, this album might be a good jumping in point, because a deeper dive into their discography is well worth it. I remember the exact moment they clicked with me, and I have never looked back in regret. There’s something about them that is so intriguing to me, which is why I jumped at reviewing this album. The soothing and natural-sounding nature of the hammered dulcimer is a genius addition to this style of music that it begs the question ‘Why hasn’t this been done before?

A complaint I do have with the album is that the crisper production quality kind of feels…samesies. By that I mean, the mastering is almost too perfect, because the usual ebbs and flows that music had seem to be missing. Each song moves seamlessly into the next, and usually this is a good thing, but here it becomes almost forgettable. From song one all the way to the last, there’s not a whole lot of nuance or change throughout Ecosystem. I’m still trying to determine if this is a positive or negative thing, truthfully because I am a sucker for whole concepts and album flow. For now, all I can say is that this is something the listener will have to determine for themselves, because Botanist have created something well worth listening to.

Ecosystem takes a less abrasive approach to songwriting than their previously released album VI: Flora, which was their least harsh release to date at time of release. Ecosystem takes that approach one step further making it their most airy feeling record yet. There is an overall dream-like, flowy feel within the songs of Ecosystem, which lends itself to a more cohesive and full sound overall.  While there are certainly some ups and downs (or lack thereof),Botanist gave us something interesting and definitely worth the time to listen.-- Scott Demers, Everything Is Noise, November 9. 2019

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"A haunting and emotional experience, Botanist is atmospheric/avant-garde black metal but so much more then that. The 8 tracks of Ecosystem touches the soul especially if you have even a passing care about nature and humanities destruction of it.

With raw and rough riffing, melodic lows and highs and vocals that scratch and claw with desperation, Botanist deliver a knockout blow. The softer chanting vocal style of Alluvial, the uncomfortable ringing of Sphagnum, the tear-jerking beauty of Acclimation and the melodic dissonance of Red Crown. Four moments from this album that will leave most in awe of what Botanist have accomplished here. (8.5/10)" -- Carl "The Disc" Fisher, Games, Brrraaains & a Head-Banging Life, October 21, 2019

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"Uniqueness is often conflated with interesting ideas in our modern music consumption landscape. There’s plenty of experimental music that, while undeniably different, is pretty deniably good. I’ve encountered albums of all-acoustic black metal and blackened trip-hop on my travels, both of which defied the norms of their genres but were hardly well-executed or engaging.

All that said, there’s still virtue in risk-taking when it comes to music, something that Botanist have done consistently throughout their short but prolific career. The group has tinkered with the post-black metal formula in a different way than their Bay Area peers like Bosse-de-Nage and Deafheaven. Of course, they’re most well-known for their instrumental choices, opting for hammered dulcimers rather than the genre’s textbook guitar tremolo attacks.

But beyond this, Botanist have carved their own unique, striking lane of post-black and blackgaze. The atmospheres and progressions the band unravel conjure heavy dream pop and ethereal wave vibes, akin toAlcest with a much more raw, earnest sound; imagine a wise druid instead of a flighty tree sprite. The band have developed their style significantly from lo-fi double album I: The Suicide Tree / II: A Rose From the Dead to recent, higher budget highlights like VI: Flora and Collective: The Shape of He to Come.

Ecosystem is yet another excellent development in this journey. Furthermore, it further demonstrates how versatile Botanist can be with their signature, dulcimer-led sound. As exhibited on opener “Biomass,” the instrument can be delicate and melodic one moment and then contribute to a larger, sweeping musical flourish the next. It somehow holds a similar and contrasting role to traditional black metal guitar, creating the genre’s signature atmosphere while maintaining a bright, resonant tone unlike any other instrument in metal. It’s almost like a prettier, more reserved harpsichord.

On the music itself, the band weave bright, sharp notes with all-consuming melodies, the sonic equivalent of sunbeams shifting in intensity but remaining consistently bright. Black metal howls trade-off with deep, vaguely Gregorian chants. A key element on “Alluvial,” among other tracks, is the dynamic interplay between the dulcimer and drums. In general, the percussion is voracious, uninterested in merely phoning in a mix of blast beats at varying tempos. Instead, the drumming matches the bounce and movement of the hammered dulcimer, echoing its intensity and mood with each new shift.

With that said, there are still plenty of more “traditional” moments on the record. Much of “Harvestman” maintains the melancholic and pensive air of black metal’s roots, opening with off-kilter notes ringing out over fast-paced percussion. Still, the album’s variety remains, as the mood immediately shifts on “Sphagnum.” The song’s almost operatic vocal arrangements soar over the black metal equivalent of The Cure‘s darkest moments onPornography. As an added bonus, the band throw in some syncopated dulcimer/double kick drum action in the midsection to make an already engaging track all the more interesting.

A recurring theme is this “melancholic” theme. Much of Ecosystem is genuinely beautiful, but the album is also never content staying still, shifting constantly between new and seemingly contrasting ideas. Yet, the central strength of Botanist’s songwriting is their understanding of the dilemma outlined in the opening paragraph. They actively try to defy genre norms and take their own path, but they do so with full knowledge that they’re capable of doing so successfully. As a result, their music thrives, and every moment feels like a celebratory woodland ritual.

By the time listeners reach “Acclimation,” the band still won’t let them fully wrap their heads around what’s happening musically. The tail end of the track unravels like a progressive, funeral doom track before erupting back into a triumphant blackened atmosphere. Similarly, “Abiotic” is a dulcimer-led cross between the gloomier, mid-paced moments of Ulver and Kayo Dot‘s careers, which then breaks out into the brightest blackgaze moments of the album on closer “Red Crown.” It’s a fitting one-two punch that summarizes the general evolution and variety of the album as a whole.

On Ecosystem, Botanist once again prove how to achieve a seamless intersection between ingenuity and accessibility. Though not what most listeners will expect from an album rooted in black metal, it’s the kind of album that commands full attention from its opening moments through its final notes. During that journey, newcomers and longtime fans alike will encounter Botanist’s finest and most refined work yet. It’s an album that enhances and builds upon all the previous alluring ideas from a band producing an inimitable sound." -- Scott Murphy, Heavy Blog Is Heavy, October 14, 2019

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"After nearly getting hives and having to puncture my eardrums to make the sound stop with Botanist “I: The Suicide Tree / II: A Rose From The Dead” release back in 2011, I have seen the band from afar evolve their sound and actually saw them play live once. Arriving to our inbox, we have “Ecosystem”, the band’s latest offering through Aural Music. Hearing the band with a new perspective after 8 years, we have to say that their sound now seems more cohesive and engaging, completely changing our initial shock reaction to their music.

Opening with “Biomass”, the hammered dulcimer creates a very unique and chaotic atmosphere, nicely exacerbated by the harsh screams. We are quite surprised by the contrast created by the angelic clean vocals in tracks like “Alluvial”, were they nicely change the mood of the track until the following hellish onslaught of harsh vocals and fast paced drums appear. Creating a very tense and dramatic atmosphere, the ravaging dulcimer makes “Harvestman” one of the best songs in this release.

With the overall concept of this being about the ecosystems of the redwood forest in the West coast of the USA, the band’s lyrical context is definitely one of the most unique out there. Tracks like “Sphagnum”, “Disturbance” and “Acclimation” nicely set a very harrowing mood, that is somewhat soothed at times thanks to the clean vocal arrangements and the instrumental passages. The folky “Abiotic” is an interesting piece that shows a very different side of the band.

Closing with the intense “Red Crown”, we are left actually quite surprised with “Ecosystem” and its uniquely complex music. Things feel less random and more cohesive than before (our only reference is their first release), making Botanist’s music quite unique and engaging. While we are not fully converted into the band’s style and sound, we can appreciate how ‘out of the box’ their sound and lyrical context is and are sure that many others will appreciate. If you are looking for a truly unique musical experience, be sure to get yourself a copy of this release." -- Dark Emperor, Infernal Masquerade, September 26, 2019

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"It would seem then that the experiment worked. Botanist started as a curious one-man black metal band, feeling psychically at home with groups like Cloak of Altering, Jute Gyte and Mastery if not sonically. The throughline that linked each of these groups was intense dematerialization of the black metal sound and aesthetic, burning it away to reveal small motes that could be embedded in other sonic spaces. In the case specifically of Botanist, the implication was within folk and European liturgical music, themselves common enough black metal spaces, but here led exclusively with distorted hammered dulcimer, giving a woody and bright sonic texture that helped combat the mental image of some of black metal exclusively as the domain of dark music. It was curious from a critical listening standpoint how much that single instrumentation choice changed the internal feeling of the music so much when, looking at charts of the pieces, the music of Botanist differs very little from quite traditional black metal. It was a sign of the power of small but fundamental shifts as means of refreshing sonic spaces that can grow tiresome. Six good-to-great albums and three EPs came from this format, exploring a kind of ecological extremism that feels all the more prescient and powerful in the waning days of the ecosystems of planet earth; tales of plant supremacy and the death of mammalian life on earth feel properly Satanic, dangerous, revolutionary, all the things good black metal should feel like, in a world where rote anti-Christian lyrics and blasé misanthropy doesn’t seem to cut it anymore.

But then the person behind Botanist decided to spice things up and, on 2017’s Collective: The Shape Of He To Come, decided to employ his full live band both in the writing and recording of new material. The rules were simple; the instrumentation could not change from dulcimer, electric bass, drums, and occasional keys, but aside from this anything could go. The music on that album seemed to leap past itself, offering to Botanist as a project something similar to what Botanist as a project offered to black metal as a whole. The addition of other players and other voices, both literally and metaphorical, expanded the scope of the music not just in terms of length of tracks but also in terms of compositional complexity and richness. Suddenly, the sensation of Botanist’s music not merely being anti-human but brightly and enthusiastically pro-plantlife came to bear, imbuing the music with a sense of broad near-gospel ecstasy that had been hinted at before but struggled to make itself fully present. Thankfully the main figure of Botanist felt this experimental record worked and Ecosystem, the current one from the group, holds the same model, employing the full live lineup in both a writing and recording capacity.

The music on Ecosystem sees fit not to radically rock the boat. The interplay of multiple hammered dulcimer players gives the music a sense of width and span, dappling the sonic field with hard panned bright bell-like notes that roll in turns like black metal tremolo riffs and like gospel or even New Age recordings. The melodic vocals are stronger here than on the previous record where they made their debut, wielding occasional crooked and half-croaked melodies that are delightfully weak and withered, like the similarly pained clean vocal style of Bell Witch. Ecosystem feels like the record most under the sway of progressive music influence, featuring tight and compact songs that nonetheless offer a wide variety of moods and textures, choosing neither to be fully hypnotic nor fully bestial, no full commitment to blast beats or tightly choreographed figures or moody architectural drumming. The record title feels like a half-pun, referring as much to the overarching ecological thematics of the group as much as the deliberate growth of the musical ambitions the group explores. It results in a record that is perhaps less immediately eruptive than their earlier work, especially IV: Mandragora, which still feels like their most fiery and successfully black metal release.

But Ecosystem gestures to something different, something more Arvo Part than Darkthrone. It feels like the group is settling into a new sonic space as equally driven by progressive music, post-metal, post-rock and at times even dream pop as it had been by liturgical music, black metal, and folk. The extra sense of sonic body granted by the additional players, the clarity and warmth of the bass, the power and suppleness of the drums and the layers of multiple clean and harsh vocalists feels like the group coming brightly and powerfully to life. What Ecosystem lacks in pure and primal power as an extreme metal record it more than makes up for as a beautiful and immensely rich art music record, one that finally seems to accept that black metal and even extreme metal as a whole has only ever been a part of the equation for the band. This sense of sureness gained from the previous collective album and the growing distance from more straightforward approaches to metal has strengthened the music; Botanist has never sounded better than they have this far from the shores that birthed them." -- Langdon Hickman, Invisible Oranges, October 25, 2019

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INVISIBLE ORANGES (track premiere writeup)


"A Botanist album is a contract. The listener agrees to leave our shared world behind and enter into the Verdant Realm, the lush sanctuary of The Botanist — an entity channeled by founding member Otrebor and who serves as the central character of the band’s mythos. From his sacred refuge, and at the behest of the mysterious being Azalea, The Botanist strives to bring about an apocalypse in which humanity is destroyed and the Verdant Realm reigns.

The Botanist dreams of a future where Earth has been reclaimed by intricate and flourishing natural ecosystems. One of these is the towering redwood forests of the Pacific Northwest, which Botanist explore on their upcoming release Ecosystem. Submerse yourself in the album’s closing track “Red Crown,” an exultant homage to the iconic Cascadian giants, with our exclusive premiere.

For most of its recorded existence, Botanist was a solo project — Otrebor only calling on an assortment of supporting musicians for live performances. Though self-described as a post-black metal (or “green metal”) band and largely adhering to the genre’s songwriting conventions, Botanist eschew traditional instrumentation in favor of a battery of hammered dulcimers, an approach steeped in Otrebor’s background as a percussionist.

In 2017, Otrebor diverged from his solitary approach with Collective: The Shape of He to Come, the first full-band release in the Botanist catalogue. Despite having discarded the “Collective” signifier, Ecosystem is Botanist’s second collaborative record and represents a shared songwriting and recording effort from the group’s current lineup.

Botanist herald the “Red Crown” of the sequoias with shimmering dulcimer flourishes over cascading toms, all of it quickly assembling into soaring rushes of jubilation. The droning vocal performances, monastic and hypnotic in their impassive gravitas, highlight the solemnity of the evoked scene and lend contrast to the irrepressible brightness of the dulcimer.

'From the forest floor / Azalea gazes up and smiles / to the trees above / Up to the height of the canopy / And the glory of the red crown.'

Bringing Ecosystem to a fulfilling close, “Red Crown” is Azalea’s celebration of this stately and thriving community liberated from human interference: “Flora and fauna / High in the air,” sculpted, housed, and protected by the cresting and resplendent treetops.

Ecosystem showcases Botanist’s most well-rounded sound to date. Even in the album’s frenzied pitches, the dulcimer breathes and glows, the bass gives warm and grounding affirmation, the drums are crisp yet unobtrusive, and the vocals, both clean and otherwise, meet the instruments on a level plane. The thick haze of distortion which previously cloaked the dulcimers now recedes to the barest wisp. Ecosystem allows each element of this truly unique band to shine, echoing the record’s collaborative origins." -- Ivan Belcic, Invisible Oranges, October 7, 2019

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The earth is slowly suffocating, and we humans have a pretty large hand in making that happen. In many ways, we’re the worst thing that’s ever happened to this planet, despite all the technological advances we have made to push humankind. We have been the ones choking out its heart, and if scientists are right (and they probably are), we could be very close to annihilating this place.

Avant-garde green metal spirit Botanist has been telling us this for years now over a series of full-lengths, smaller releases, and splits, and the message hasn’t really changed: Plant life one day will rise up and claim us all after we’ve done our damage. Only problem is, we’re now in danger of killing our real-life Verdant Realm that we might not live to see this play out. Nonetheless, Botanist is not to be deterred, and the project is back with “Ecosystem,” a release that features the entire fleshed-out lineup—Otrebor on dulcimers, harmonium, vocals; Davide Tiso on bass; Daturus on drums; and Cynoxylon on additional vocals—so it’s not just a dulcimer-and-drums effort. That gives these songs even more body and texture, not to mention vocally the music pushes past shrieks and whispers to embrace cleaner singing that also adds a pretty cool texture to the songs.

“Biomass” begins the record with the dulcimer hammered and all of the forces rising, as wild cries jab into the ribs. The chorus backs up and swells while gruffer vocals push in before calm emerges. Singing and shrieks mix while a panicked tempo jars and moody chorals take us out. “Alluvial” has light strumming before things comes to life with clean singing and a breezy atmosphere before things darken. Vicious howls blister, whipping up crazed winds before things disappear into the background. “Harvestman” has dour melodies darkening the ground before the track rips things apart as shrieks make dents in the assault. Guttural growls give the track more of a death metal essence while the dulcimer goes off, and there’s a furious rush to the finish. “Sphagnum” is slowly picked as singing floats overhead, and the atmospheric pressure gives a Pink Floyd feel. The growls return as the music spirals, and then the guts are churned. Choral sections add some beauty to hell, as everything bleeds out.

“Disturbance” has noises rising, the dulcimer shaking, and heavy shrieks raining down blood. The track has a dramatic tone as insanity ensues and spreads, while a crazed fury digs in its claws. “Acclimation” is calm as it starts, softly pushing the pace, as choral parts mix with grisly growls. Cymbals crash while a clinical-style melody reaches its roots, vicious shrieks scrape, the music crescendos, and the final sounds are delicately played strums. “Abiotic” begins slowly as the drums and bass pick up, and solemn singing from Cynoxylon and vocal harmonizing give lushness to this folk-flavored cut. The singing continues to push the plot, observing that “a path of doom is laid” before the song slowly fades. “Red Crown” closes the album with a huge, joyous feel as the drums rumble, and the singing swells with, “Sunlight rains down through the branches and reaches the ground.” As the track goes on, the music continues to add muscle, the singing floods the senses, and the track subsides with the call of “with balance ruling, red crown, ecosystem” as the grip is gently loosened.

Our fate is nearly sealed, and the people who make the actual decisions in this world have turned blind eyes to the problem vexing the earth. So, it may be time for the Verdant Realm to rise up and slaughter us all for the good of this place. “Ecosystem” is another warning, an additional plea for us to wake up and start caring for our surroundings before it comes for us and removes our stain from the planet. It might sound grim, but it’s the fate we currently deserve." -- Brian Krasman, Meat Mead Metal, October 15, 2019

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"Botanist has been going for 10 years strong this year, and are offering what might be their best record to date. Botanist will release Ecosystemon October 25, and we're thrilled to debut the lead single "Disturbance" for you all today. According to the band themselves, '"Disturbance" is track 5 off of Ecosystem. It’s about how redwood trees not only are resilient to fire, but in fact thrive off naturally occurring blazes.'

As for the music, Botanist sounds as unsettling and anguished as ever. Doubly so as this was written and recorded by Botanist's live lineup, as opposed to the solo works of Otrebor." -- Greg Kennelty, Metal Injection, September 12, 2019

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"For a genre so intrinsically conservative, so bound up with its own rules and regulations, there is a vast amount of black metal (and indeed, black metal-related experiments) that are interesting precisely because they flout these rules and strike out for new terrain. Ecological black metal in the Wolves In The Throne Room/Fauna archetype is just one offshoot from the gnarly roots of the genre;Botanist goes one better in its naturalist inclinations, the subject matter of plants destroying humanity enough for any environmentalist supervillain to salivate over. And this project strikes at the very heart of its parent genre by swapping guitars for hammered dulcimer, making for a sound that is at once clearly recognisable as blackened while simultaneously very, very different. Initially a one-man group masterminded by the mysterious Otrebor, membership has recently expanded to include the likes of Ephel Duath mainman Davide Tiso on bass, a sign of the group's increasing popularity. They've been a long-term interest if not quite favourite of your humble correspondent since the 2013 split with Palace of Worms and subsequent albums have been curios if not quite bursts of verdant genius. The way that the dulcimer acts as a melodic, if clearly rhythmic, replacement for guitar riffs is interesting and usually captivating, but the compositional efforts lag behind a little, making for a result more of interest to genre aficionados than your average headbanger (read: music nerds will like this, no-one else will).

Yet as a musical project this bears fruit and Otrebor's mad-musical-scientist idea has the glimmer of genius that makes each newBotanist outing worth hearing, at least, and latest full-length Ecosystem is no different. With a greater focus on drumming behind the dulcimer and vocals in front of it, this is a step sideways from past efforts that relied perhaps a little too much on the dulcimer but it's interesting not least for the mix of harsh and clean, sometimes almost choirlike vocals that pull the music a little further away from black metal and towards that airy, tangled mass known as 'post-metal'. The melodies are allowed to breathe a little more here, ranging from density to sparseness on opener Biomass, not necessarily to the music's benefit as it does expose the simplicity of certain passages, not to mention the sometimes awkward clean singing. More really can be more, it seems - borne out from the lush, almost post-rock splendour of the likes of Alluvial which push the melodies to the front and which take on such a natural beauty with the choir vocals to the point where returning this to the blackened sphere with harsh snarls seems self-defeating, not to mention restricting most songs to under four minutes leaves the listener wanting more.

It all gives the impression that this is a series of experiments rather than a complete album, Otrebor exploring this style in a lab rather than a studio and recording the results along the way. So the two-minute-plus Disturbance is a brief blast of Cult of Luna-esque sludge as reinterpreted by hitting every instrument in sight, closely followed by Acclimation's more restrained and proggy exploration that is built as much around the bass as the dulcimer, the results weirdly art-rock. Abiotic continues to experiment with a sound closer toCurrent 93 than anything, eerie and eccentric clean singing atop a fragile and almost chamber music backing. The closing gallop ofRed-Crown seems more familiar with its speed and intensity, not to mention the six minute-plus runtime allows for a little more depth to be reached. All a little bizarre and random and that it sort of works together with repeated listens does at least show that there's something solid here! It would be good to hear Botanist produce longer pieces that explore more of the atmospheric peaks that the project grasps at but doesn't always seize, but in the meantime this continues to be a fascinating experiment, even if hard to recommend to all. Greta Thunberg and Thanos would love this, though. (65/100)" -- Goat, Metal Reviews, November 19, 2019

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"The Pitch: Avant-garde, hammered dulcimer black metallers Botanist return with a new concept album about the West Coast redwood forests via Aural Music. FFO: Bosse-De-NageSo HideousPalace Of Worms

What I Like: No matter how many times I say the phrase "black metal with hammered dulcimer," it somehow never gets old; and for this reason and many more, Botanist has become one of my favorite bands to share with others over the years. This esoteric project is precisely what Metal Trenches is all about. Everything that they create is wholly unique, and Ecosystem is no different in this regard. Tracks range from bleak and haunting to blissful and cathartic. I dare say that "Red Crown" is one of the most uplifting tunes I've heard all year despite its raw, harsh vocal delivery. Compositions linger with you long after listening and resonate through my very being; appropriate given the continued meditative themes of nature and mother Earth. It is music that surrounds and penetrates like the very elements that give us life.

Critiques: I'm not sold on the clean singing. It feels purposeful in its approach, but that doesn't make tracks like "Abiotic" very enjoyable to listen to. I'd like to hear an album with a choir or some female vocals on the melodic parts. It would be interesting to get another experimental singer like Björk on some of these tunes.

The Verdict: While a little rough around the edges and most certainly not for everyone by design, Esoteric is another beautiful album from one of the most innovative bands in the genre. There is a reason I put Botanist at #1 on my list of most intriguing post-black bands. If you enjoy all things refreshing and atypical, look no further.

Flight's Fav's: Harvestman, Acclimation, Biomass." -- Flight Of Icarus, Metal Trenches, October 24, 2019

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"A while ago, I was browsing for albums to review, and came across a band called Botanist. Being a house plant/nature lover myself, I couldn’t help but feel intrigued by the name, so I went over to their Facebook to read their story, and I’ve got to say, it only increased my curiosity for the music. According to the band itself, they play green metal: a Nature-inspired experimental, avant-garde take on black metal. According to their Facebook, “the songs are told from the perspective of The Botanist, a crazed man of science who lives in self-imposed exile, as far away from Humanity and its crimes against Nature as possible.” So their motto, which they’ve been carrying out since 2011 is now more relevant than ever. After reading this, I just had to hear Botanist’s music. 

Now, I do think labelling a band ‘avant-garde’ can often be problematic. In my experience, the label is often used for bands to sound cool, even though they don’t really express new or experimental ideas in their music. Botanist, however, more than deserves the label in my opinion. Not only are their lyrical themes new to the black metal genre (as far as I know), but their music is also extremely experimental. Instead of having a rhythm and lead guitar, like most black metal bands, the band plays melodies on a dulcimer, accompanied by a harmonium as a foundation. The band’s upcoming record, Ecosystem is recorded with the live line-up, adding a separate drummer and a bassist to their normal line-up of two people. The record will be released on October 25th of this year and it’s about mankind’s impact on the Western United States’ redwood forests.

The first impression the album left on me was its bleakness and harshness. At times, the music can be really minimalistic and grim, whereas at other times, it’s overwhelmingly dissonant and heavy. Something else that really stood out was the spaciousness of the record. When you listen to the music, it’s really as if you’re in a huge forest, it makes the listener feel quite small in comparison to Nature. In general, the album has a really narrative quality to it: the songs alternate between minor and major chord progressions, expressing feelings of distress as well as hope. At times, the intense music is in the spotlight, whereas other moments it’s but a light accompaniment to the spoken word.

The album’s opening song, Biomass, starts with a simple, bleak melody on the dulcimer, after which the harmonium, drums and bass join in to suddenly make the song really intense. Having a dulcimer and harmomium instead of guitars creates another contrastive aspect to the music. On the one hand, the two instruments themselves sound rather friendly, but the intensity in which they are played, combined with the drums and the bass, give it that raw, black metal-esque intensity. And when the vocalist screams his lungs out on top of the rest, this image is complete. It’s definitely something I’ve never heard before, a really original and unique sound for which the band certainly deserves some attention. The second song, Alluvial, also starts with a minimalist melody, after which the rest of the band joins in. As opposed to the first song, however, the song is less intense. This is partly because of the vocals, that differ quite a lot from the ones already heard. Instead of raw, screeching vocals, there’s a fragile, almost peaceful voice that sings the lyrics. This is another example of the marked contrasts on this album. And these different types of contrasts keep appearing over the course of the record. There’s beautiful, almost lullaby-like sections, that could suddenly be followed up by dissonant intervals that slam into your eardrums like an axe into a tree.

In short, Ecology is definitely one of a kind. It’s not for everyone, but anyone who’s a little open to experimental music will enjoy the record as something that’s weird, but somehow works. The contrasts on this album are tremendous: hope and distress, clean vocals over a harsh and dissonant accompaniment, or instead, peaceful instrumentals over which the vocalist screams his lungs out. If this has sparked your interest, I’d recommend you check this out. You won’t regret it. (8/10)" -- Rutger, Metal Utopia, October 22, 2019

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"The question of whether Botanist are black metal shouldn’t matter. Their unique take on metal most definitely fits into the “post” part of post-black metal, featuring as it does no guitars and with the distinctive sound of the hammered dulcimer instead taking centre stage. Botanist’s core sound is well established by now, and Ecosystem is unlikely to win over anyone who has previously not enjoyed their music; but it also represents a distinctive growth of Botanist, both sonically and conceptually. Written by the band’s current live line-up rather than solely by main member Otrebor, the sound of the Verdant Realm continues to grow, with Ecosystem presenting a new frontier in the self-styled realm of green metal.

There has always been a melancholy in Botanist’s sound, largely in thanks to the tones of the hammered dulcimer that possess an inherent beauty and sadness; and that aspect very much comes to the fore on Ecosystem. It is more spacious than previous Botanist releases, with a greater use of clean vocals, which gives the album a more overt humanity than most previous records have had. And whilst a sense of righteous fury is never far away, due to the frequent use of shrieked vocals and frequent blast-beats, it is a mournful anger, as if in lament of a world that has been lost or is in the process of simply away. Given the themes of Botanist’s music – nature as a vengeful spirit upon mankind, bringing down humanity so that the world may save itself – this is to be expected, and is a fitting soundtrack for our times, as the Anthropocene era sees humanity slowly strangle itself, and so many innocent species, to death.

All of which could lead to the conclusion that Ecosystem is a difficult record to listen to. It’s certainly true that the hammered dulcimer’s sound is one that, in the wrong mood, will come across as jarring rather than bright and strong, and that the more pastoral elements to the music – especially when the clean vocals come to the fore – can present a challenge. Yet Ecosystem is also an easy record to slip into, when the mood is right. Approached in the right frame of mind, this is an album that will eat up the hours, taking you away to another, better realm, where the poison in the air and corruption in the water can be undone; where global extinction does not seem inevitable for all life on the planet. This sense of contradiction, between a wrathful spirit and beautiful music, is at the heart of Botanist’s sound, and it is as effective as ever on Ecosystem.

It is fitting in a thematic sense that Ecosystem is a further evolution of Botanist’s sound. A band once perceived as a curio has now firmly established itself as one of experimental music’s most reliable acts, regardless of exact sub-genre. Ecosystem feels like the next step along that long journey; one that is tinged with melancholy, but also a sense of renewal and progress, as painful as that can be at times. There is a catharsis to be found in this combination of beauty and hostility that Botanist create, and there is no sign that that will change any time soon." -- The Sound Not The Word, September 16, 2019

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"Similar to its predecessor, Ecosystem is the product of a collective, the brainchild of San Francisco's Otrebor, featuring a supporting cast of musicians previously, or currently, involved in the outfit's live show. The result treats the listener to a relatively larger palette of vocals merged with the clear fingerprints of the project's mastermind. Where 2017's Collective: The Shape of He to Come was an intrepid journey into new territory for Botanist, Ecosystem is an outing that feels more refined and direct. This is an album that has the goal of its namesake: not to merely survive, but to thrive- under all conditions.

Ecosystem, the 6th LP from experimental black metal band Botanist, steps delicately into a whirlwind of percussion that features the band's trademark sharp dulcimers and imposing drums. Rarely does it let up. And when it does, I'm not sure which is more beautiful; the declarations of harmony or the sections that tear it to shreds. The bass work is a notable improvement compared to previous works and is not only prominent in the mix but also has a tone that tiptoes clarity and fuzz. Similarly, the notorious hammered dulcimers stand out even more than before, if you can believe it. The dulcimers are shrill at times of chaos and ring clear at times of peace, yet weave into and out of each other with absolute grace. To that end, they work better here with everything, most notably on tracks Abiotic and the perfect closer Red Crown, where they dance with bass guitar to create some of the more serene and transcendental moments of Botanist's career to date.

Fans of Botanist's recent work will doubtlessly be pleased with this album. But, I also believe that more fans will be brought into the fold as the project expands and improves. Otebor and Co. are putting in serious work and it shows as they continue to impress, release after release. To put it boldly, Ecosystem may be the most complete work of Botanist's discography and with VI: Flora already five years in the past, the future is bright for this project. As bright as the fires that grow, as bright as the fires that kill, as bright as the fires that die so that all else can be reborn once again.(4.5/10)" -- dbizzles, Sputnik Music, October 26, 2019

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"It’s been a good ride, folks. But it’s time to get off. The tracks are half-busted and the gears are almost out of grease and the circuits are well nigh blown. What little fun there is left to be sucked out of this shitbox can no longer come at any expense less dire than our very own. So. We can either (A) get off kicking and screaming like the rotten children of woebegone single parents, or (B) conduct our dismount like adults.

Option (B) is a tall order, I know. It begins with acceptance and ends, strangely enough, with forgiveness. First we must accept the fact that we, Homo sapiens, have already crossed the biosphere’s threshold capacity to sustain our current population: there are already too many of us, and we’re all cashing checks that are going to bounce sooner or later. Then we must forgive ourselves this trespass, as the selective vicissitudes of Nature have never yet produced a creature capable of living beneath its means. Our means, to understate it, are considerable.

A soft extinction is what we need. Nothing grandiose; nothing excessively violent. Rather, a calm and measured descent into crepuscularity; a mass acquiescence to the intermediary nature of all living things.Botanist can help. Botanist knows the way. All you have to do to be shown is to press Play.

If you have indoor plants in your domicile, no sooner will the first dulcet (yeah) tones of Ecosystem‘s opening track “Biomass” come wafting out of your speakers than anything green nearby will perk up and begin to waver almost imperceptibly. (You thought your pet vegetation wasn’t listening; you thought it didn’t feel.) The longer you allow the song to play (and the louder you crank the volume), the more you’ll see the improvements to the general health and vitality of your floral friends: their colors will flare, their greens will burn greener, they’ll smell sweeter, stronger, you will find yourself helplessly stroking them as you would the small furry fauna that destroys your carpet and sucks your pension dry one veterinary bill at a time.* Do not resist the seduction. Do not be ashamed to stroke your indoor flora. (If anyone should happen to call, confess to them that you are stroking your indoor flora.)

Round about the time the sour tones of “Harvestman” begin, the pheromones released by your plants should have you feeling sleepy. You should not resist the urge to lie down. Nor should you be alarmed when you emerge from a light doze to find that you are paralyzed, that your green friends have grown, that they’ve wrapped you lovingly in a soft cocoon of their tendrils (and they’ve done the same to your other pets). By the time the harsh and wrathful vibes of “Disturbance” hit, panic will be futile. The tendrils will have entered your body to feed. Worry not, they’re not vampires; they’ll feed you in turn, that is until your consciousness leaves its desiccated husk behind, dissolving into the One Verdant Mind. You are now one with the Shape of He to Come. You will share in the glory of the Red Crown.

[Cue awkward transition into actual review.] All of which is to say that Ecosystem, the 8th full-length album by Botanist, is another set of hymns to Mankind’s submission to some kind of floral holocaust. The term “hymns” here is operative. On previous album The Shape of He to Come, Botanist exploded from its one-man-black-metal peapod to shower the world with glorious choral bombast that I described as sounding “holy.” The secret to that explosion was mastermind Otrebor’s inclusion of other members in the writing and recording process. The explosion continues on Ecosystem more or less where The Shape… left off. The membership this time is slightly different (Bezaelith’s ethereal vocals will be sorely missed, leaving Otrebor to chant alone), with new drummer Daturus bringing power and technicality that were always lacking, and new (I think) vocalist Cynoxylon shredding his throat with rare intensity.

For the first time in Botanist’s dense history, the production is clean across the board, and all of the instruments (except for the bass, as usual) are right up front in the mix. While maybe the whole package is not quite as atmospheric and exultant as The Shape of He to Come, each individual performance onEcosystem has space to shine, space to thrive. The magnificent drum performance by Daturus—the most flat-out metallic aspect of the whole album—very nearly upstages Otrebor’s signature hammered dulcimer arrangements. Anyone who heard “Collective: Setlist 2017,” where Botanist re-recorded their live setlist with the new collective lineup, will not be any more surprised by this than by Cynoxylon’s inhumanly harsh vocal performance, which I must say is far superior to Otrebor’s emphysemic croaks of old.

Before Botanist came around, I never thought it would be possible for the hammered dulcimer to mimic the miserable discordance that defined classic black metal. And yet, as often as Ecosystem showcases the instrument’s intrinsic capacity for beauty, it reveals a hidden affinity for menace, ugliness, disgust. The hammered dulcimer is not just a gimmick, folks: it is a revelation. This is perhaps not the first time I’ve felt that the term “green metal” made a holistic kind of sense (The Shape of He to Come popped that cherry for me), but Ecosystem seals it. This is not mimicry, not mere eccentricity: green metal is potentially a whole new sonic world, and although Botanist is to my knowledge the only act exploring it right now, there’s got to be more terrain out there.

Without indulging a full track-breakdown, I have to address the headbangable—even moshable—closing track “Red Crown.” As the kids like to say these days, this one “slaps,” with its double-time beats and heart-ripping choirs and the untrustworthy lilt of major-key hope. It makes me want to open up a circle pit—which you are not welcome to join unless you’re wearing flowers in your hair. This single song could very well be Botanist’s crowning achievement, the orgasm they’ve been teasing for longer than the lifespan of your average extreme metal band.

And so, eight albums into their interesting-yet-uneven history, Botanist is undeniably gaining steam. Usually, the opposite is the case. What does this mean for our biome—yours and mine?

The end is not necessarily nighest of the nigh. We’ve been mangling the planet’s rich and diverse ecosystems since stepping off the Savannah, sometimes on purpose and sometimes because none of us knows what the fuck we’re doing. There’s still much left to mangle, and short of thermonuclear war or some other sci-fi nightmare, there’s no reason to believe that our children and our children’s children will not lead lives more or less comparable, in metrics of comfort and leisure, to our own.

That said, relative to the time that has passed since we speciated from our nearest distinct ancestor, we don’t have much left. May the chimes of hammered dulcimers lead us to our graves. (4/5 Flaming Toilets)" -- Richter, Toilet Ov Hell, October 3, 2019

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"Op de dag van vandaag lijkt iedereen – en terecht – erg begaan te zijn met de aardbol, de natuur en de ecosystemen om ons heen. Nu, er zijn zelfs bands, zelfs blackmetalbands, die vanuit deze thematiek heel hun filosofie opgebouwd hebben en dit zowel muzikaal als tekstueel. De Amerikaanse band Botanist is er opnieuw één om aan dit lijstje toe te voegen.

Zou de band dit Ecosystem, hun nieuwste telg, volledig opgenomen hebben tussen het gebladerte ergens in de diepe bossen van Redwood National Forest? Moet toch geweldig zijn om dat zo te kunnen doen. Of de dieren in het donkere bos daar blij mee gaan zijn is een andere vraag, maar het idee alleen al is het overdenken waard. Want zeg nu zelf, als ecoblackmetalband ga je toch niet in een bedompte studio zitten waarbinnen het C02-level hoog oploopt. Zo hoog oploopt tot op een bepaald moment je creatieve en sturende brein alleen nog maar rommel creëert?

Fascinerend doorheen dit hele album is, naast bovenstaande bedenkingen, de muzikale uitwerking. Zo krijg je niet de klassieke gitaar te horen, je hebt wel de drum en bas zoals je ze kent, je hebt ook de screams zoals je ze kent, ondersteunt door feeërieke samenzang, maar de gitaar wordt grotendeels vervangen door de hammered dulcimer. Een snaarinstrument dat je bespeelt met hammertjes, een soort citer. De gitaar wordt zo nu en dan ook vervangen door het harmonium of het traporgel. Dit creëert natuurlijk een aparte sfeer en past perfect binnen het concept. Knap gedaan. Nu, de andere kant van het verhaal is natuurlijk wel dat deze klanken je misschien niet helemaal lekker in de gehoorgang liggen en je wat ongemakkelijk wordt. Althans dat is het gene wat ik bij mezelf merk.

Voor mij heeft het bitter weinig met black metal te maken, maar klinkt deze plaat eerder als een onsamenhangend geheel van geluiden, geschreeuw en cleane vocalen waarvan de lijnen maar moeilijk te volgen zijn.

Volgens mij is Botanist gewoon verloren gelopen in het grote Redwood Forest. Als je ze wil gaan zoeken mag het voor mij, de coördinaten staan hieronder. Ik geef nog even mee dat drummer Daturus onder zijn eigen naam, Ron Bertrand, de partijen inspeelt op de nieuwe Dawn Of Ouroboros, veel interessanter! (65/100)" -- Ioris Meeuwissen, Zware Metalen, September 30, 2019


"To this day, everyone seems - and rightly so - to be very concerned about the globe, nature and the ecosystems around us. Now, there are even bands, even black metal albums, who have built up their entire philosophy from this theme, both musically and textually. The American bandBotanist is again one to add to this list.

Would the band have fully integrated this  Ecosystem , their newest member, among the foliage somewhere in the deep forests of the Redwood National Forest? Must be great to be able to do that. Whether the animals in the dark forest will be happy with that is another question, but the idea alone is worth considering. Because say for yourself, as an ecoblack metal band you don't go to a stuffy studio where the C02 level runs high.Going so high until at a certain point your creative and controlling brain only creates clutter?

Fascinating throughout this album is, in addition to the above considerations, the musical effect. This way you don't get to hear the classical guitar, you do have the drum and bass as you know them, you also have the screams as you know them, supported by fairy-tale singing together, but the guitar is largely replaced by the hammered dulcimer. A stringed instrument that you play with hammers, a kind of zither. Every now and then the guitar is replaced by the harmonium or the pedal organ. This naturally creates a distinct atmosphere and fits perfectly within the concept. Well done. Now, the other side of the story, of course, is that these sounds may not be completely comfortable in the ear canal and you will become a bit uncomfortable. At least that is what I notice in myself.

For me it has very little to do with black metal, but rather this album sounds like an incoherent whole of sounds, screams and clean vocals whose lines are difficult to follow.

I think Botanist just got lost in the great Redwood Forest. If you want to search for them you can do it for me, the coordinates are below. I also add that drummer Daturus, under his own name, Ron Bertrand, plays the parts on the new Dawn Of Ouroboros , much more interesting!(65/100)" -- Ioris Meeuwissen, Zware Metalen, September 30, 2019

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