Botanist

I: The Suicide Tree
II: A Rose From the Dead

1. Dracocephalum
2. Invoke the Throne of Veltheimi
3. Helleborous Niger
4. Whorl
5. Forgotten in Nepenthes
6. Aldrovanda Ascendant
7. Chaining the Catechin
8. Dionaea Muscipula
9. Clematopsis
10. Rhododendoom
11. Gorechid
12. Cerbera Odollam
13. Bromeliad
14. Lepidoptera
15. Euonymous in Darkness
16. Dactylorhiza Elata
17. Glycyrrhiza
18. Convolvulus Althaeoides
19. Dioscoria
20. Megaskepasma
21. In The Hall Of Chamaerops
22. Quercus Lamellosa
23. Echinocereus
24. Sparaxis Of Perdition
25. Feast Of Saussurea
26. Wings Of Antichrys
27. Monstera’s Lair
28. Chiranthodendron
29. Koeleria
30. Sanguinaria
31. Dodecatheon
32. Summon Xanthostemon
33. Asclepias Curassavica
34. Strelitzia Reginae
35. Trillium Recurvatum
36. Cypripedium
37. Nephrolepsis
38. Abrus Precatorius
39. A Rose From the Dead
40. [untitled]

[06/24/11]
[tUMULT]

Black metal. You either love it or you hate it. However, the thing about black metal is that it’s remarkably consistent.  You know what you’re going to get before you get it. You know which bands do anger and violence, or beautiful and symphonic, or a combination of both. Black metal is black metal, right?  Wrong. Meet Botanist, a one-man black metal project by a man who goes by the alias of The Botanist. Allow me to read you what it says on the sticker on the front of the album:  “Forty tracks of eerie and esoteric, buzzing and baffling, drum and dulcimer driven eco-terrorist black metal.” Yes, you read that correctly. The main instrument of this album is a hammered dulcimer. There are no guitars and no bass. A hammered dulcimer, a drumset that is equipped with a marching snare as well as a concert snare and the usual drumset fixtures, and The Botanist’s creepy, eerie voice are all that is featured on this record.

Before I get into the bulk of this review, allow me to warn you. This will be the weirdest, strangest, all-out perplexing album you will hear all year. It definitely takes some getting used to, but once you’re accustomed to the sound, you’ll find out quickly if you’ll like it or not. This is definitely unlike anything that you or I have ever heard.
The album is a concept album, and the story will continue on several more Botanist albums (at the time of this writing, he has 3 more albums completed).  The story is about a man who loves plant life and hates the evil and corruption that human kind presents. He soon breeds an army of plants to eradicate all of human existence, while he watches the bloodshed via the “Verdant Realm”. And yes, that sounds as absolutely crazy as it looks. The album’s song titles also show this, with the names being almost exclusively scientific names of plants.

While this story may be passed off as a novelty to some, for those that read the lyrics and discover how much botanical detail has been put into the lyrics, they will soon become engrossed in the story. With lyrics such as “Rosette of seven/Petiole blade lethal/Strangled in cilia/Anthocyanin death”, “Orchidaceae swamped in gore/Bloodstained Asparagales/Dripping crimson nectar/From the mutilated corpses of the dead”, and “Tiny red bead/Black eye staring/Upon the doom/Of human life”, you can tell that, even if you don’t understand the botanical aspects, he really hates humanity.

Now to the music. This may be the most challenging record ever. As soon as you turn it on, you will either listen with amazement or be absolutely appalled and turn it off. It really just depends on who you are. The hammered dulcimer may be a hit of blasphemy for the more traditional metallers, but for me, it was a stroke of genius. It’s clear that The Botanist didn’t use standard black metal compositional techniques, but that he created the music around the instrument. Also, the clangy tones of the instrument allow the eerie-ness to come out more, allowing for a stronger effect. The drums also augment the effect. The Botanist is a hell of a drummer, as the record is full of percussion acrobatics. What’s even more charming is that the drumming isn’t perfect.  Some of the rolls are off, and the bass drum is sometimes off time, but its misses and schizophrenic sound between the concert and marching snares adds to the chaos. All of this, however, is second to The Botanist’s vocal style, which may be as conflicting as Attila Csihar of Mayhem fame. It’s very throaty, as if a creaking door was speaking to you in a more bassy tone. Imagine Inquisition‘s Dagon, and you’re close to where it is. It meshes with the music perfectly.

However, the first part of this double-album, The Suicide Tree, feels a little bit goofy and lackluster in it’s execution. Some parts come off as a novelty (i.e: “Gorechid“, “Rhododendoom“). However, there are certainly some very good tracks on it, it’s just that its somewhat poor execution on a few moments mar it from being on the level of the second album in the double album, A Rose From the Dead.

A Rose From the Dead is easily some of the best black metal I’ve heard ever. Unlike The Suicide Tree, this one is considerably more focused. It’s atmosphere is bleaker, and the chords and tones more dissonant. However, there still are uplifting moments, but they don’t come off as goofy like in The Suicide Tree. They truly sound beautiful. A couple of examples include “Cypripedium“, which has a sound resembling folk, a sound that is no doubt primarily caused by the timbre of the dulcimer. Another is the last couple of minutes on the title track, which sounds absolutely beautiful, which may represent The Botanist’s happiness that plant life is emerging once again on Earth.

Also, this album uses an effect of a few songs that sounds like a bow from a violin is being used on the strings to create a very dissonant, grating sound that is very hard on the ears, signaling the chaos. One track that uses this to great effect is probably the highlight of the entire double album for me, “Abrus Precatorius”. After building the track using both black metal and doom influences, it slows to a crawl. The Botanist then uses this effect to create some of the most grating sounds I’ve ever heard. You can then feel the speed increasing, using a singular note to increase the tension. You can feel your heart racing. You begin to feel scared. Then all of a sudden, there are two bell hits. Finally, you get thrown into perhaps one of the most intense moments in all of metal. The hammered dulcimer pounds on a singular note, the drums perform a furious blast beat, and the most blood-curdling scream that I’ve ever heard is unleashed. If you’ve listened to the entire album and know the story, you can almost see the plants ending all of human existence. That scream very well represents the screams of humanity in it’s final moments, the fruition of The Botanist’s plan. It’s an unbelievable experience.  The album package closes with a untitled track, which reprises standout track “In the Hall of Chamaerops“, as well as adds a few beautiful parts that conflicts nicely with the album, and ends it on a high note.

This double album may very well be the start of a domino effect in metal.  While there certainly have been albums that have altered the landscape, none have done so with such surprise or such success. It feels like the dawn of a new genre of metal. I only wish that The Suicide Tree, with it’s slight novelty overtones, could be at the same level as A Rose From the Dead.  Regardless, it still has some fine tracks, but nothing up to the level that A Rose From the Dead.  No matter what, you owe to yourself to listen to this album, regardless of whether you love it or you hate it.  It’s a very unique experience.

Botanist’s I: The Suicide Tree/II: A Rose From the Dead gets:

4.5/5

– GR

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