Let me be straight with you: while I love Bandcamp Fridays and all that they do for our communities, it’s also a pretty harrowing day for me. I buy all my music from Bandcamp and as a result, I’m subscribed to literally hundreds of bands and their releases on there. As a result, my inbox receives a veritable flood of emails on Bandcamp Fridays, inundating me with even more music than I’m used to. First World problems, right? Definitely but it actually has an effect on me; I end up not paying too much attention to new releases on those days, buying those albums that I’ve already been listening to. Which is a problem because then I end up missing releases like Botanist‘s Ecosystem Version B.
If you somehow don’t know who Botanist are, we’re talking about one of my favorite black metal projects of the recent years. Leaning heavily into climatic themes and relying on dulcimers to make their unique brand of atmospheric/post black metal, Botanist are trailblazers towards the future of their genre. In 2019, the project released the brilliant Ecosystem, further solidifying them as one of the most interesting acts out there. But then, just over a month ago, for Bandcamp Friday, they released Ecosystem Version B. Just as the title might tell you, these are different versions of the same tracks executed, produced, and sung in various differing ways.
Many of the differences can be difficult to hear at first but once you play both albums one after the other several times (or even pop two tracks into a DAW and ping back and forth between them) they become apparent. Version B feels more harrowing; the production on it is more overwhelming and abrasive, less lush than it is on the “original” version. The result is an atmosphere and a theme that feels more apocalyptic and immediate, screaming itself raw into your ears. The dulcimers are a bit more buried in the mix, making them seem even more dream-like but essential.
One difference that’s not hard to hear are the vocals, especially the clean vocals. Botanist recruited someone by the alias of Cynoxylon to perform the vocals on Version B and their sound is much more punk and hardcore influenced. It works incredibly well with the “harsher” mix that I pointed out above, creating an intense and powerful delivery that is once again more harrow, a barren field to Version A‘s burning forest. It’s incredibly interesting to hear this difference in execution and approach, especially in light of the more “complete” transformation which the album has undergone as a whole.
I’ve included both versions of the second track (“Alluvial” and “The Helmsman”) above because the difference in the vocals there is most felt. Listen to the verdant and lush timbre of the vocals near the end of “Alluvial” from Version A; the vocal track is doubled, giving us that large, cathedral like sound. On “The Helmsman”, Cynoxylon voice cuts through with a single track, with a lot more attack and raspy urgency to their tone.
Bottom line, Botanist continue to challenge our ideas of what black is/can mean and what an album release cycle is for. This experiment is fascinating and something which I would love to see more bands experimenting with. For now, make sure you pick up both versions of Ecosystem, both to support bold, experimental artists and just to enjoy some of the best black metal around.