Botanist, VI: Flora, The Flenser, CD FR46 (2014)
For some reason he missed Album No 5, although a split recording with Palace of Worms might count as such, so we’re onto “VI: Flora” by eco-BM act Botanist which has now expanded from a quirky solo project into a proper band giving live shows. The Botanist concept still revolves around the hammered dulcimer as its primary instrument, supported by drums and a few other instruments, and played by unknown and reclusive musicians led by a botanist looking forward to the day when humanity has finally hoist itself with its petard and planet Earth is again ruled by a Kingdom of Flora. The premise may or may not be an accurate description of the band members but it’s been enough the power the band through five albums and a split already, and the music on “VI: Flora” suggests there’s plenty more force and creativity in this most green of green BM bands.
As on previous recordings, most of the songs are named after plants and the music pays homage to them in a mix of dulcimer BM, post-BM, shoegazer and even some good old-fashioned rock’n’roll influences. The dulcimer now shares equal space with a harmonium, a piano-like instrument that sounds a bit like an accordion, and 12-string bass, and as a result the album not only sounds much more melodic and flowing if a little less hard-hitting and manic, it also reveals a brighter and sunnier side to Botanist’s work. The mood now stretches from melancholy and longing to hope and anticipation. With the new-found sonic reach, a greater willingness to explore and experiment with melody, mood and the general premise that is the band’s reason for existence. The only thing I miss is the head-hammering derangement so I’ll have to look elsewhere for the mental masochistic fix.
The only real glitch – and unfortunately it is a major one that affects most if not all the tracks – is the vocals which sit so deeply buried beneath the richly layered music that the entire album will have limited appeal to people not already converted to the band’s cause. The lyrics sheet – I had to dig around in the package for it, nearly ripped the whole thing in half! – helps to some extent; a theme of regeneration and renewal can be discerned in the terse and sometimes cryptic lyrics.
All songs boast very poppy tunes and are very self-contained. The production is very clean and brings out the jangly jewelled tone of the instruments.
The music is highly detailed and though the album is actually not very long, some listeners may find it quite tiring and a bit repetitive as it is so dense and intricate. Here is where the vocals could have offered relief but as mentioned earlier they are hampered by being low in the mix. In case people object that dense instrumentation and singing droning on a mixture of topics might compete for attention, I might mention that fellow avant-garde USBM act Jute Gyte does good business churning out long works of misanthropic microtonal BM with harsh ragged vocals at least once (and often twice) a year; once a listener hears a Jute Gyte recording a few times, the brain is able to accommodate all its rich fullness and even expects more!
For all its faults though, I’d still like to recommend this Botanist album if TSP followers don’t already know this act as this is a very accomplished and professional work, and demonstrates the continued potential for black metal to evolve ever new and original musical variations that stay true to its quest for transcendence and transformation.
Contact: The Flenser