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Botanist - Ecosystem

by Chris Hawkins at 01 October 2019, 8:55 PM

The San Francisco – based band BOTANIST have an intriguing new slant on creating a Black Metal album.  The band is led by founder, Otrebor, who uses no guitars except for bass in his recordings.  Instead, he assembles a montage of sound with distorted hammered dulcimers presenting the melodic idea.  BOTANIST have previously released nine recordings since 2011, an extremely staggering level of productivity.

Hammered dulcimer may seem an odd choice for crafting sprawling melodies and grim atmosphere but it does indeed give the music a fascinatingly rich quality.  In effect, it sounds like a mesh of keyboards and an orchestra filled with twelve-string guitars.  There is a vast sonic range to the dulcimer sound that he employs as well aided along by various effects processors.  As the album plays through, one experiencing this for the first time cannot help but wonder if this formula will wear out quickly.  It does not.  On the contrary, each song is a fresh slice of premier innovation in scope and sound.

Biomass” opens the album up with a very persuasive, emotive melodic idea.  The sound created by the deep layering and unique instrumentation is truly astonishing.  The music at certain points almost has an old school Goth vibe to it with the contrasting natures of the lacerating vocals and the vibrant dulcimer.  In such contrast, music is born that is truly engrossing and enchanting.  The second track, “Alluvial,” sounds like a polar opposite of the first track.  There is a somber aspect to the rich, trippy dulcimer vibe and the blending of both clean, smooth vocals and vocals that echoed the tortured sound of traditional Black Metal.  Oddly enough, the ending sounds like it bears a subtle message of hope.

Harvestman,” the third track, contains a nasty, dissonant section that occurs just after the two-minute mark.  The song manages to blend a swirling haze of melody and an ample amount of emotion creating something wholly unique in the process.  The fifth track, “Disturbance,” erupts with a bombastic, galloping double bass drum pattern that truly ushers in the song.  At times, just when one thinks the notes could be random, one is hit by the ingenuity of the harmony created.  Understanding harmony and how notes interact with each other allows one to more fully grasp the breadth of the material.

Becoming introduced to BOTANIST’s original take on musical liberty and creative license has expanded my catalog.  The music that is put on record here stands as some of the most against the grain, independent projects I’ve heard in quite a while.  It is refreshing to know that Metal need not be stale or stagnant for there is always new blood somewhere around the bend making new ideas reality.

Songwriting:  8
Originality:  9
Memorability:  7
Production:  8

4 Star Rating

1. Biomass
2. Alluvial
3. Harvestman
4. Sphagnum
5. Disturbance
6. Acclimation
7. Abiotic
8. Red Crown

Otrebor – Vocals, Drums, Hammered Dulcimer
D. Neal – Hammered Dulcimer
A. Lindo – Vocals, Harmonium
David Tiso – Bass
R. Chiang – Hammered Dulcimer

Record Label: Aural Music


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