Botanist – VI: Flora (2014) An Atypical Black Metal Album (Review)



Artist Botanist Album VI: Flora Year Released: 11 August 2014
Label Flenser Records Genre Black Metal

Flenser Records have been on a steady flow of fantastic black metal releases this year. Black Monolith, Wreck & Reference, and now the new Botanist. An eco terrorist with a knack of using multiple instruments to their advantage, Botanist has driven story after story of plants and their earthly endeavors. What makes the group so unique is their lack of tremolo picked guitars. Instead of wall after wall of distortion, hammered dulcimers spew the dark overtones.

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VI: Flora is the dreamiest album in comparison to the previous full lengths. This album romanticizes the plants with a ghostly aura from the Botanist himself. It’s as if in the afterlife of mankind, a spectral being is left to narrate the fauna utopia. Using the black metal with a hint of post rock instrumentals to bring the entire idea to life, the one man project from the Bay Area has caused a surge in radical thinking of black metal.

Botanist VI: Flora goes on sale on August 11th.

Honestly, this outfit works because of the dulcimers. They ring out with such grace that it takes care of the usual rapidly paced guitars. Instead, sonically decadent notes are allowed to pulsate and create a strong build and pull for the music. Take a listen to the song “Wisteria” for an immediate example. The notes vibrate back and forth, establishing a delicate lead with an ominous rhythm section. And then the dramatic pause, leaving just dulcimers to cry out. It works here, but with distorted guitars it may fault.

Opening track “Stargazer” throbs with melodic instrumentals over atypical drum patterns blasting away with speed and intricacy. The bass guitar moves along with the parts well, establishing roots for the music to grow with, like on “Callistemon.” The vocals across this LP are not the usual black metal vocals, but what about Botanist is regarded in the “norm” anyway? The whispers/gargled bellows are done in a monologue fashion, atmospherically connecting to the music.

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What makes this band even more special is their significant change in musical approach since their last album, IV: Mandragora. On that particular record the dulcimers were much heavier, forcing out a dark presence. Flora offers a much more harmonious nature, branching away from doom metal and into a more spacious flow of post-rock, all while still maintaining the frantic nature of black metal. Gone are the off-putting croaks in the vocal approach, instead relying on distantly mixed screams.

This record, to me, is a step above what Botanist have done in the past. Maybe it is the more dreamy approach, maybe it is the idea of the record, maybe it just the simple fact that the melodies across this new LP are beautiful. It is something that you can jump into listening at any song, and be captivated and find yourself on repeat of the entire album.

The Verdict:

VI: Flora is a well done record. The experimentation continues to grow. This sounds more mature, as if the plants really have reached their stage of harmony after eradicating humanity. Take a listen and join the movement.

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