As has been proven for decades now, California’s Bay Area has given rise to a host of black metal bands, among them Weakling, Leviathan and Deafheaven. From Weakling’s vast, meandering sound to Leviathan’s nail-biting dirges to Deafheaven’s genre-blending, the eccentricities that sprout forth from San Franciscan soil appears to be endless. One seed of note is Botanist, whose numerically-organized records craft imagery that is in contrast to the genre’s usual frozen landscapes and dark psyches, instead painting a mythos of a geocentric pantheon consisting of wrathful gods intent on punishing mankind for their abuse of Earth. VI: Flora is the newest canto in a larger body of work. Elegant over harsh, Botanist weaves this collection of eleven into a seamless whole that blooms ever-wider as the album progresses.
The Internet will likely curse it up and down for the standard pieces of black metal it lacks – the formula applied here is inarguable in its uniqueness. The musicianship is taught, passionate and realized, crafting a piece that should be praised for what it does with black metal, versus that which it denies reiteration. The use of the hammered dulcimer and unique lore have all the trappings to be gimmicky; Botanist, however, denies that logic any semblance of victory, planting life into the dream of a fictional, maddened eco-terrorist. Similar to albums like Kentucky and Pale Folklore by peers Panopticon and Agalloch respectfully, they embrace the quirks of folk music, successfully grafting them to black metal’s often reactionary template. VI: Flora is absent of Pale Folklore’s isolating sprawl and Kentucky’s culturally-charged fervor, propelled instead by ethereal rage and delicate soundscapes.
Said rage is wreathed with charred petals against a halo of morning sun, uninviting yet full of life and resplendent death. Dulcimer and drum race headlong as would the wind across green fields, beating along like rain that falls at varying intensities. The instrumentation itself is so emotive, it is a wonder why a solely instrumental album has yet to be sown. The vocals and lyrics verge on superfluous, almost spoiling the imagery and meaning that the dulcimer conjures. The mythology that aids in supporting Botanist’s message is, of course, conducive to the overall collection. Laced with an encyclopedic use of botanical jargon, the whispered vocals creep, ensnaring the songs’ structures like vines through a trellis. Botanist emasculates its metal foundations, gifting it with the power of creation over wanton destruction, taking black metal’s naturalistic leanings to evolved heights. The record is amorphous, subject to a seasonal cycle that ranges from spring to summer on repeat, ignorant of winter’s genocidal tendency. Botanist does not long for the natural world, rather for it to take up limb and root against parasitic man. Consider VI: Flora to be the green-hued war song that incites that culling.
VI: Flora is available on vinyl and CD from Flenser Records and can be consumed in entirety and purchased digitally here.
Top Banner Photo by Lev Perrey and Irrwisch Artdesign