Otrebor, the mastermind behind and only constant member of Botanist, has divided his new record into the eight “steps” of photosynthesis - “Light”, “Water”, “Chlorophyll”, “Dehydration”, “Bacteria”, “Stroma”, “Palisade” and “Oxygen” (even by looking at this list one can understand the biological process more easily!). Of course, this seems like an analogy to other bands, who have a huge background concept behind their records like The Ocean. However, there is nothing too logical about this record, it flows nicely and, yes, naturally.
To say that of a record of such harsh melodies, such raw moments (we are still talking about a black metal band, basically) speaks volumes about the quality of the music. That can also be connected to the collective he gathered to help him with the recording. Otrebor himself mainly plays the hammered dulcimer, a medieval instrument which he plays like a guitar, his constant companion Daturus once again contributed on drums and new on this record is Tony Thomas on bass. Thomas and Daturus also brought in Chelsea Rocha-Murphy who is their bandmate in Oakland-based progressive extreme metal-outfit Dawn of Ouroboros and who sings on “Dehydration”.
That is also a very exemplary song: opening with an acoustic intro whose single note at the end is a bit high in pitch than the ones before, the song then turns into a near-classic black metal track where only in reflection you feel the lack of a guitar, as the dulcimer tones are always a bit more steely, a bit less distorted. The interesting bit about “Dehydration” is its middle part, where the band easily slows down and then also effortlessly kicks in again with some fear-inducing blastbeats. Chelsea herself provides some background lyrics and also joins Otrebor in his melody, so that their voices very nicely compliment each other.
The “Verdant Realm” (the world of the plants) is Otrebor’s “safe haven” which he never leaves for the outside world, even on pictures you can see him wearing a mask over his face which resembles an assembly of twigs. Being anonymous and stepping back from a human personality to give as much space to his Verdant Realm philosophy is one of his major interests. That also shows a deep understanding of his on nature itself, as there is no tree or plant that tries to overshadow the other, there is no main role – each plant contributes to the ecosystem and to the process of giving life through photosynthesis.
Looking at the record it is obvious that its artwork is one of the most beautiful of 2020. Listening to the music it becomes clear that this is one of the most intriguing and versatile black metal releases this year. For reasons unclear, Botanist is still one of those underrated bands – this must change with this beautiful record!