And again they prove why good blackgaze works like Wagner operas (without the bullshit anti-semitism!) - in most of the “brutal” German composer’s works you can find those moments where one single melody is carving its way through the storming mists of all those instruments surrounding it. Where this one melody (often played by one instrument) has to fight its way to the top and then finally outshines all the others. Blackgaze often tries to accomplish the very same thing as its combination of post-rock and black metal only works if you have very versatile musicians who are able to construct riffs of mountainous measures and yet slowly let one single idea come through, mostly done via the guitar lines with crescendos conquering the top spot fighting like crazy against the rampant riffs around it.
And this is and always been the strength of Show me a Dinosaur – their two guitarists Pavel Volkov and Artem Selyugin are certainly among the best black metal duos of recent years and they might turn out to be the best of them all if they keep on delivering this way. Very often one can only stand back listening aghast at how magnificent they are. The guitars dance around each other like a pair of professional dancer – one is nothing without the other but at the same time both need to strive to outperform the other in order to become a truly world-class couple.
Nevertheless, one should not ignore the rhythm section of Philip Chernonog on bass and Daniel Kourdakov on the drums. If you listen to the beginning of the opener “Sunflower” you will notice how important their work is – what starts out to be a straightforward indie-rocker is slowly paced down until they totally take a lengthy step back after roughly one hundred seconds and give the song the necessary moment to breathe before they take it up again with a much lighter, loftier sonic carpet on which the nice semi-acoustic pickings can dance. Perfect songwriting needs perfect execution.
Concept-wise one should note that “Plantgazer” is a record that needs the context of the pandemic times we live in. The title-neologism is meant to identify a person who always sits at home looking at his plants while being unable to go outside. A year ago we might have associated that person with having certain other problems – in 2020 the reason for staying at home is as obvious as it might get: The person is living amid a lockdown and is not allowed to go outside. Thus, the narrator develops a kind of anxiety that is seemingly never broken but always at the basis of everything.
Even the vocals deliver the aforementioned Wagner moments – for example when an epic seemingly multi-voiced chorus accompanies the end of “Marsh”: It seems as if a whole bunch of sailors are greeting us who are inside while leaving port in order to provide hope by finding something to help us. Are they going to get help? Are they going to save us? To keep us from harm?
I must admit that when I heard the first single “Hum” a few weeks back, I was a little underwhelmed and I figure if it were a stand-alone track I still would be, but in the context of the whole album, the song makes perfect sense: Another sign of a great record – it makes the songs better than they are by embedding them in the best-possible environment.
“Plantgazer” is a grower of an album – some hypercritical people might say, that Show me a Dinosaur have come up with nothing new, that their formula is simply being repeated. However, in the context of 2020 I must say, that is follows in line with some of the best records of this year, with bands not redefining themselves but delivering a new level of musical perfection that even the most optimistic might not have seen coming.
Show me a Dinosaur remain the kings of post-rock oriented blackgaze creating a powerful record that every one should listen to. But don’t complain if you can’t get it out of your head again.