Botanist – VI: Flora (The Flenser)

Wednesday, 13th August 2014
Rating: 9/10

If you are looking for an original take on the metal genre, one needs to look no further than California’s Botanist. Wielding a hammered dulcimer as the instrument of choice, Botanist tells the story of The Botanist, who lives in his self-sequestered land of the Verdant Realm, envisioning the end of humanity and the eventual take-over by plant life. To the uninitiated, it may sound like that movie The Happening, but this is much more conceptually nuanced and rich, and of course, much more metal.

While firmly rooted in black metal, each Botanist album has brought some different aspects. I and II had an almost grindcore feel at spots, III (Doom in Bloom) brought a doomier vibe, and IV (which was featured in a Bandcamp selection) really just delivered the black metal vibe, with fuzzy distortion on the dulcimer and very froggy croaks. Jumping straight to Flora (or VI if you prefer), Botanist continues to grow and expand on its sound. Slightly less conceptual than previous efforts and instead focusing on the beauty of the plants themselves, to the Botanist initiate, this is a great place to start. For one, the sound is much clearer this time around and the vocals are a bit buried in the mix, making them less abrasive than on IV. While still immediately identifiable as Botanist material, much of the malice present has been converted into beauty. The dulcimer leads the way here, with almost ethereal beats. The balance between raging and sullen moments is what truly sells Flora, particularly in the way that both forces can be acting at the same time.

With Flora, Botanist has created something truly special. The maturation and variability of the Botanist sound should find an even more captive audience this time around. While still very much a love it or hate it approach with all of the unique elements going on, it’s no less compelling. Perfect for a quiet retreat into the hills.

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