Botanist expands sound and apocalyptic vision on stunning ‘III: Doom in Bloom’

One of the challenging things about writing about music is that people often ask what certain bands sound like. “What does your shirt say? Ahab? What do they sound like?” And I’m always really bad at answering. “Uh, like really slow doom but it feels like you’re listening to it at the bottom of the ocean.” Blank stares, blinking, I’ve seen it all. That’s not even a hard band to describe; yet it takes me forever. You wonder why it takes me 1,000 words to describe albums.

But anyway, there are other bands that defy most descriptions, and that generally ruins my life. I’ve tried to explain both Albebaran and Anhedonist to people with very little success because it’s really hard to convey just what you’ll experience with those bands. It’s more than just some riffs, a particular style of vocals, or whatever. It’s far deeper and involved than that. And wow, when it comes to Botanist, I’m at as loss. A really close friend of mine I talk to every day, I recently told him about a promo I got that he wanted to hear. I can say weird shit to describe it, and he’ll get it. For example, I said, “Kind of angular guitars, but not in an asshole way,” and he totally got it. But I’ve tried to tell him what Botanist sounds like, and I couldn’t even come up with weird ways to do its sole creator Otrebor’s music justice. Actually, now he knows because I played him the double album that introduced the Botanist’s (our main character in these tales) bizarre surroundings to the world, and he gets it now. That’s the trick. You kind of have to step into this leafy, forestal place to completely align yourself with what’s going on. That’s a challenge but a reward.

We’ve long told you about Botanist, and we were honored to debut a song from his new record “III: Doom in Bloom” and its companion disc “Allies.” You responded in kind by visiting those posts en mass. I like to think we had a tiny fraction of an influence in your interest over these songs, but let me not kid myself: It’s Otrebor’s twisted genius and the apocalyptic tale he’s created that drew you into those songs. His dulcimer-and-drums songs are like nothing else in the metal world, and while’s it easiest to label his music as experimental black metal, that’s also cutting it short. If you’re new to Botanist, you’ve never heard anything like this before. If you are a fan and listened to “I. The Suicide Tree/II. A Rose From the Dead” religiously like I did, that assessment still stands. Botanist’s world has changed significantly.

Otrebor still primarily employs the aforementioned instruments and pipes in with his creaky, growly vocals, but you’ll notice right away the textures have changed. “I/II” has 40 quick, typically fast-paced songs that sprawled into each other. Here, there are but seven cuts, practically all epic-length, and the tempo is much slower, sorrowful, and crushing. I’d go as far as to say the album is more accessible, though it’s not like you could play this for a mainstream rock fan and have that person get it. This record still takes a special kind of listener and demands a lot of anyone who spends time with it. But as I said, you’ll win out in the end because it’s a fascinating, riveting listen, and it shows you a totally different side of the artist behind this music.

Another element you’ll notice is the large amount of whispered vocals, but Otrebor isn’t just doing that to be mysterious. When you hear those whispers, you’re hearing what Azalea, the vengeful force of Nature, is speaking into the ear of the Botanist, which are instructions and philosophies to bring about the end of the human world so that the plants can rise up and take back what is theirs. If you’re new to this story, I suggest going to Botanist’s site, listed below, because you have a lot of catch-up work to do. But you easily could listen to the music for what it is and still enjoy it. You’ll just be lagging behind on plot.

I find a lot of the music on “Doom in Bloom” quite gorgeous, dramatic, and, at times, serene. You could make an argument that this record is only a metal album by its extreme musical nature and growled vocals, but other than that, it’s very difficult to classify what’s going on here. Hence what I said in the opening.

First cut “Quoth Azalea, the Demon (Rhododendoom II),” a song we premiered for you in the spring, is moving and somber, almost as if Azalea’s mission is both necessary and troubling morally. Eventually some moaning, droning vocals come into play, but for the most part, this is Azalea’s moment. “Deathcap” is breathy and hissing, with creaky vocals, some wild shrieks, and a baroque feel that’s both sophisticated and violent. “Ganoderma Lucidum” has a vintage sci-fi, isolationist feel to it, and the whispered and shrieked vocals run headlong into each other as a bunch of activity erupts.

“Vriesea” is built on an almost military style drum line, and the percussion actually leads this number, with the dulcimer strikes being kept to a minimum. I think I even heard an accordion in there, unless that’s just more string trickery unleashed by Botanist. “Ocimum Sanctum” is mesmerizing and trance inducing, and it keeps a sleepy tempo that’s occasionally ripped apart by shrieks. “Amanita Virosa” is the fastest song of the bunch, but it would be considered a slow cut on “I/II.” Here, the cries grow more desperate and harsh, and the song perfectly leads into the conclusion piece “Panax.” Just realized Botanist is throwing out a lot of herbal items that generally are used to soothe humans, so maybe the plants have some more devious trickery up their hands to pull us in. Anyhow, like the opener, the feeling goes back to mournful, and there are sections that are almost pastoral and spiritual in nature. It’s an interesting close, one that makes me really curious as to what lies ahead on the next record.

Disc 2, while it maintains a philosophical relationship with nature, is more of a loose section of music that explores other parts of the world Botanist created. Simply put, Otrebor had a ton of drum parts left over, so he decided to get together with other musicians he respects to do full-band songs. Each song has a different lineup, and thusly, all cuts get both band names and song titles to differentiate. It’s a really interesting disc, as you get to hear what Botanist could accomplish if he went the traditional route and what other minds bring to his creations.

Take, for example, “The Ejaculate on the Petals of the Femme Orchid I,” accredited to Matrushka. It’s a gazey, ambient, creaky transmission that sounds like it belongs floating through a far-away galaxy than imbedded in wooded lands. Or “The War of All Against All,” a song we premiered for you that’s labeled Cult of Linneaus (made up of members of the band Nero Order). The song is sweeping and pure doomy black metal, and it’s my favorite track on this companion disc. The Aborist track “Total Entarchy” really turned my head with its dirty bluegrass influence, and it reminded a bit of the Panopticon album I reviewed earlier in the week. I’m purposely not going to say much more because I don’t want to ruin the surprise of these pieces. It’s fun to hear these tracks for the first time, and they do stick with you beyond the initial shock wearing off.

Botanist remains a house favorite here at Meat Mead Metal because this project is so unique and interesting and handles apocalyptic destruction in a way no other band has imagined. On top of it all, the music is always giving and ambitious, and no two things he does sound alike. There is more to come, by the way, and part of the reason we aren’t further along is production of this album got held up a bit. That just gives us more time to fully absorb the wonders of “Doom in Bloom,” another captivating vision from metal’s most thought-provoking performer.

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