Bizarre force Botanist returns to thrive in moonlight on lush, inventive trip ‘VIII: Selenotrope’

Here on the East Coast of the United States, we are in full bloom, spring exploding with fresh leaves on trees, flowers and plants beginning to take over again, and cross-pollination adding to nature raging with life. Yeah, my allergies are attacking me pretty aggressively as a result, but it’s a small price to pay for the damage humanity has done to our surroundings.

That’s something sure to grab the attention of the Botanist, the central figure in the Verdant Realm created by the band Botanist whose story has been told over 11 full-length releases and a slew of smaller ones. The latest is “VIII: Selenotrope,” an eight-track, 56-minute adventure that is one of the most full-bodied creations under this banner, which has grown in scope over the years. Helmed solely by Otrebor (hammered dulcimer, drums, vocals, bass) for this album—the collective group for other recordings and live are Daturus (drums), Tony Thomas (bass), Mar (vocals, keyboards), and Krieger (dulcimer)—the music swells with life and the narrative based on plants that flower in moonlight continues the struggle of the main character and the words whispered to him by the inhabitants of the Realm. They know the harm that’s been done by humanity, and they lie in wait for their revenge.  

“Against the Selenic Light” starts vibrantly, shrieks and whispers mixing as the Botanist character and the plants who speak in his ear interact. Melodies crash and rupture as the madness swirls, the dulcimer hammers into echoes, and the wonders drain away. “Risen from the Rain” is practically jubilant when it arrives, whispers rushing, the drums pulsating as the track tears open. The playing trudges as shrieks rain down, melodies swell, and the drumming rattles into the air. “Epidendrum Nocturnum” brings a huge rush, raining down with emotion, a full chorus rattling your senses and making the adventure even richer. Angelic haze hypnotizes as clean calls chill, and breezy playing makes the hairs stand on your arms. “Mirabilis” jolts as the whispers and singing intertwine, crumbling and gusting as the dulcimer rings on your ears. The drums pace as the choral sections pump, coating the senses and transforming into a laser beam that cuts into the atmosphere.

“Angel’s Trumpet” gets off to a proggy start, whispers and lush singing dancing, drums pounding as the dust rises into the clouds. The playing gets breezier as the track tears open its mid-section, glorious singing stirring the stratosphere, everything blending into mystery. The title track starts with gentle strums, a gently flowing pace, and the chiming melodies making your senses come to life. Noises scrape, pushing you into a deep dream state, cold isolation ending this instrumental in the darkness. “Sword of the Night” has the drums kicking in and driving the pace, the whispers working down your spine. The playing goes a more haunting route, the hushed words taunt, and everything ends in a sci-fi aura. Closer “The Flowering Dragon” runs a massive 14:54 and immediately haunts, the choral portions creating steam, the energy melting bones. The playing gets more immersive as the singing glazes into a New Age feel, organs smoking as the energy bursts. Dulcimer chimes as the singing soars, the shrieks spread danger, and the fog envelopes as the playing ruptures. Immersion pulls you into the center as the final notes prick prone flesh before returning to the realm where it originated.

It’s been a wonder and a pleasure hearing Botanist’s music go from its raw, primitive roots to where it is now, a flourishing creature whose kingdom grows richer by the year. “VIII: Selenotrope” continues to open the narrative and the possibilities of this band that is anything but conventional and refuses to conform to expectations. The story continues, the lush green forest blossoms, and the terror at the heart of the music swells until humanity pays its deserved price.   

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