In recent years, american Botanist have enjoyed an ever brighter glowing spotlight as the band refined their eccentric take on the black metal genre. Replacing guitars with nothing less but hammered dulcimers, the band takes a unique approach to this traditionally guitar-centric metal subgenre.
Founded by Ortrebor in 2009, Botanist operated as a one-man band until the musicians that initially supported Ortrebor for live performances became a permanent part of the creative process during the creation of VI: Flora, Botanist's fifth full-length album and also the release that started to really propel the band's popularity.
VI: Flora was also my first contact with the project and ever since then I've kept a close eye on Botanist's output. Releasing their second EP Hammer of Botany in 2015, the band further refined their sound and reached for greater heights.
Despite how strange the premise of the band's musical output is, Botanist surprisingly aren't very adventurous when it comes to their compositions. The band displays a strong focus on refining and polishing their approach and they really managed to, if sometimes only ever so slightly, outdo themselves with every new addition to their catalog.
Green Metal marks the third EP in Botanist's discography and, like many times before, the band is joined by another project to make this a split release. I will in turn split this review in two parts and go over Botanist's and Oskoreien's contributions respectively.
The first five tracks on this release were supplied by Botanist and right off the bat the band shows off tremendous skill in weaving a multifacetted atmosphere.
Amorphophallus Titanum kicks off this split with some dark and ominous dulcimers contrasted by bright flashes in the form of another layer. The bass and dulcimers come together to form an incredibly dynamic atmosphere of departure with ever-changing emotional colors. The climax of this track ultimately delivers a particularly captivating close to a strong opener.
Right after that we have Clathrus Columnatus. The song begins with a flurry of Botanist's characeristic, clicking hi-hats and hammerblasts propelling cryptic and foreboding dulcimers that once again give way to a brighter but no less mystical ambience. Alternating between these two patterns, Clathrus Columnatus ends as unsettling as it began.
The third song, Varkoor, is one of the most impressive compositions Botanist have released so far. Varkoor is permeated by sorrowful beauty and dreamy wonderment, delivered by courtains of wonderfully layered and incredibly expressive dulcimers.
Saprophyte and Dracula Vampira constitute the last two tracks Botanist supplies for this release and further elaborate the dreamier qualities of the band's sound that emerged here and there over the course of their more recent releases. Dracula Vampira in particular brings some pleasant and contemplative columns of dulcimers to the table.
The next track, Deterministic Chaos, marks the beginning of Oskoreien's section on this split.
Oskoreien is a one-man black metal project from California that made its debut in 2011 with a self-titled album. I liked the generally unconventional approach to black metal on his debut with its dark storms of triumphant guitars and soaring melodies but I felt like the compositions ultimately dragged on a bit and were quite inconsistent in their levels of memorability.
The two song set Oskoreien supplies for this split consists of one new song and a cover of Placebo's Without You, I'm Nothing.
Oskoreien's new track Deterministic Chaos is a 13 minute long monster of a song that sees the project take a drastic turn in sound. The song starts off on some harsh noise sounds before droning and monumetal walls of distortion set in. The unsettling vocals on this track are much alike to the kind of screams you would hear in depressive suicidal black metal and cut through the thick curtains of noise like a knife. Though it does sound like this song primarily features highly distorted bass, backed by wailing guitars, Oskoreien has stated that no guitars were used in the recording of these tracks, which leads me to believe that what we're hearing on this track are synths emulating guitars.
Fading out into the noise segment that it started off on, Deterministic Chaos seamlessly transitions into the last track, Without You, I'm Nothing. Despite being a cover of a Placebo track, Oskoreien took a lot of liberties in his interpretation of the track and turns it into an even more severe emotional degradation than the original, spanning close to six minutes featuring his new droning sound paired with disquieting, reverbed screams.
Overall, both Botanist and Oskoreien have delivered outstanding material on this split. Botanist once more managed to outdo themselves and show a great amount of ambition and skill on this release that leaves me even more excited for the band's next project. Oskoreien's creative, new sound leaves room for exploration and I wonder if we can expect a new EP or full-length album in the future.
As a whole, EP III: Green Metal/Deterministic Chaos is one of the strongest EPs of this year so far and makes yet another entry to the already long list of outstanding black metal releases of this year.