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Albums That Will F*ck Your Face Off in 2013: Botanist, IV: Mandragora

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Botanist
IV: Mandragora (The Flenser)
Release date – February 19, 2013

Much of the response to the first two Botanist releases boiled down to one fundamental point: “What the fuck?” The weirdness of this one-man band is undeniable. Nobody other than Botanist mastermind Otrebor is making black metal records with drums and hammered dulcimer as the only instruments. And even if there is somebody deep in the forests of Latvia who IS making black metal records with drums and hammered dulcimer as the only instruments, he or she certainly hasn’t built an entire mythos surrounding a misanthropic old floraphile, singing praises to the botanic inhabitants of the Verdant Realm as he plots the destruction of the human race.

Spend some time in the Verdant Realm, and the uniqueness of Botanist’s music begins to expand way beyond the simple facts of its creation. The 2011 double-disc Botanist opus I: The Suicide Tree and II: A Rose from the Dead transformed clattering drums, croaked vocals and the dulcimer’s tinny texture into the sacred music of the vegetable kingdom; 2012’s III: Doom in Bloom slowed down the pace and admitted some major keys, letting in some light and air to keep it healthy. Botanist shares a vocal style and esoteric mythology of black metal, but that’s it. If on paper this seems like a gimmick destined for the mulch bin of metal history, in execution it’s a majestic, brimming, dynamic thing that claws deeper with each listen. Otrebor is on his own trip.

Whereas past Botanist albums offered paeans to dozens of plants, IV: Mandragora concentrates on just one. “The creation of the homunculus mandrake through ancient alchemical practice is an example of the ideal crossroads of myth, history, culture, pseudo-science, and fantasy that Botanist could ask for,” Otrebor tells us via email. “The mythical mandrake is a creature that is part plant, part humanoid. The humanoid part hides underground, and when it is uprooted, it shrieks, killing any living thing that hears it. In the Botanist myth, Azalea, the floral demon that speaks to The Botanist and directs his actions, tells The Botanist how he is to raise an army of mandrakes to wipe out humanity.”

How does the Botanist sound continue flowering on IV? “The aim with each Botanist full-length is to make it remarkably different from those that preceded it,” Otrebor explains. “Anything that is remarkably different from what’s been done already is the beginning point for each successive full-length recording process. The path through III had progressed from an amplified/lightly distorted tone to an increasingly developed distorted acoustic sound…some had commented on the amount of ‘space’ in the records. IV endeavors to switch directions, with a fuzzy sound, largely to close that space and give a different perspective on the core values of the music.”

With three more-than-full-length albums in under two years, one wonders where Otrebor derives his tireless productivity. “I believe that creating this music, developing the concept, and speaking for the Natural world is something that is far bigger than I am,” he tells us. “I’ve [said] since the beginning that the creation of Botanist is something akin to summoning or channeling, in that although I’m doing it, there’s something of an unknown force that guides me. Call it The Botanist, call it the spirit of flora, that force helps decide on what to do now and far down the road. There are many more planned, up through IX at this point, all of whose concepts and progressions of sound are already clear.”

So that means you only have five albums’ more to prepare for your death at the hands of a plant derived from the post-mortem ejaculation of a hanged man. Better get listening to IV: Mandragora pronto.

Enter the Botanist’s Verdant Realm here.

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