Friday, June 29, 2012

Botanist: III: Doom in Bloom (2012)

I Don't Trust My Lawn Anymore

Botanist's debut was the biggest surprise of 2011. Some guy who calls himself "the Botanist" decided to record a double-album of black metal played on nothing but drums and hammered dulcimer? WTF? Just about everyone who's interested in the fringes of avant-garde metal talked about it (even NPR), but opinions were very much split. I, for one, loved it, putting it at number 15 on my end-of-year list, noting that (like the maple I planted last month) it's a grower. It's still growing on me, 10 months on. So I've been eagerly anticipating the project's follow-up.

III: Doom in Bloom has been billed as Botanist's doom record. At this point, it's more of a stretch than ever to call Botanist a metal band--it's as much Mamiffer as Master's Hammer. And I hesitate to call anything doom if it's not actually heavy. But it could still fall at the outer reaches of the avant-garde black metal spectrum.

This time around, instead of 40 punchy, fast 1-2 minute songs, there are 7 sprawling cuts of 6-13 minutes apiece. The single disc is nearly as long as the double-disc debut. There are some who complained that Tree/Rose didn’t fully explore any of the ideas presented, so for those people, Bloom solves that problem handily.

There are parts that sound much like its predecessor, but if the two records used traditional metal instrumentation, you wouldn't recognize it as the work of the same band. The buzzing, unnervingly-out-of-tune dulcimer is the only thing that obviously ties them together. Bloom is slower, moodier, and sometimes trance-inducing. The most important difference is how richly textured and dynamic it is. New instruments make their presence known. Opener "Quoth Azalea, the Demon (Rhododendoom II)" features piano and chanted background vocals. "Vriesea" has an organ of some variety. And "Panax" features a distant cousin of the dulcimer, some other kind of melodic percussion instrument (more akin to a xylophone, where planks are struck rather than strings). The tempos range much more broadly, and the vocals are as likely to whisper as to screech. But there are even more subtle dynamics at play, as you might notice in the transition from the opener’s haunting style to the much more emphatic playing of "Deathcap."

The result is that Doom in Bloom is even better than A Rose from the Dead. A masterpiece.

The Verdict: 5 out of 5 stars

It comes packaged with a second disc, called Allies. I've barely touched that one so far, but it uses drums from Bloom in collaboration with other metal musicians to make examples of dark ambient, Viking metal, doom metal, and more. My clear favorite is Arborist's "Total Entarchy," which starts on some very strange dark Americana and then goes on to combine it with doom metal. The disc is not a cohesive whole, despite the attempt at making it one through the first and last tracks, but it has a lot of very different ideas that are each interesting in their own right.

FULL DISCLOSURE: I wrote this review before I noticed this, but I was thanked by name in the liner notes, presumably because of things I wrote about the first record.




  1. You were thanked in the actual liner notes? THAT IS AWESOME.

    Great review. You turned me onto Botanist I and II and now this review gives me what I needed to finally check out III. Thanks!

  2. Thank you!

    I just mention the liner notes because I don't want people to think that swayed my opinion.

    1. Totally. I doubt any regulars would think twice, but I get your reasoning. It's worth bragging about, anyway!

  3. This is strangely fascinating. I think I'll have to explore it further.

    And that's cool about the liner notes.