Thursday, March 28, 2013

Botanist: IV: Mandragora (2013)

Mandrake Legion

I’ve been following Botanist since its debut, and I have loved every minute of it. By now you’ve certainly heard about the project which creates metal-like music with drums and hammered dulcimer, but maybe you haven’t actually heard it yet. For those who’ve had their interest piqued, IV: Mandragora is the perfect place to start.

Botanist’s first release emulated black metal, with short bursts of song played at high speed. The second release went the opposite direction, with long, moody compositions emulating doom or perhaps the WITTR school of black metal. Naturally, IV: Mandragora synthesizes the two approaches, for the most dynamic Botanist album to date.

With Botanist, what surrounds the music has been nearly as interesting as the music itself. As always, the art is excellent. But the strange eco-terrorist storyline was, until now, of marginal importance to me personally. For the first time, I’ve begun to see how it all ties together. The five-part Mandragora suite makes use of all the tricks Botanist has shown us thus far to, undeniably, tell a story. It begins as high-speed black metal (“Arboreal Gallows”), serving as menacing introduction. The doomy “Nightshade” seems to draw us into the Verdant Realm and set up the conflict. Anticipation is clearly the mood of “To Amass an Army,” and the grand “Mandrake Legion” shows this completed army in all their glory. Throughout, the drums drive it forward (especially “Nightshade”), the croaking vocals are as insane as ever, and the dulcimer buzzes ever more like an electric guitar in all its dissonant fury.

The frequent tempo changes and digestible length make it the easiest starting point in the catalog. As someone who was fully enthralled since the beginning, the challenging Doom in Bloom remains my favorite by a slight margin, but Mandragora may well be remembered as the consensus favorite.

The Verdict: 4.5 out of 5 stars

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