Releasing his sixth album in eight years, as well as three EPs and a collective, Otrebor has been a busy guy. Formerly the brains behind online music zine Maelstrom, the San Francisco native moved away from music journalism to release music under the guide of Botanist – an entity champions the demise of humanity so that plant life can claim back the earth. You’d think that creating music solely about flora and fauna would be a limiting creative output, however, with 10 releases under his belt to date that is apparently not the case! Latest opus ‘Ecosystem’ sees Botanist further expand upon his empire of plant based metal.
Using only hammered dulcimers, drums and a bass creates an otherworldly soundscape that feels limitless in its sonic capabilities. While the term “black metal” is often thrown around when describing Botanist’s musical output, this feels lazy – while there are plenty of black metal influences at play, there is so much more to the dynamic of this project and ‘Ecosystem’ sees Otrebor explore territory that could almost be described as post metal. It’s much more subdued, when compared to the raging fury of previous albums such as ‘IV: Mandragora’, however, it’s no less bizarre.
Botanist is in no way accessible – if you’re a first time listener then don’t press play on this release thinking it will grab you straight away. There’s a lot to unpack; ‘Ecosystem’ ranges from flurried, angry hammer dulcimer blasts to a much gentler, almost shamanistic approach with a harmonium. If you’re prepared to keep an open mind and invest the time to get to grips with meandering musical journey this album takes then it’s an incredibly rewarding listen. The last eight years have seen a rapid and expansive music evolution for Botanist – much like the growth of a plant – and, for a musician who is able to create so much from so little, it’s exciting to ponder what will flower next.
(7/10 Angela Davey)