It’s been a while since I’ve heard something in the realm of black metal that’s excited me. While dark ambient and noise has had its day in the sun, much of the genre’s experimental faction has soured. The only two things I’ve heard as of late that have given me pause are Xasthur’s Portal of Sorrow and Botanist’s III: Doom in Bloom. It should be noted right off the bat that the latter album is a two-disc showing. The second disc is entitled Allies and simply takes the drum tracks from III: Doom in Bloom and allows other bands to make songs over them. It’s awful in its range of doom metal and shoegaze black metal. And it’s not Botanist. Therefore, I’m going to ignore Allies completely in this review and focus on the infinitely more beautiful flowering bud of wrath that is III: Doom in Bloom.
What strikes me as fresh with the aforementioned albums – Portal of Sorrow and III: Doom in Bloom – is their dedication to folk. Xasthur famously brought on freak folker Marissa Nadler to guest on tracks highlighting violins and detuned pianos. But with Botanist, the dedication to the acoustic is extreme. Most famously, the artist primarily uses drums, vocals, and a hammered dulcimer. The stylistic result from the choice of instruments sounds something akin to post-rock. And by post-rock, I refer to the likes of Mogwai, Arcade Fire, Godspeed, etc. But with blackened howls overtop of it. Yes, there are epic swells and uplifting melodies throughout this black metal. Yet, all of it remains uncompromising, intense, and pure rather than contradictory and jarring. Instead of sounds that are hollow and mindless like an Agalloch album, the music captures both your heart and your intellectual faculty of understanding.
Lyrically and conceptually, III: Doom in Bloom also has a strong foundation. From interviews, one can gather that there is supposed to be a literal doom within the bloom. The album is meant to portray a demon, Azalea, instructing a botanist on how to bring about a green, bio-apocalypse (Krasman). The whispered parts in each song are further instructions for the botanist. Of course, the cheeky characters here are probably more figurative (Krasman). A demon will probably not speak in the ear of a scientist and tell them to end the world. Instead, our science has most likely reached a point of entropy where the biosphere will hit back and replace our species. The demon is just a nice black meal motif.
What I perhaps love best about the piece is the connotations it gives me. Music is always best for me when I can get lost in its ethos, its image, its zeitgeist, its sense of belonging and purpose. And when I can feel that draw. III: Doom in Bloom not only makes me want to pick up a guitar – an acoustic one, of course – and attempt to make weird metal, but it makes me wonder what others into Agalloch, Wolves in the Throne Room, and Xasthur as well as Botanist will build. And what would that microgenre’s face be? Would it be obsessed with organic sounds, eco fascism, and the apocalypse as Botanist is? Would it be primarily concerned with the decay of a rotting building and empty caskets if one takes the path of Xasthur? Will it be unopposed to popularity, winter, depression, and the revitalization of nature as is Agalloch? Will it embrace communalism with Wolves in the Throne Room? All of these cliché rhetorical questions give me a lot of hope for experimental black metal, for its inevitable loss of anything grim while turning into something far more serious.
“MMM Premiere: Botanist’s apocalyptic mission branches out on ‘Quoth Azalea.’” Brian Krasman.
Meat Mead Metal. N.p., 12 April, 2012. Web. 19 Oct. 2012.
01 Quoth Azalea, the Demon (Rhododendoom II)
03. Ganoderma Lucidum
05. Ocimum Sanctum
06. Amanita Virosa
01 Matrushka “The Ejaculate on the Petals of the Femme Orchid I”
02. Cult of Linnaeus “The War of All Against All”
03. Ophidian Forest “Cordyceps”
04. Arborist “Total Entarchy”
05. Lotus Thief “Nymphaea Carulea”
06. Bestiary “It Lives Again”
07. Matrushka “The Ejaculate on the Petals of the Femme Orchid II”