Friday 1 January 2021

ALBUM REVIEW: Botanist, "Photosynthesis"

By: Josh McIntyre


Album Type: Full Length

Date Released: 30/10/2020

Label: The Flenser


“Photosynthesis” track listing:


1). Light

2). Water

3). Chrorophyll

4). Dehydration

5). Bacteria

6). Stroma

7). Palisade

8). Oxygen


The Review:


A degree of antihumanism, both philosophically and literally, has flown through the veins of black metal since its founding. As the shock-value aspects (ie anti-Christendom, actual murder) withered away over time due to oversaturation, more bands sought to position their interests beyond the anthropocentrism of certain reactionary artists and more aligned with environmentalist romanticism. This has been especially true within the American/Cascadian scene. References to landscapes and preservation grow in prominence over more traditional and human ideas such as mythology.


Botanist lies at the end of this polarity. All remnants of human experience are removed in favor of our chlorophyll-filled friends. Biosphere over anthrosphere. As silly as this may appear on paper it makes sense as a reaction to black metal culture, taking the ideas from bands like Wolves in the Throne Room to their radical end points. We all know the rumor about Ulver recording in a forest. Well, Botanist is the forest. And of course ideology is meaningless without praxis. Botanist’s push beyond black metal (while staying within the subgenre’s core elements) features the replacement of guitars with hammered dulcimers, a stringed instrument that is struck with mallets. Again, this may sound silly at first mention but it creates a feeling of melodicism and atmosphere not too distant from other experimentalist extreme metal artists such those already mentioned. This is achieved while also giving the project a unique quality.


“Photosynthesis” is the culmination of Botanist’s journey after a decade. While Botanist has sought to become-plant it has also been slowly becoming-Botanist through a series of releases, usually through Flenser, one of the prime exporters of challenging and experimental artists today. Botanist has made a name for itself as such a project but past outputs, while generally great, have differed in both musical quality and production value. “Photosynthesis”is the first time tracks bring me pure pleasantness without the occasional distraction of “wow this is really weird.” This album achieves Botanist at a high point, a coalescence of uniqueness and togetherness within the post-black metal world. Botanist is still weird, yes, but it no longer sounds as if that has been a goal in itself.


It is really amazing how great the often-piano-like dirges of hammer dulcimers flow over the more familiar sounds of aggressive drums and distorted bass. The singing vocals carry weight and sensitivity, like a mysterious choir heard underneath the canopy during a nightly hike, while the shrill screaming is more like a forceful declaration of both a desire and a right to life. It is the language and refrain of the vegetation around you, the human outsider, simply existing because it can.


We are brought beyond civilization, beyond human. We explore that which is often cast aside by our anthropocentric attitudes, especially in Western culture. There is more to life than 46 chromosomes and skin. To better understand ourselves we must occasionally cast aside our humanity.  Botanist holds its hands out to invite us to higher thinking, to connectivity with that which we have segregated ourselves from.


“Photosynthesis” is available HERE

Band info: bandcamp || facebook