BOTANIST "III : Doom In Bloom/Allies" (Totalrust Music)
I've listened to many albums over the years, some of them being in the subgenre vaguely defined as 'Avant Garde Doom' (for what it's worth or suppsoed to mean), and I've been accustomed to being surprised by some of the music bands are capable to create. Ever since I've discovered how far Metal music could go by listening to the classic 'Dawn Of Dreams' by Pan-Thy-Mo-Nium when it was first released in the early 90's, I've always looked for albums and bands capable of transcending the classic Metal canvas to create...something else. Which brings us to Botanist, a one-man band from San Francisco whose goal is to create music based on botanical science, plants and nature. At least, the thematic is original but is it the same with the music? For Botanist has already released before a double album which was clearly influenced by the Depressive Black Metal displayed by more known bands from its town (Xasthur, Leviathan), albeit with a twist : for there are no guitars in Botanist's music, there are instead replace by a hammered dulcimer.
And this precise trick is what makes Botanist music much enjoyable : it brings a lot of dream-like elements and an atmosphere of 'reverie', which goes well with the Black Metal elements and the Nature themes (after all, Nature and forests have been a staple in Black Metal ever since the early days of Darkthrone and Satyricon). But now, we're talking about the first double album and I'm supposed to review the new one, which is labelled as Funeral Doom; And this is where it goes wrong for me. You see, I do think that Doom Metal is much more than just slow and heavy music : if Doom Metal was just that, then I suppose that 'Still Loving You' or 'Mama I'm Coming Home' could be called Doom Metal. But, through its lyrical content and thematics, Doom is supposed to brings feeling of despair, sadness, loneliness, sorrow, fear, dread, sometimes even a bit of anger and hatred. And there's nothing here that correspond to that in any way : on this record, Botanist music is more like some slowly played Black Metal, with lyrics about plants, fungi and the like. Nothing wrong in itself, and I can understand that in some twisted ways you can find that a descriptive of the Amanita Virosa and its effects are Doom...but to me, it's just not personal : you never actually FEEL the despair and sadness of a man dying for having eaten the fungus, for example. It's just a descriptive of how the fungus can be deadly.
The hammered dulcimer is a great idea, and it brings a lot to the music but nevertheless not heaviness. The song structure is still lacking something. Some songs just change of pace without any valid reason, and there are all long ones (10 minutes+), which gives more the impression of listening to a long improvisation on a musical theme. It's typically the kind of album that'll be more enjoyed in some very precise circumstances, like wandering through a forest...There is a lot of positive elements, like athmosphere and musical originality, but it's still far from being Doom Metal : a friend of mine, after having listened to two tracks, descibed it as “AIR in their 'Virgin Suicides' era playing Black Metal”, and I do think that it's the most appropriate description to summarize the music displayed here by Botanist. It is music that will appeal to some Doom Metal fans, but I wouldn't call it Doom metal anyway.
Which brings us to the second CD of this album, aptly named 'Allies'. It is an interesting one for many reasons, the first being the way it was done : the intro and outro are some electronic music variation on the song 'Vriesa' from the 1st CD, the other ones are entirely new songs performed by friendly bands but they use EXACTLY the drums that were recorded for the Botanist part of the album, and are botanically themed. And there, we have a wide variety of music : classic Black Metal with Ophidian Forest, dreamy Post-Doom/Rock with Lotus Thief (one of the best tracks here), slow ritual Doom/Death with Cult Of Linnaeus, gothically inclined Doom with Bestiary and Doom-infused Folk with Arborist... The idea is good, the result is great. I've discovered 5 new interesting bands, some of them I'll gladly recommand and will support (mostly Lotus Thief : I didn't even knew the existence of the band before).
All in all (and I know this has been a long review, but after all it's 2 long albums), and after more than just a few spins, I consider this album to be a good release. Albeit not a Doom Metal album in my book, but you'll probably think otherwise (and I'll be damn interested in reading some different opinion than mine on this topic). Still, despite that, it has everything an open-minded Doom Metal fan may like and I'll suggest you take some close listening to it before deciding if it's your stuff or no. The concept is interesting, and I'm looking forward to hear more music from Botanist and its allies.
by Laurent Lignon