Review Summary: Eco-terrorist, one manned dulcimer black metal.
By all accounts this should be a dull listen; the music is often hard to get into. Botanist’s IV: Mandragora
relies on a combination of drum patterns, a hammered dulcimer and the strange vocal styling of a strange undecipherable croaky, throaty snarl that every so often will turn into a typical black metal shriek. Once you get past the gimmicky combination there is something about this one man project that ensnares the listener, just like a metaphorical vine. Botanist’s albums are not without a purpose, with the overall message being that plants (and nature) will rise up and take back what was originally theirs. It’s this extreme thinking that makes IV: Mandragora
such an interesting listen. Backed by a lo-fi production and a rather short run-time, Botanist’s fourth release in the series makes headway, building off the other chapters (including a forty tracked double album, I: The Suicide Tree / II: A Rose from the Dead
) and some noticeable differences arise. IV: Mandragora
is doomier, and in parts post metal like. The sound may not be fully unique, but there’s a fair chance that it would take a while to find something in a similar vein. At thirty-three minutes, IV: Mandragora
is an album built on context, namely that the natural world will eventually take its place over mankind. In case it hasn’t been surmised so far, IV: Mandragora
isn’t an ordinary black metal record. With track titles like ‘Arboreal Gallows (Mandagora I)’, ‘Nightshade (Mandragora II)’ and ‘Mandrake Legion (Mandragora V)’ it’s clear that this album has a rather one-sided, almost nerdy, unconventional feel to it.
The multi-instrumentalist behind the helm of Botanist prefers anonymity, and will often use the band’s moniker as a title. This works well, especially when this one man act has been tagged an “eco-terrorist” and as laughable as that will seem, it adds to the overall mystique of his music. Instrumentally, the album becomes a highly successful listen as for the most part, the unconventional vocal styling can and will be a turn off for those listening. At a rudimentary level though, it should be expected, Botanist is a black metal band. Yes, the band has been twisted and shaped into this display of shrieking, not to mention the use of the dulcimer adding a whole new soundscape and excellently intertwines dank, sinister natural elements into the music. For what it is, it’s done really well. Take the track title and plant ‘Nightshade’ for example: The plant is edible, but in some cases poisonous. Where ‘Mandrakes’ often resemble the figure of a man or women and was often used as an anaesthetic and a key component in witchery. The message the Botanist portrays with, IV: Mandragora
is a not so happy one.
Overall, IV: Mandragora
is a record that’s short without cutting off abruptly. Chances are most are going to find the vocals grating. That’s the way it’s supposed to be. Botanist uses imagery (despite the unintelligible lyrics) that works well with the artist’s overall theme of plants one day reclaiming the world. It’s not going to be a straight-forward listen, and that is for the most part what makes IV: Mandragora
, so appealing. Unfortunately, this is not going to be everybody’s cup of tea. Most won’t have the patience to get past the not so usual vocals in order to appreciate the album as a whole. But, if you’re looking for something out of the ordinary, IV: Mandragora
should definitely make a way onto your play list. For fans of Botanist’s previous work, the album is only going to make you love the concept even more.