Review Summary: An exciting journey through the wilderness.
Botanist is not the usual musical project within the black metal scene. Guitars are swapped for a hammered dulcimer, an incredibly arduous instrument to play, which ensures this trademark sound is not likely to be found anywhere else. On the other hand, that abundantly raw quintessence harboured within more traditional black metal is also found here, engendering a rather primal sound. It is like the musical equivalent of feeling nature's tender embrace coil around you, only to discover the acute thorns sheathed within the penduncle grasp. In that sense, this record is similar to nature itself, as they both are capable of being beautiful and abhorrent.
As the record blossoms into play, one is easily illuded into thinking this is a more of a melancholic outing. Stirring pianos germinate amidst the silence, conjuring an eerie, yet beguiling atmosphere upon the listener. The elegance augments in grandiosity until everything comes to a halt. It is at this moment that the hammered dulcimer bellows into life, asserting its colossal presence swiftly. The immensely agonising vocals then pour into the record, eroding any sense of beauty and replacing it with consternation. A truly painful sound is emitted, adding an abrasive quality to the mix. With these two intertwining elements of the record, comes an equal proportion of harmony from the likes of the melodic notes and disarray from the alacrity of the drums.
Aside from all of this beauty, comes multiple issues buried within the record. Firstly, come the prodigious song lengths of the predominantly abrasive tracks. It could easily be possible for one to become tired when listening to the tracks in full, as they feel somewhat distended. This could have been easily avoided, as there are breaks from instrumentals found within the tracks that could easily be pathways to new ones.
Apart from that issue, only one other seems to be present, which is the lo-fi production. This is not an issue within itself, as artists can easily make good records with lo-fi production, such as Paysage D'hiver. The problem lies in the fact that the undefined production leads to the instruments drowning out the echoing clean vocals, which carry a very sorrowful property. A key element to the record has been rendered almost obsolete, and while this problem is predominately found in the more caustic sections of the record, it is easily noticed.
Botanists first release as a group, rather than a one-man project, proves to be one of the best in the whole discography. It is incredibly spiritual, lavish and permeated with complex layers to discover with each listen. Due to this, it is maybe not the best starting point for a new listener, as the previous releases are a lot more facile to decipher, but this proves to be much more rewarding when fully appreciated. With all of its beauty peppered throughout, 'Collective: The Shape of He to Come', proves to be an essential listen with its evident musical evolution, and may just be a sign for greater things to come.