Botanist - IV: Mandragora [The Flenser - 2013]
Botanist; the solo-project of R Otrebor cuts a sharp farrow through genre pigeon-holing and, here, manages to combine elements of Doom / Black Metal and post-rock into a rich cocktail of percussive styles - blast-beats, kick-drums, snappy snares and tom-toms and the eclectic, shattered feedbacks and sustained vibrations of a hammered dulcimer. Naturally the hammered dulcimer being a percussive instrument while overlapping that of strings almost mimics the distorted BM guitar sound while still retaining a unique sound. Rather than detracting from the compositions the hammered dulcimer actually blends well with them because Martinelli makes it a central part of the percussion.
The philosophy behind Botanist is self-evident: nature in revolt and its destruction of humanity. Indeed, it echoes somewhat with that of Finnish philosopher Pentti Linkola who sees nature self-destructing in order to vanquish itself of the parasite; man. ’Arboreal Gallows (Mandragora I)’ sets out the lay of the land and flows with a confident drum patterns through which the hammered dulcimer begins to clamour allowing the track to feel much more expansive than it actually is. Martinelli adds Abbath-like croaks to deliver an inhuman menace while harsh sounds begin to crash and fracture. ‘To Amass an Army (Mandragora III)’ starts with hushed vocals before plummeting into an abyss of whirling, barren, percussive blasts - over which the dulcimer rings and clatters. Rather than being an experimental mess one aspect is evident throughout the tracks, and that is the tight and competent arrangements of the tracks - they are executed well and this makes the listening experience almost addictive - because amongst the relaying time signatures there is melody and musical development that bleeds through making the aural experience compulsive and rewarding. The bleak, strong BM undertones of ‘Nourishing The Fetus (Mandragora IV)’ ebb and flow like Burzum’s eponymous album in parts. ‘Mandrake Legion (Mandragora V)’ barrels along with blast-beats and a real, raw BM-like feel. This track, of course, is the anthem for Martinelli’s ‘...army of Mandragoras brought to life through ancient alchemical cult practice [through which] Azalea commands The Botanist to create this shrieking horde of death in order to wipe the Earth clean of its enemies.’ It sets up a nice, green-fingered, precursor for ‘Sophora Tetraptera’ and the closing track ‘Rhyncholaelia Glauca’. The latter of which snaps and sparks with sharp beats and an almost mock-military style, it is the most complete track on the album in terms of bringing all the previous styles and patterns together while maintaining a continuous flow of new sounds and clanging dulcimer vibrations - anthemic towards the middle, it crests towards the advent of what seems an inevitable victory. The BM-like feel is maintained, but Martinelli has admirable created a new hybrid by his keen playing style and unique use of the hammered dulcimer.
It’s not an immediately accessible album, but then that’s probably the point! Otrebor doesn’t produce throwaway pollutants - he has, here, crafted something which only reveals itself after repeated listens and only then does the scream of the Mandrake become discernible. Excellent!Michael Cunningham