Botanist’s new album Ecosystem proves strangely otherworldly — in a sense, the music infuses the tangible “natural” world in which we live with the shimmering “supernatural” power that industrial development snuffs out. The San Francisco-area project’s music consists of ferocious black metal that’s packed full of ethereal, haunting tones that allow the mixture to “breathe” more freely than it might otherwise, and these powerful musical breaths of fresh air are more than “accessible” enough to infuse the listener with their energy. From a vantage point firmly planted within the familiar confines of suffocating black metal and what it reflects, Botanist’s Ecosystem feels like it’s asking those taking it in to look up and around and consider the broader context of our tumult.
There are other even inhuman forces circulating in the space between us — life, death, and however we’d like to define those points. These forces get a “voice” on Ecosystem thanks to the album’s powerfully elevated perspective.
On Ecosystem, the instrumentation itself proves piercing at times, like it too is calling out with the story of the natural world that modernity tends to trample underfoot. Like the music truly constitutes a step out into an unfamiliar environment, the band utilize familiar forms like the blast beat, but they’ve filled these frameworks with their unique cacophony that’s far more technically demanding than it is suffocating. The tones boil over with energy, but they’re less of a blistering onslaught than they are simply intricate. The captivating songs are like a musical portrait of a tangled, burning mass of plant life in the middle of a forest. The strikingly dynamic, insistently powerful vocal work and lyrics add to this desperate, personal sense — the group paints lyrical pictures of dystopian natural environments, like ghosts that have been hiding in the shadows and just around the corners have finally come out to make themselves known.
The band have given a voice to these “ghosts,” and in the process, they’ve amplified our own voice. We have an essentially life-and-death stake in the “story” of the natural world steadily losing ground, and Botanist deliver their tales of falling through nature’s atmosphere with the sonic gravity they’ve earned. Their music upends expectations about extreme metal and the “real-world” context in which it sits and replaces those vestiges with a newly illuminating perspective.