Tag Archives: Botanist

Folk Metal: The Knots and Thorns of Roots Music

Botanist

Botanist

“Folk metal” sounds like some sort of hideously incongruous juxtaposition, like “petroleum cupcake.” Folk music is rippling water, swaying bows, and long naps amidst the dandelions; metal is twisted cancerous demons belching fire and destroying all that is good. Happy pure-hearted folk and miserable metal from the foul pit: never the twain shall meet.

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Botanist’s Black Metal Floral Apocalypse

Botanist

Metal imagery is rife with full of rotting corpses, toothy devils, blasphemy, and meat. Cannibal Corpse, Mastodon, Emperor, Black Sabbath and Deicide—those are the kinds of aggressive band names that are natural fits for the genre. Botanist, not so much.

But for Otrebor, the evil genius behind Botanist, botany and metal go together like leaves and flowers. Since 2011, the San Francisco-based Otrebor has released six albums and three EPs under the Botanist moniker. On each one, Otrebor plays drums and shimmering hammered dulcimer while sing-screaming twisted lyrics about ominous fecundity. “Climb high/ Stems twine/ Grow wide/ Pinnate leaflets/ Jasmine scent/ Behemoth trunk /Immense strength/ Wisteria.”

Botanist’s two most recent albums represent a departure for him. The Collective: Setlist 2017, which will be released in the upcoming months, is a bit more visceral and groove-driven than his previous work, and has a more of a “live” feel, in part because it’s a group effort. Toorpand and Daturus of death metal outfit Sentient Ignition play bass and drums respectively, while Cynoxylon of powerviolence/hardcore band Concrete Walls provides vocals and plays harmonium.  This version of the group is scheduled to tour Europe in the fall.

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Lotus Thief Draw From Ancient Texts to Create Dark Spiritual Epics

Lotus Thief
Lotus Thief. Photo by Hemali Zaveri.

A brief listen to Gramarye, the second album by San Francisco-based Lotus Thief, reveals an abundance of both conceptual and compositional artistry. Consisting of five tracks, only one of which is under eight minutes in length, the album covers a wide swath of musical ground—there are hints of prog, post-metal, psychedelia, shoegaze, classical, and experimental soundtrack music. The album’s stylistic restlessness is held together by lyrical themes concerning magic and mythology.

“The music I love the most plays with memory and creates images that are genuinely magical,” says frontwoman and songwriter Bezaelith (real name Beth Gladding). “It’s this powerful force that impacts people on many different levels.”

Like the epic poem The Odyssey, on which the track “Circe” is based, Gramarye is a lyrical journey through landscapes that are alternatively rocky and peaceful. Many of those lyrics are pulled directly from the texts in which they’re based and the musical intensity  swells and recedes with the dramatic arc of the narrative. “The Book of the Dead,” builds from ethereal vocals and evocative melodies into a fusillade of blast beats and whispered, sepulchral vocals. “Idisi” blends gossamer guitars and choir vocals with ominous rhythms and stabbing, atonal guitars.

Bezaelith, an English teacher sought inspiration from various fictional, spiritual and occult texts she has read over the years. “The Book of Lies” is about the influence of Aleister Crowley, and “Idisi” addresses the medieval “Merseburg Incantations.”

“These stories all just called to me,” Bezaelith says. “I started reading through these texts, and the words pretty much landed where they belonged in the songs.”

During a lengthy, revealing conversation, Bezaelith talked about the birth of Lotus Thief, the contributions of one-man metal iconoclast Otrebor (Botanist) to Lotus Thief’s sound, the impetus for Gramarye, the near-death experience that gave the multi-instrumentalist new drive and her strange connection to the Salem witch trials.

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