Botanist - I: The Suicide Tree / II: A Rose from the Dead (tUMULt, 2011)
by atanamar Friday, December 23, 2011 5 comments
I’m entirely enamored of the hammered dulcimer. The instrument sounds like the mutant offspring of a piano, harpsichord and harp. Botanist employs the instrument’s powers for evil; it’s a refreshing and ingenious idea. The band crafts twisted black metal in which the hammered dulcimer replaces guitars altogether. The results exceed all possible expectations. Botanist’s ambitions, however, don’t end with this sonic switcheroo; the music is augmented with a vicious, verdant lyrical narrative.
Botanist doesn't possess any of the somnambulant torpor of the “world” and “new age” music that usually features the hammered dulcimer; these are fucking sinister compositions. Botanist is the brain child and product of one enigmatic man bearing the pseudonym Otrebor. He accompanies these manic orchestrations with well trained beats and blasts, overlaying it all with a crepitating croak.
The most stunning aspect of these songs are the riffs. Each track is filled with distinctive and memorable musical phrases that ebb and flow with sonic tension. Creeping, chromatic formations battle with abject dissonance and fascinating harmony. Vibes of victory, loss and sorrow take to life, enveloping the listener in a sylvan cocoon. The hammered dulcimer is produced with perfect clarity, making excellent use of the stereo field to transmit its staccato tintinnabulations.
Otrebor's drumming prowess imbues the hammered dulcimer with a particular vehemence. The peculiar synergy of blastbeats and hammered strings radically rethinks black metal's tremolo picked raison d'être. Botanist unmoors a staggering raft of rhythms; I'm repeatedly inclined to bang my head to this music.
Tossing orthodoxy to the wind, Botanist ably embodies black metal's chaotic ethos. Otrebor's saurian vocal ministrations convey only the utmost misanthropy. Infinite care is given to the meticulous, poetic lyrics, which detail the constituents of The Botanist's Verdant Realm. The eponymous character tends his flock of deadly flora as if they were family. With melancholy and hatred, our narrator eagerly awaits the annihilation of mankind. It's unclear whether or not he'll personally participate in the impending holocaust.
Don't fear this new horizon of sound; Botanist has produced something coherent, compelling and crucial. Botanist's music won't please all ears, but don't discount these xenomorphic anthems without due diligence and an open mind. Do beware the gorechid.
I bought the gorgeously packaged double album from Aquarius Records. You can stream both discs in full over at Brooklyn Vegan.
My Year in Metal, 2011 – Ten Favorite Albums
by atanamar Tuesday, December 13, 2011 0 comments
It's time for me add to the year-end list pile. Metal Injection has posted my ten favorite LPs of 2011 over here. As usual, longer lists may follow in this space, including favorite EPs and concerts. Or not. I may have already moved into the future.
Death - November 14th, 1998 - Coney Island High, NYC
by atanamar Monday, December 12, 2011 3 comments
I discovered Death shortly after discovering death metal in 1993. I spun Individual Thought Patterns for many a moon, loving it like only a teenage dude could. I love it to this day. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to see Death live until halfway through college, when they hit New York on tour for The Sound of Perseverance.
My recollections of the concert are spotty but poignant. Hammerfall opened, experiencing extensive technical difficulties. Curfews meant absolutely nothing to Coney Island High, so the show was simply delayed indefinitely. It was late in the night when Chuck Schuldiner and company took the stage, and the crowd was intoxicated beyond belief. With the opening notes of “The Philosopher,” the subterranean deathtrap erupted into an absolute melée.
My clearest memories of that night are of Chuck Schuldiner’s stage banter. He seemed proud of the beastly, visceral crowd reaction to his musical legacy, but he was also annoyed by our violence. Chuck asked the crowd to calm down, or at the very least stop crowdsurfing into his microphone, which had smacked him repeatedly in the face.
The insane audience looms large in my memories of that night. I have no idea how I managed to capture any pictures; life-threatening danger must certainly have been involved. I do recall complete, utter and total vehemence as “Zombie Ritual” closed out the set. The crooked smile on Chuck’s face during that bedlam is burned into my brain.
Rest in peace, Chuck.
Inquisition, Disma, Agrath – December 2nd – The Studio at Webster Hall, NYC
by atanamar Monday, December 05, 2011 1 comments
Black metal doesn't always translate well to a live setting. When it does, the resulting atmosphere is rarely jubilant. Friday night, however, had a celebratory aura. Inquisition and Disma sport diametrically opposed sounds, but the low and slow played incredibly well against the rapid and ripping. By the end of the evening my face hurt as much as my neck; you aren't supposed to smile so much at metal shows.
I descended into Webster Hall's basement half-way through Agrath's set. The subterranean space was jampacked with humanity; this tremendous bill flushed all manner of folk from the woodwork. Agrath's orthodox take on black metal was sonically pleasing if not terribly original. The outstanding rhythm section, however, whet my appetite for annihilation.
Disma are acquiring a rabid fan-base. The band's amiable, ordinary Jersey-guy vibe is particularly endearing. Then, of course, there's the music. Disma's crepitating old-school death expectorations are easy to appreciate. Excellent sound conveyed the crawling, crushing immensity of their songs especially well on this night. The sweltering crowd ate up the set, reciprocating the pulverizing intensity with appreciative howls. “Chasm of Oceanus” spawned a lively, communal slow motion headbang. The entire room experienced an involuntary, synchronized catharsis; the image is blissfully burned in my mind. During the slowest instrumental moments, Craig Pillard would crouch down on the stage with an agonized look on his face; it appeared as if he could barely contain the demons that his vocals unleash. The crowd was more than willing to devour those growling apparitions. Absolutely righteous.
This was my first taste of the live Inquisition experience. I was braced for disappointment; I've learned to reign in overactive optimism in my old age. The band's music is a thesis in majestic black metal mastery. Ominous Doctrines Of The Perpetual Mystical Macrocosm is one of last year's best albums (or this year's, or both). Would it work on stage? Yes, it did. Bedecked in meticulous corpse paint, the band spewed victory with every outburst of absurd, astral arpeggiation. The concise mix transmitted superb sonic fidelity; the duo produce an unbelievably huge sound. Dagon had a gorgeous, deep and shattering guitar tone; no tinny skinny here.
The crowd erupted into an immediate and massive melee for Inquisition's set. People seemed surprised by their own violent, rapturous reaction to the music. I was pummeled and quickly covered from head to toe in beer; it didn't matter one bit. Folks were crowd surfing, clutching shiny new Inquisition LP's in hand while being crushed up against the ceiling. Claws filled the air, squashing invisible oranges while simultaneously performing the venerable Suffo-chop in time to Incubus’ bludgeoning blastbeats. It's my new favorite metal gesticulation.
Dagon's reptilian vocals have a peculiar, melodic timbre that I'd never fully appreciated. This becomes more evident and essential on stage. Dagon also possesses a theatrical flair that recalls Abbath of Immortal. Yes, the comparison is all too easy, but it's apt. Having completely surpassed Immortal in quality, Inquisition are on the precipice of massive success. Judging by our goofy grins, windmilling hair and euphoric glee, they don't have far to go.
You can check out some pictures of the show here and here.
Best Music Writing 2011
by atanamar Sunday, December 04, 2011 6 comments
I’m very self-conscious of my writing. I work hard at it, probably too hard. The harder I work, the more over-the-top, absurd and overwrought my writing becomes. Sometimes, though, a review will just fall out of my head, fully formed, stream of consciousness. Those are probably my best pieces. If only it were always so easy.
I was shocked, to say the least, when Da Capo Press contacted me regarding my blog. They wanted to publish one of my concert reviews in Best Music Writing 2011. At first I thought I was being scammed (they would be paying me after all), but this was no joke. I had no idea what an honor it was to be so chosen, and I steadfastly refused to believe the whole thing would happen until the book was in my hands.
The book is in my hands, and on book shelves now. I’m incredibly grateful to my wife for editing everything I write with a discerning eye, and also to Jeanne Fury for helping make the whole thing happen. I’d also like to thank Wormrot, Defeatist, Mutant Supremacy, Psychic Limb and Curandera for helping me besmirch this book with metal. I’m damned proud.