Unusual metal band Botanist overgrows Press Club on Sunday

Plant-worshiping black metal beaten out on dulcimers, prog-grind, blackened crust, doom folk, psych doom—The Press Club had a whole lot of something for weirdo music aficionados on Sunday.

Ungulate opened up, playing its fifth show and presenting increasingly solid songwriting chops. The two-guitar and drum kit, no bass, setup serves their black metal/crust style well. I saw them a few weeks ago at the Argentavis show at Starlite Lounge, and all I can say is that if you’re into melodic violence, intensity and quality local shit, keep an eye on Ungulate.

Up next was (waning), another local act that reminds us all of why Sacramento’s a great town for metal. The band’s synth-heavy and exploratory approach is heavily geared toward atmosphere. I love (waning) in large part because I feel they help to expand the definition of what metal can be. Go to one of their shows, close your eyes for a stretch and listen.

Competing followed. Progressive and grinding, a good word for Competing’s listenability might be “challenging.” Chords grind out at incredibly high speeds and the drumming overwhelms with complex rhythms and furious beats. Just watching them play is crazy, with fingers raking out over the entire fretboard to net those real hairy chords. I didn’t connect with the music during the show, but after listening to their EP to reevaluate my feelings, there’s a whole lot of clever and interesting musicianship going on that went over my head. I plan on seeing them again to figure them out proper. Regardless of me missing the point, Competing is a talented and innovative local act that any metal fan looking for something really different should seek out.

I spent too much time outside to catch the entirety of Foie Gras’ set, which is a shame. A one-person doom folk act, Foie Gras combines drone and folk into a dreamy and unsettling sound. When lone-musician Iphigenia, wearing a chain mail hood, started the one song I saw, she cut it short a few moments in and commanded everybody to step in closer, and everybody did without hesitation (noteworthy, as small audiences are not always receptive to acts this way).

Botanist closed, and I wasn’t prepared for it. I picked up on their whole “we really like plants” thing, I dug the overly delicate, reverby approach to black metal that felt more sunbleached than frozen. Checking out their latest album, VI: Flora, was the only homework I did on the band.

So when the robed druids wreathed in vines broke out the dulcimers and the harmonium, there was a moment of clarity that made me want to dig through their whole discography—and this was before they hit a single note.

Covered in fog illuminated by a green backlight, Botanist played a passionate, driven set marked by both the delicacy of the tones and the harshness of its clarity. The band is the sort with a mission statement: Botanist celebrates nature as divinity. It weaves themes of classic black metal misanthropy with true reverence for the planet as it is, reveling in humanity’s eventual collapse after pushing Earth too far. And for all of the high-minded presentation and unusual instrumentation, Botanist doesn’t come across as arrogant, bombastic or pompous. The players are passionate, the music isn’t forced, and somehow, the combination of blasting thrash beats and sometimes fuzzy, sometimes clear dulcimer tones, while not interlocking the way we’re used to, still manages to enrapture the listener. Botanist is an incredible band that draws influence from thrash, black, progressive and more to clear a path that is undeniably its own.

Press Club is getting some stellar acts recently, and with Yob, Will Haven and Church set to demolish the place on March 4, now is the time to really start paying attention to local metal and punk shows.

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