As oddly matched as Thief and Botanist might seem, this split LP was inevitable. ThiefDylan Neal’s brain actually starred in Botanist before forging his own way by reusing Gregorian chants in electro-industrial music. The projects share an experimental advantage, which begs the question of whether they will bring the best of each other in a common project. Botanist‘s Scar side marks a return to their primitive roots, while Thief‘s Diamond brush side puts more emphasis than ever on rock instrumentation.
TO Botanistcredit they are no longer “the band that plays black metal with hammered dulcimers instead of guitars”. The unorthodox instrumentation is too natural to be commented on like a gimmick. Scar can be assessed solely on its musicality and writing. In this regard, the people who embarked with Botanist with Collective (2017) or Photosynthesis (2020) might be baffled by the abject cruelty of opener “Juglans Nigra”.
The fragility of the dulcimers and the whispered voices recall an earlier era of Botanist, which makes sense considering that the majority of these songs are from an experimental session that took place between IV: Mandrake (2013) and VI: Flora (2014). The more DIY aesthetic remains the drums, which is somewhere between loose and sloppy play. It certainly sounds like people are hitting hammered dulcimers and screaming in a basement, but that’s really the charm of cuts like “Styrax” and “Antirrhinum”.
On average at two minutes, the stripped approach of the two tracks is not lacking Botanistthe unique atmosphere and melodic sensibilities of. It’s actually refreshing to hear the band’s main instruments go straight to the point, reminiscent of a time when the black-metal atmosphere didn’t depend on long songs.
“Cicatrix” takes more time to develop and marinate on certain ideas, underlining the artistic legitimacy of the process. Botanist taken during these sessions. But the real surprise of Scar comes via the remixes of the singles “Balete” and “Streptocarpus”, which were released last year. With richer arrangements and a more punchy production, it’s a welcome end to what is otherwise a throwback to Botanist’s earlier sound.
Up to this point, Thief preferred sampling and synths to real instruments — so the opener of the Diamond brush side of this division compares to Uniformthe transition from Wake up in fear (2017) to The long walk (2018). “Hyena” comes in with half-time drums and a dirty guitar sound, as Neal balances vocals and melodic vocalizations. It is certainly a contrast to the neoclassical electro-industrial of The 16 deaths of my master (released the same day, no less), but it shows how much Neal doesn’t rely on his niche to write compelling music.
In fact, the more rock passages bring out the sampled choir music even more, as we hear on “Acid Queen”. The sampled vocal harmonies emerge with much more emphasis, often becoming a point of transition between electro-acoustics and pure electronic music. In all cases, Thief continues his quest to create certified bangers from sacred music. The aggressiveness of the beats in “Firethroat” has a similar appeal to electronic / rock artists adjacent to metal like Health. Along the same lines, the title track is accompanied by dark dissonance, bombastic changes, and soulful vocals.
When it comes to the witch-house vibes and ‘2700 Years’ break beat or the seismic synth bass, twangy guitars and heavy syncope of ‘Corps Sprout’, Neal always finds a way to fit in. tastefully church music in its soundscape. The latter brings the heaviest guitar riffs ever to a Thief song, as patches of noise and menacing modulations soar to a climax. And yet, the song falls into a nasty rhythmic break in an instant. Neal’s ability to combine haunting dynamics and club-ready rhythms continues to set him in a class of his own.
Scar and Diamond brush offers an interesting approach Botanist and Thief. The first reveals a little-known part of his black metal dulcimer pilgrimage, while the second shows a side that no one has heard until now. Thief takes the larger “W”, actively fleshing out her style as the less popular of the two, but overall, this split provides a bond of creativity that no one else could find elsewhere.