Album Review: MARE COGNITUM - Solar Paroxysm

Artist: Mare Cognitum

Album: Solar Paroxysm

Genre: Atmospheric Black Metal

Review by Steve Jenkins

From the depths of the outer rim to solid footing of green earth, Solar Paroxysm, cosmic black metal entity Mare Cognitum's fifth album, finds itself moving from the impossible to the familiar.

It's no surprise that this album comes from I, Voidhanger, as this roster is one of the most creative, enthralling and straight up best labels around right now. All you need to do is look at the artwork for Solar Paroxysm and you already know that you're in for a spacey, progressive and enchanting journey. Thankfully, Mare Cognitum's newest piece of work is more than just a pretty face, too. I can see this as being the type of album that black metal purists point at and complain about, but I find it to be so brilliantly put together. I always find it impressive hearing an album like this coming from just one man. Solar Paroxysm has such a beautiful, orchestrated layout to it that just could not be improved in my opinion.

The music is built up on a kind of, but not quite Cascadian black metal sound. There are hints of funeral doom metal in the earlier stages of the album and the whole thing rings of an ambient beauty. On Solar Paroxysm, Mare Cognitum play an accessible style of atmospheric black metal which feels almost orchestral - not in terms of the instrumentation, mind, but in terms of the production and the atmosphere that production enables. The atmosphere is so fantastic, revealing a dark yet hopeful and mythical aura. It's a case where you'd expect it to drag, but somehow nothing seems unnecessary and the album has a wonderful flow and excellent variety of influence to move it along. I can't emphasize enough how nice it is to hear an album in this vein where each song, while not straying from the album's path, has it's own personality.

As is usual for a Mare Cognitum album there are not many individual tracks on Solar Paroxysm, just five this time around, though all have fairly long durations of course. The first track 'Antaresian' has the obvious benefit of wow factor when first listening to the album, but I think to my ears the album's crown jewel has to be 'Luminous Accretion', though with that said this album deserves your full attention from start to finish. I say this as a massive fan of everything this man has created, but Solar Paroxysm is easily the best album of Mare Cognitum so far. It's sound is simply immense, something which the production job, also done by Jacob Buczarski, shows off well.

Wanderers: Astrology of the Nine was a great split last year, one of my favourite releases in 2020 actually, but was merely a foretaste of what Mare Cognitum was capable of in 2021. Black metal album of the year? It could well be.

Mare Cognitum seems to have perfected the art of turning really simple melodies into compelling black metal. That's my takeaway from listening to this and any of is previous work, whether it's a collaboration or a solo effort. It's also an album that has been a quick grower for me and Mare Cognitum may be one of my favourite black metal finds in a long, long time. This is seriously my favourite hour of music that I've heard so far this year.

9 out of 10.

Solar Paroxysm is available now via I, Voidhanger Records.

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