Album Review: SPECTRAL LORE & MARE COGNITUM - Wanderers: Astrology of the Nine
Artist: Spectral Lore/Mare Cognitum Album: Wanderers: Astrology Of The Nine Genre: Atmospheric Black Metal Review by Alex Logan Fortune telling, palm reading and tarot cards. All pseudoscience. Fact. As black metal evolves in the modern underground, its lyrical and conceptual content is becoming widely versatile. Galactic, universal and space-related ideologies have increasingly appealed to the atmospheric-minded crowd within the genre, widely considered to be down to the impact made by Swiss icons Darkspace nearly two decades ago. The boundless canvas is an attraction for spirituality from any part of this earth, and indeed the universe – with this specific type of freedom exactly what can bring the best out of one specific subsect – the ‘one man band’.
Enter Jacob Buczarski (Mare Cognitum) and Ayloss (Spectral Lore).
Adopting a regimented schedule over three years, the pair conjured a visionary melting pot of astrology, clairvoyance, enlightenment and spirituality that has resulted in ‘Wanderers: Astrology Of The Nine’. Sprawled across a tick under two hours, all nine tracks have a solar relationship with a planet and are intertwined with a mirrored spiritual figure. On face value, the sheer complexity is a mix of occult wisdom and mental drain, masterfully depicted by the album artwork - which can only be described as cosmically enthralling.
Joining forces through the darkest of motives, these two musicians have gone to the deepest depths of the abyss to create and conceptualise an atmosphere-driven monstrosity that takes several listens and states to even begin to absorb. Fact. Industrial racket with celestial ascent gets us underway, as Greek-based Spectral Lore opens with ‘Mercury (The Virtuous)’. Best described as a mix of barbaric propensity and calming elevation, explosive double kick drives the exploration through the audible underworld. Carefully crafted layers are ably accompanied by howling echoes of torment and shrilled sharp strings, inherently depressive by mental design.
Naturally intense and drawing stable percussion comparisons with Czechia black metallers Inferno, US-based Mare Cognitum bring everything to the table. It starts with ‘Mars (The Warrior)’ and a blast beat onslaught. There is a certain unrelenting groove and character embedded that illuminates the intended enlightenment and melodic accompaniment. Layers of chaotic yet subtle power chording permit the specific live string influence to be fully realised, with the sheer acoustic clarity providing a concise sound.
One driving factor to the realisation of spiritual, audible embodiment is the ideal of ‘recharging the batteries’. While engrossed with mental reflection of previous indoctrinations…‘Earth (The Mother)’ is the prime rejuvenation. Glazed passages emotionally balance the song smartly, as Spectral Lore destroys any brightness in the dark ecosystem. Chilled and doomed transforms into stages of anarchy as we bear witness to the unleashing of magazine-clip-like sprays of kick pedal annihilation before returning to a more comfortable down-tempo plague of warped intent. Vibrant and interconnected, Mare Cognitum adores us with the next two installments of ‘…The Nine’. After the previous rejuvenation, ‘Venus (The Priestess)’ is superbly timed as the gear shifts automatically throughout to allow for the listener to become the passenger. Adding a nice synth undertone, the core passages encourage a focus drift to a stable conscious, allowing the music to be the pathway forward. Drawing on strong elements of atmospheric blackgaze, elegant riffs towards the conclusion allow for an abundance of connected soundscape to be truly purposeful.
Not to be undone and continuing in the same vain, the next opus is the central backbone to the split. Stunning droney riffs mashed with intelligent reverb leads a funeral–like induction. Delicate chimes marinate the surreal glow that emanates from this delectable mix of poisoned noise, as strong rhythmic strings add a melodic warmth throughout. ‘Jupiter (The Giant)’ uses calculated tempo changes, featured prominently throughout the split, to reflect that agile astrological identity. An excellent interlude of thunderous curiosity alters into a traditional icy passage, as machine gun blast beats takes command in a gloriously pieced culmination of transcendent journey. An ominous opening with a certain mysteriousness, Spectral Lore alternates once more with ‘Saturn (The Rebel’). Caressing the atmosphere and reverbing the ‘ring structure’, chords spark a climatic peak, slowly followed by a dreary cloud of depressing melancholy. The stitching of this within the soundscape opens the door for subtle influences, with hints of funeral doom, synth refinement and acoustic strings providing a cleansing feeling throughout.
Sometimes when you hear a song for the first time – you instantly know it’s filling a position on your most prized playlists. Mare Cognitum’s ‘Neptune (The Mystic)’ does just that. The epic beginning with a full percussion onslaught leads this writer into a straight headbang in recognition of extremely well executed atmospheric black metal. Intensity throughout and unrelenting in superb stretches of shrilling icy live chords, shrieking vocals and battalion-like atmosphere, this track is the standout on the split. The trance-like mystic passages it can induce hits home the true capturing of its intent. Constructed with thought and with articulatory credibility throughout, every instrument plays its part but the way the timing of each layer allows for a maximised experience in every sense is naturally undeniable. Truly exceptional. While showcasing more experimental, ambient and down-tempo features during the split, Spectral Lore’s stronger raw influences shine through on ‘Uranus (The Fallen)’. Truly representing its song title, tones of repetitive engagement really pays off when shifting the audible dynamics. The first part provides a real intimate reality of descending within organised chaos, as a hauntingly schizophrenic feel, the abrupt rock bottom silence and subsequent realisation is beautifully tempered and placed towards the end. The final two tracks are collaborations between both bands – a two part odyssey concluding the spiritual spectrum, entitled ‘Pluto (The Gatekeeper)’. ‘Part I: Exodus Through The Frozen Wastes’ is a cosmic escapade channelling your inner being through a controlled meditative state. Trans lucid and reflective in one, its elements allow for ‘Part II: The Astral Bridge’ to be the descent, returning to our grounded core. Some creeping death metal elements and rolling percussion provide an unexpected allure as every little fill stands out brighter. The consistent string work throughout the split is not to be understated and underlines the quality from start to finish, as we fade away into completion.
While leaning towards Mare Cognitum’s contribution more favourably, there is no doubt this will not only be one of the best split albums in 2020 within black metal circles, but one of the best concept albums within the same circles in modern memory. The sheer production quality and emphasis highlights the dedication to its spiritual formulation and transposes the niche ‘one man band’ title to a higher standard across the underground. Thematically, the acute ability to have song titles resonate so well with the actual sound is somewhat mesmerising - delivering a close to flawless execution of methodical, cathartic and cleansing atmospheric black metal.
This is no pseudoscience. Fact.
Wanderers: Astrology of the Nine is available now through Bandcamp.
Mare Cognitum Bandcamp: https://marecognitum.bandcamp.com/
Spectral Lore Bandcamp: https://spectrallore.bandcamp.com/