Interview: Jake Buczarski of MARE COGNITUM
Mare Cognitum is a one-man band conceived by Jacob Buczarski. who seems to have perfected the art of turning really simple melodies into compelling black metal. The man behind this cosmic style of extreme music, should definitely consider himself as one of the best black metal acts now. He effortlessly blends atmosphere, and modern production, with raw black metal riffing, and grit. We were lucky enough to ask him a few questions and find out more about his craft, you can read the interview below! Also, be sure to check out Mare Cognitum’s most recent record which is a split LP with atmospheric black metal aficionado, Spectral Lore. The album is titled, 'Wanderers: Astrology of The Nine', out now via I, Voidhanger.
What was it about space and the planetary themes for this split LP that made you decide to write an album about it?
“Wanderers” is sort of a continuation of the previous split Spectral Lore and I did, “Sol”. We wanted to expand upon that approach, adding mysticism and mythology to the planets as we did to the sun, characterizing them as beings in an epic tale while still targeting very earthly human experiences and topics. We wanted to create our own new mythology through the lens of the modern world and our collective burgeoning knowledge of the science of these planets.
Was this album something that yourself and Spectral Lore had been planning for quite some time? How did the process come about and did it take a long time to get everything finished?
This was actually an idea cooked up by Luciano who runs I, Voidhanger records. He planted the seed of how much sense it made for us to do our own version of the planets suite by Holst and we just ran with it. I seem to remember conversations about this happening as early as 2016 and developing since then, sort of slow-cooking, haha. I began writing “Jupiter” first, right after the release of Luminiferous Aether, so late in 2016. The process was meticulous and even arduous at times, we really wanted this to be something special, so each track took quite a while to complete. I actually moved three times over the course of working on this project so it has been a more constant thing in my life than where I live. That’s strange to think about.
Now that the LP has been out for a couple of months, are you happy to see how well it has been received by fans and critics alike? It's been ranked among some of the highest rated metal albums of 2020 so far, that must be a good feeling.
It’s a good feeling of course, this is something we’ve worked tirelessly on for years now, so for our hard work to be recognized is a good feeling. The fact that this two-hour monstrosity of extremely long songs can gain some kind of wider appeal is really surprising to me – this was an experiment we went into blind which went better than I think any of us expected.
The album art is one of my personal favourite covers that I've seen for quite some time. Can you tell us a bit about who came up with the concept and how it came to fruition?
The artwork is by Elijah Tamu. He has his own very distinct style and an acute knowledge of symbolism which was perfect for depicting the mystic nature of this album. Originally, we had wanted a sort of map or diagram of the solar system that depicted things in a much more scientific way, but after playing with the idea, Elijah presented a different angle on our music through a much more abstract approach. After all, why would we simply present it as a map? It’s more than just a scientific description of the planets, we’ve created our own mythos here, right? So after some back and forth, Elijah crafted a more honed vision, and instead depicted the sun as a divine glyph, pouring itself into the vessels of the planets and giving them life, atop the shell of the world-turtle and the swirling cosmic sea filled with the contorted, struggling humanity within it. This depicts our story far better than we could have imagined on our own.
Portland is home to quite a number of incredibly talented one-man black metal projects and bands as well. What is it about that specific area that has created a world renowned scene of homegrown extreme music? Is there something in the water perhaps?
Well, I’m new here, only been around for a few years now. But Portland in general is an area that is very kind to art and artists, being home to not just black metal musicians but many musicians and artists in general. It’s a city, but a small one. It leaves lots of room for artists to exist and thrive in an environment that respects them. While I am not deeply entwined with the extreme music scene here as of yet, there is a sense of community here that does not exist where I started Mare Cognitum back in California. In all honesty, if I had always lived here, maybe I would not be a one-man band at all.
The thing I love about this type of music is that when you listen, it can take you away on a journey, it tells a story and you get lost in the ethos of the music. How do you create such atmosphere and enthralling music whilst keeping it raw and heavy with that harsh black metal style?
This is a little tough to answer, I just make music that I would want to hear, I suppose. I try to bring inspiration from all sorts of music that I’ve listened to over the years rather than solely my black metal influences, so I allow myself to bend things a bit, so to speak. I don’t set out to make something too specific, I try to let what I make flow naturally and not get worried about landing on some exact vision. This allows me some freedom and wiggle room in what I am allowed to make under the Mare Cognitum banner.
What sort of bands in the black metal scene would you generally listen to before you began writing music? Have you carried those bands across to present day in regards to your influence or have they changed somewhat?
Lets see, back when I started Mare Cognitum, I was relatively new to black metal, I had been listening for a few years at that point. Some albums I remember spinning a lot at the time were Agalloch – Ashes Against the Grain, Wolves in the Throne Room – Black Cascade, and classics like Emperor – In the Nightside Eclipse, Dissection – Storm of the Light’s Bane. I remember Lunar Aurora and Deathspell Omega quite a bit as well. I’ve always felt like these influences were so painfully obvious on the early Mare Cognitum recordings! All of these bands are still important to me, but I might not listen to them with the same regularity that I used to. I usually like to spend time looking for new bands and sounds. But talking about this now just makes me want to go back and listen to those classics…
Those two hours seem to just pass in a flash, which is a sign of a consistently enjoyable double album to me. However, your “side” absolutely stands out to me as it's more dreamy, emotional and melodic, with a monumental guitar work. Are there any other like-minded artists you'd like to get together with to record a split EP or LP?
I have some ideas of some new collaborations, but I can’t reveal them yet. Sorry I can’t be more interesting here, but I have some pretty ambitious ideas that are best kept under wraps for now.
What other music are you listening to outside of the black metal universe?
My listening habits are almost embarrassingly black metal heavy right now, as well as other metal, hahaha… I always listen to some heavier punk and grindcore type things, new discoveries there include Geld, Bain De Sang, Chubby & The Gang. I also was on a classic thrash kick recently, so all the old Exodus, Destruction, and Sepultura albums… oh, and all this dungeon synth keeps coming my way, it started off as ironic listening but I think I’m getting hooked on it as background music… I’ll leave it at that.
Black metal can obviously be linked with isolation and solitude. Has COVID-19 affected you in any way, shape or form? Or is being in lockdown and keeping to yourself something you are used to?
My day-to-day has not been extremely affected because I already worked from home and spent most of my time here. But I absolutely miss “regular life”. I spend a lot of time doing things on my own, but I wouldn’t call myself an isolated person, I’m extremely disappointed to not be having beers with friends in the summer weather and going to metal festivals like I had planned. I should have been floating around in a Las Vegas pool watching Emperor play in a few weeks! I’m really hoping for better times soon…
Do you have any words or a message for your listeners here in Australia?
I’ve always gotten lots of support from Australia, so thanks for that, you guys are great. Especially those of you crazy enough to buy something from me with the ridiculous shipping costs. Ha!
Thanks Jake, I really appreciate your time. Take care.
Thanks for your interest in hearing me ramble!