Mare Cognitum – Solar Paroxysm Review

There’s atmospheric black metal, and then there’s Mare Cognitum. Two sides of the same planet. On the former, the sphere is completely devoid of life, eroded by endless recycling of ideas to the point of being uninhabitable. Then you have Mare Cognitum, a one-man force of nature who consistently releases quality material. Mastermind and multi-instrumentalist Jacob Buczarski’s side of the atmoblack world thrives against the eroding tides of time. By constantly evolving his sound, challenging his songwriting capabilities, and expanding the scope of his music over the course of four full-lengths and three splits, Jacob’s space-bound project far surpasses the murk of mediocrity that defines the atmospheric black metal genre, while still retaining the beauty that the genre means to conjure.

Fifth opus Solar Paroxysm perpetuates this trend of continuous improvement. After the massive achievement that was Mare Cognitum/Spectral Lore’s split Wanderers: Astrology of the Nine last year, I found myself surprised that both of them scheduled brand new material to release this year. I worried that this might indicate a dip in quality. I was wrong. Solar Paroxysm is an intoxicating, magnificent frolic through swirling fields of vibrant nebulas and perilous waltzes with solar flares. Jacob’s superb guitarwork is the star of the show as always, and his drumming remains energizing, but the pacing and production evolved as well in an attempt to elevate this material to higher altitudes.

Second track “Frozen Star Divinization” serves as the proof thereof. Yes, the song contains a lot of blast beats and a zillion resplendent layers of trem-picked melodies, as you’d expect. But these melodies have zing, a vicarious life burgeoning within them that sends goosebumps across my entire body. Mare Cognitum’s skill in harmonizing leads and using secondary layers of guitars and bass as counterpoint brings unfettered emotion to the song. Of course, it wouldn’t be a Mare Cognitum banger without his unmistakable riffs, which routinely disintegrate the competition. “Frozen Star Divinization” delivers on that front in spades. What really sells this track, though, is the transformation that catalyzes the final four minutes of the song, mutating the entire experience and justifying the eleven-plus-minute runtime with aplomb. Another transformation occurs as Mare Cognitum smartly injects a period of rest at the center of the record with “Terra Requiem.” It’s a beautiful piece, and once again the lead guitar makes it sing. It feels every bit as long as its ten minute runtime indicates, but there’s always something substantial to latch on to right around the corner, whether it be a transcendent solo or a majestic sweep. “Luminous Accretion” and “Ataraxia Tunnels” usher in an expansion in the scope and scale of the record, ending these fifty-eight minutes with two immense offerings that hearken back to Wanderers. I can’t begin to adequately describe how immaculately detailed these songs are, and how much the improved production gives each of these details the clarity they deserve. Melodies constantly whip the atmosphere and eerie tremolo slides teeter on the edge of what can only be described as the musical equivalent of a planetary storm.

Of course, this record isn’t perfect. “Frozen Star Divinization” and “Ataraxia Tunnels” could each stand to lose one or two phrase repetitions here and there, and while I feel each song is justified in its long-form status, Mare Cognitum must be careful not to let the use of repetition become a crutch. I recognize how he uses this songwriting technique to build tension, and he consistently delivers a worthy payoff for your invested time. However, there is no denying that he relies on repetition to anchor the record as well, and I think he’s too strict in that regard. Sometimes that approach pays dividends, as on magnificent opener “Antaresian.” Later on in the record, however, it threatens to imprison Mare Cognitum’s music instead of providing it with just enough stability to withstand eleven minutes of free exploration.

In a genre that I find lacking in quality, Mare Cognitum stands alone. Jacob’s persistent ability to surround me in melodies that woo, riffs that thrash, and atmosphere that heals leaves me in awe. Maintaining my analytical eye, difficult though it may be, I discern that Solar Paroxysm relies too heavily on linear structures to guide the record forward instead of allowing it more free reign inside Mare Cognitum’s galactic expanse. Nevertheless, there is ferocious beauty unlike any other to behold. Solar Paroxysm is a great album, a blazing sunrise that warms my face and brightens my day.

Rating: 4.0/5.0
DR: 7 | Format Reviewed: 256 kb/s mp3
Labels: I, Voidhanger Records | Extraconscious Records
Websites: |
Releases Worldwide: March 19th, 2021

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