Spectral Lore and Mare Cognitum – Wanderers: Astrology of the Nine Review

I am not a particularly patient individual. In fact, it seems that the “older” I get the less patient I become. With this in mind, I asked myself, “Why. The fuck. Did you decide to pick up the two-hour split between Spectral Lore and Mare Cognitum as your next promo?” It’s atmospheric black metal for heaven’s sake! For two hours! Little did the voice inside my head know that this epic love letter to the planets (and planetoid) of our solar system would be so compelling.

As this is a split, I should first differentiate between the two one-man bands that comprise this collaboration. Spectral Lore and Mare Cognitum are both fairly well-known and universally well-respected (by those who know them) atmospheric black metal projects, but the two take very different approaches to the style. Mare Cognitum, my personal favorite, specializes in bone-crushing riffs drowning in tremolos and twisted dissonance. At the opposite corner, Spectral Lore prefers to inject drone and contemplative melodies into his brand rather than break necks. The two cohorts preserve their respective identities wonderfully on Wanderers: Astrology of the Nine, and yet they also find harmony. Together, the two atmophiles collide and intertwine, creating a thunderous ode to our celestial bodies spread out over ten songs.

Spectral Lore takes off with a fairly standard piece, “Mercury (The Virtuous).” He explores sufficient avenues here to maintain my interest, but this opener is tailored to ease the audience into the next massive entry, Mare Cognitum’s “Mars (The Warrior).” Vicious riffs and unearthly leads earn “Mars” top honors and status as Song o’ the Year contender. “Venus (The Priestess)” is another highlight from the big MC, sporting regal melodies and opulent atmospherics that come together beautifully from minute one to minute twelve. But Spectral Lore doesn’t let his American partner-in-crime hog the spotlight, offering introspective moods and gorgeous compositions with “Earth (The Mother)” and bass-led Pink Floydian psychedelia on “Saturn (The Rebel).” Yet the good good lies in the closer “Pluto (The Gatekeeper) Pt. II – The Astral Bridge.” This (and “Pt. I” before it) is the result of Spectral Lore and Mare Cognitum splicing together their DNA to form a monstrous titan. Several minutes of eerie drone lull the audience into near-sleep before slapping them awake with blistering MC riffs bolstered this time by SL’s chaotic leads. That they flawlessly merge their personalities into one only proves the strength of the songwriting within these tomes.

Despite everything that works on Wanderers: Astrology of the Nine, bloat abounds. Both Mare Cognitum and Spectral Lore threaten my patience at several junctures. I might be a die-hard fan of MC’s style, which makes the giant “Jupiter (The Giant)” and the icy “Neptune (The Mystic)” wholly enjoyable, but some self-editing and a lot of targeted trimming would strengthen each considerably. Spectral Lore manages his time with less fluff, but just barely. “Uranus (The Fallen)” is notable for is bass-driven construction, but the drone-heavy track could be stronger if the first half was cut by a third, thereby realigning my focus to the song itself instead of the hypothetical corrections I want to implement. “Pluto (The Gatekeeper) Part I – Exodus Through the Frozen Wastes” is morbidly over-inflated. Essentially an instrumental interlude, the quiet expanse endures for nearly twelve minutes. It passes by more quickly than expected, yet I estimate less time is required to achieve the desired effect of drifting between planets eight and nine for a few billion miles or so.

I gotta hand it to these guys, though. They achieved something I never thought possible: a two hour record that I not only enjoy in its entirety, but also one that I revisit just for the hell of it. Imperfect as it is, Wanderers: Astrology of the Nine is immense beyond the scope of my own imagination, and I applaud Mare Cognitum and Spectral Lore for having the spheres to release it. Many might find it too lengthy for their tastes, and I’m sure to receive rabble aplenty for rating it as I have. But facts are facts, and the fact is that this split is an odyssey worth undertaking.

Rating: 3.5/5.0
DR: 8 | Format Reviewed: 1411 kbps wav
Label: I, Voidhanger
Websites: facebook.com/MareCognitumMusic | facebook.com/spectral.lorebm
Releases Worldwide: March 13th, 2020

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