Review: Mare Cognitum – Solar Paroxysm
In space no one can hear you melt.
I didn’t love last year’s Wanderers: Astrology of the Nine as much as many others here did, but I have enjoyed most of Mare Cognitum‘s back catalog immensely. Immense being a very good word to describe the general atmosphere Mare Cognitum seeks to convey through their cosmic black metal that doesn’t really find any comparisons among the atmoblack crowd, though technically that’s the realm within which Jacob Buczarski’s solo-project exists.
Once again, immense is a word Solar Paroxysm has taken to heart. Though after a work such as Wanderers, it has the added benefit of feeling leaner and meaner than it actually is. 5 songs, each clocking over 10 (though none as much as 13) minutes, each filled with layers upon layers of guitars forming tremolo-picked melodies, their harmonies, morphing rhythm guitar lines, background noise and even counterpointing lines, through which the bass cuts to anchor the compositions to their place, in rather relative sense of the phrase “in their place”. And a good thing that it does, for the often blast-happy percussion seems more intent on driving the layered strings before them than on setting a time and tempo. Thus only in the jungle of each instrument’s layers does the ultimate form of Solar Paroxysm become tangible.
Immense and layers, two words that describe Mare Cognitum’s fifth full-length very well. Through the use of layers the music grows to a size big enough to fill the scope of Buczarski’s vision, but the possibilities that present themselves only once a certain amount of mass has been cultivated are used to an extent they prune out excess and indulgence as Buczarski’s building blocks, and that alone separates Mare Cognitum from the general mass of atmoblack.
Repetition is another staple of the genre Buczarski does not rely on. That isn’t to say there’s no repetition on Solar Paroxysm—there is—but he knows how to inject the right amount of anxiety and excitement to keep you on your toes. Whether it’s an ample guitar solo, an energetic drum performance, a new melody or the straight up changes of direction near the end of each track that truly drive “Frozen Star Divination” and “Ataraxia Tunnels” home. Most of the time there’s several things going on at once, and you’re never left wanting for something new for long, but most of all, it feels like Mare Cognitum is genuinely building towards something even when it does settle into a groove.
Of course, Solar Paroxysm isn’t quite the perfect album. I would say it is the project’s most consistent to date though, and this is both a strength and a weakness. Or rather, it highlights some of their woes. All of the songs are in the same ballpark as far as the length is concerned, and it is on the verge of relying a little too much on repetition. While there are plenty of memorable and striking individual moments, these too are often very similar to each other and for the first few spins much of the album blended together. While that is to be expected from an album of this size, the feeling that Buczarski might be getting a little too comfortable with his formula never entirely dissipates.
The heavy repetition does also keep Mare Cognitum from branching out, experimenting with song structures more openly, which is a shame because otherwise it seems Buczarski is ready and eager to do so. It’s also my professional opinion that “Crimson Abyss: NGC 2238”, a mere 5-minuter from the split with Aureole, is still Mare Cognitum’s single best track, as good a run for it’s money as “Frozen Star Divination” is currently giving it. The inclusion of such shorter, sharper songs would create additional depth and dynamics to the album arc, and force Buczarski to consider his hand a little more.
Solar Paroxysm is an excellent album though, and I only see it growing with further listens, and I see it growing for a long time still. It is Mare Cognitum taken as far as it will go without opening the template to more experimentation, or at least I can’t help but to feel so and am left waiting for Buczarski’s next move and to be proven wrong. I wouldn’t mind if he made me wait for a bit though.
4/5 Flaming Toilets ov Hell
Mare Cognitum’s Solar Paroxysm is out on I, Voidhanger records on March 19th. Get it from Bandcamp, or the directly from the label. Don’t forget to check up on the band’s or the label’s respective social media sites either, and tell them we said “Hi!”