Released: Octo, I, Voidhanger Records
Reviewer: Metal-Rules.com UK Team
While black metal may be a multi-faceted genre that conjures imaginings of dark emotional experiences, few examples have achieved a level of hypnotic atmosphere comparable to Mare Cognitum's 2014 release of 'Phobos Monolith'. This is the band's sole member; Jacob Buczarski's third album under the project's name, which takes it's name from a lunar plain that translates from Latin as 'The Sea that has Become Known'. With what sets out to be an artistic creation that allows the imagination to soar through an exploration of bleak vastness, which is both colourful and unyielding, something that is known to us but perhaps not fully understood stands as a blank canvas by which the listener can transpose their own subjective meanings upon.
There is some meticulously composed craftsmanship on display here and a huge facet of it's success lies in music that is simultaneously bleak and vivid, both colourful and placid. Much of the album rushes past you at a pace where each segment is indecipherable, which adds to the notion of being lost in a void of the unknown. There are moments to latch on to for comfort that create this emotional arc, conjuring moments in the mind that swell and then recede. Thunderous and unrelenting drum beats sit underneath wrist-breaking tremolo picking, with the vocals half-buried in obscurity, emerging only to accentuate the melody. Layers of intricacy juxtaposed with unforgiving pace and brutality paint something at odds with the serenity usually contrived when considering the perceived calm of the cosmos. This is best realised in the most emotive track on the album: ''Noumenon'', which offers a chilling wave of relaxed calm as well as the reaffirmation of a feeling of hopelessness. The careful, precise build up makes you bones shiver at times. Piano, solo and tremolo riffs collide and come together and culminating in something as grand as the birth of a star, while the vocals compete in vain for dominance before gradually receding like an acceptance of fate.
Much like the music it symbolises, the cover art by Luciana Nedelea sublimely illustrates some themes that run parallel with my own interpretation. The uninhabitable interstellar landscape rooted at the fore of a mesmerising but turbulent nebula. While inhospitable, the land holds a degree of familiarity and yet, accompanied by a horde of ethereal spirits, it itself seams to be reaching out towards the unknown. Images of transcending the frozen wasteland, floating through space wrought with unknown dangers towards unobtainable heavens ring true here.
This is imagination, transposed into an art form and back again; a raw concept alchemised into the soundtrack for the disharmonious yet mesmerising. It injects you into an undetermined point of a vast concept and takes you on a journey with no beginning or end. While it's intelligent design might come from a personal place, it's a sensation that doesn't require much thought to tap into. I was taken by surprise by this one and it remains emotive and vivid with each play through.