MARE COGNITUM — Solar Paroxysm

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MARE COGNITUM - Solar Paroxysm cover
4.66 | 6 ratings | 2 reviews
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Album · 2021

Tracklist

1. Antaresian (11:16)
2. Frozen Star Divinization (10:58)
3. Terra Requiem (10:34)
4. Luminous Accretion (10:50)
5. Ataraxia Tunnel (12:30)

Total Time 56:08

Line-up/Musicians

- Jacob Buczarski / Everything

About this release

Release date: March 19th, 2021
Format: CD (500 copies), Vinyl (700 copies), Digital
Label: I, Voidhanger Records

Thanks to adg211288 for the addition

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MARE COGNITUM SOLAR PAROXYSM reviews

Specialists/collaborators reviews

adg211288
It has been almost ten years since US atmospheric black metal solo project Mare Cognitum, the brainchild of Jacob Buczarski, released its debut album The Sea Which Has Become Known in 2011. In a decade there are many things that have not changed, such as Buczarski's continuance as the project's sole member and his apparently eternal dedication to the spacey atmospheric black metal music that has been Mare Cognitum's shtick since day one. What has changed though, is how much increasingly stronger a musician he has become in a decade, which has seen Mare Cognitum release four studio albums and three major split/collaboration releases, two of them being with Greek I, Voidhanger Records labelmate Spectral Lore. The most recent of these was 2020's Wanderers: Astrology of the Nine with Spectral Lore, a mammoth double album that held many claims to being the best work from both artists involved.

Still, nothing could really have prepared anyone for the release of Mare Cognitum's fifth main studio album Solar Paroxysm, released in 2021. In short, this is an album that even on the first spin managed to floor me with its sound and level of creativity in such a way that it was like listening to Mare Cognitum for the first time again, which for me was with third album Phobos Monolith from 2014. Although objectively Mare Cognitum has shown improvement with every release up to Wanderers, Phobos Monolith, as with many of the albums we discover artists with, had a bonus nostalgia factor for me that has always made it my personal favourite. However having given Solar Paroxysm a few spins now, I believe we may well be dealing with a release that defeats nostalgia. We are certainly dealing with a record that shows off its album of the year potential from the get-go.

Mare Cognitum has always favoured long tracks and there isn't an album out there that has more than half a dozen on it. On Solar Paroxysm Buczarski has delivered five, each of them passing ten minutes. The total running time of the record is a little shy of one hour. And that's an hour that just seems to fly by so fast that you'd be forgiven if you're left wondering if you accidentally leant on the skip button of your player. There is no song here that feels like it's anywhere near as long as it actually is. At no point does it feel like the writing has been purposely elongated or that the album has become pretentious. The balanced sound between spacey atmospheric melodies and more aggressive tendencies in the riffs is about as divine as this genre can probably ever be, while Jacob's growls adds a primordial edge on top that invokes the extremity of space and the formation of strange alien worlds. This will be a familiar vibe to existing fans, but the immediacy of the record is unprecedented.

Anyone who has been listening to Mare Cognitum this last few years knows already that Jacob Buczarski is a man who knows his craft. But he is also a man who shows that no matter how good his last work was, there's always room to keep honing that craft and against all expectations of reviewers like yours truly, who have already graded his work in the top tier, that improvement can be achieved. And yet Solar Paroxysm is not just good or even simply better than Mare Cognitum's previous releases. It is next level good: an album that's very easy to listen to multiple times back to back and certainly one that will keep being come back to again and again. It is true that only time, much of which is still needed to truly judge such a record, can tell whether something will remain as good once the honeymoon period is over, but I for one, have really good feelings about Solar Paroxysm.
Necrotica
I’ve long been fascinated with records that explore the sounds of space from an extreme metal point of view. There’s an inherent excitement to basking in an expansive atmosphere while being bombarded by aggressive guitar work and pummeling blastbeats, as bands like Blood Incantation and Mithras have definitely proven. No matter how intense the music gets, there’s something strangely soothing and dreamlike about it; it’s almost as if the music could threaten to become background noise if you’re not paying enough attention. But much like the aforementioned bands, Mare Cognitum - consisting only of California native Jacob Buczarski - brings just the right amount of musical variety and neat embellishments to (mostly) avoid the pitfall of overt repetition. The fact that Solar Paroxysm has no song under 10 minutes might seem like a doozy, but believe me: this album flies by very quickly.

Every song here is a mini-epic rife with the tropes you’d typically hear from a progressive/atmospheric black metal project: long tremolo-picked passages, layered wall-of-sound instrumentation for that “vast” soundscape, and of course the harsh shrieks to top it all off. There’s a remarkable sense of progression in these tracks despite the album’s often long-winded nature, largely due to the fact that most of them come from a similar beginning. The majority of the tracks kick off with a familiar tremolo/blastbeat-driven base, and while that does make the intros a tad predictable, it allows Buczarski to use them as a launching pad to fly off in whatever direction he sees fit. Opener “Antaresian” opts to settle into what I could consider a “funeral waltz” using increasingly progressive 3/4 and 6/8 chugs before climaxing with a beautifully melancholic solo; meanwhile, “Frozen Star Divinization” is a long showcase of mesmerizing tremolo guitar harmonies, almost as if they’re locked in a never-ending duel in the middle of a wintry tundra. “Luminous Accretion” is probably the most technical song on offer, constantly shifting tempos and riff patterns while giving the drums a serious workout; finally, “Ataraxia Tunnels” is probably the most traditionally black metal-oriented track here while maintaining the sense of atmosphere that defines the rest of the album.

“Terra Requiem”, however, doesn’t fit quite as nicely on a stylistic level… and that’s because it’s the best song on the record. Most of it is played at a snail’s pace and really gets at the heart of this record’s dark take on a cosmic sound. The tremolo harmonies and double bass drumming are still prevalent here, just used to color a more funereal and despair-filled picture. Everything comes together beautifully in the middle of the song, as the keyboards soar above the melodic guitar solo; it strikes a brilliant balance between awe and hopelessness that I haven’t heard in quite some time. Speaking of the “picture”, the lyrics of Solar Paroxysm are very appropriate to the music as well. It’s your typical vaguely space-y imagery, but there are some pretty cool stanzas I’ll single out. Check out these ones from “Luminous Accretion”:

“Corporeal fractures Essence separates Violent transposition Self-observed from above, lingering

Communicants, wretched spires Materialize, surround, engulf Great tongues through which Creations are spoken (and thus conceived)”

Or these ones from “Terra Requiem”:

“The last leaves have fallen The last vine has withered The ocean has boiled for so long Choking our breath with fetid steam

We claw for shelter from the heartless sun Which cracks our skin and dries our wells So great is the debt we have incurred So too will we wilt and fade into dust”

Again, pretty vague and hard to decipher, but the imagery itself really fits the sound of the album so I don’t mind in the slightest.

Whether or not you will enjoy Solar Paroxysm will probably depend on your tolerance for the familiar tropes Mare Cognitum often employs to flesh out his sound. It’s true that nothing on this album breaks much new ground for atmospheric black metal, but the quality lies in how it’s executed here. The songs, while often starting the same, eventually lead us to incredibly neat locales by the time they’re done because of Buczarski’s adventurousness with this well-worn genre. Solar Paroxysm is my first experience with Mare Cognitum, and it looks like I have one hell of a back catalogue ahead of me if this album’s any indication.

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