Wanderers: Astrology of the Nine is the 2020 follow-up to 2015’s Sol, a 70-minute split / collaboration that featured one song from each band (29 minutes from Mare Cognitum and 25 from Spectral Lore) and a 15-minute collaborative piece exploring the concept of the sun.March 16, 2020
There’s a certain freedom to creating your own band. Whatever ideas you have, you can manifest. The vision will be pure, uncompromised. People will be impressed by your abilities to play multiple instruments. Bandmates won’t have to put up with your potentially toxic personality. Nobody will be able to stop you.
Listen free to Mare Cognitum – Wanderers: Astrology of The Nine (Mercury (The Virtuous), Mars (The Warrior) and more). 10 tracks (115:12). Split full-length LP with Spectral Lore Discover more music, concerts, videos, and pictures with the largest catalogue online at Last.fm. Monumental and daring in its length and scope, 'Wanderers: Astrology Of The Nine' is a thematic journey through our solar system, illustrating and anthropomorphizing it into mythology which parallels our own humanity with the science of these mysterious formations.
Unfortunately, nobody will be able to stop you. Who will say, “Hey, this section isn’t working, let’s cut it and move on,” if not bandmates? Who will point out that the ride cymbal sample you chose sounds like somebody tapping on an IKEA desk leg with a ballpoint pen if not a producer? Nobody, that’s who! And so there exist now dozens or perhaps even hundreds of bloated, self-indulgent one-man-band albums available for your listening pleasure that contain 20 minutes of genius lost amid 80 minutes of noodling.
Spectral Lore is the one-man project of Greek multi-instrumentalist Ayloss, and Mare Cognitum is the one-man project of American multi-instrumentalist Jacob Buczarski. Together, they are two one-man black metal / dark ambient projects that both happen to release music through I, Voidhanger Records. In no way do they temper each other to play less, cut songs short, or not go for any haughty concept that they might think deserves exploration. This should be a recipe for absolute disaster. And yet, it is brilliant.Release date: March 13, 2020. Label: I, Voidhanger Records.Wanderers: Astrology of the Nine is the 2020 follow-up to 2015’s Sol, a 70-minute split / collaboration that featured one song from each band (29 minutes from Mare Cognitum and 25 from Spectral Lore) and a 15-minute collaborative piece exploring the concept of the sun. This new split / collaboration explores the nine planets (or eight plus one dwarf, if you want to be extremely pedantic) of our solar system and beats out the runtime of the previous record by 45 minutes. The two bands trade songs back and forth, with Mercury, Earth, Saturn, and Uranus receiving songs from Spectral Lore and Mars, Venus, Jupiter, and Neptune being covered by Mare Cognitum. Pluto, dwarf planet though it may be, receives two collaborative tracks.
Having already covered the over-indulgent nature of this project and the potential downfalls of solo black metal projects in the introduction, no more needs to be said of that at this point. If you’re here for the album, you’ve already decided that those are small costs to pay. Wanderers is designed to be a heady concept album, and the lyrics have been made available to listeners who wish to delve into the poetry in question. Normally, I wouldn’t do a track-by-track breakdown of an album, as that’s not a good way to present rock music to an audience. But since the artists behind this project have specifically presented this project more in the mode of a classical composition than an album, mentioning Gustav Holst’s famous Planets cycle as an inspiring light, I will be approaching the album the same way I would movements in a symphony.
Spectral Lore starts the album with “Mercury (The Virtuous),” luring the listener in with ambient guitar textures before opening up the first blast beat at three and a half minutes. Ayloss keeps the feeling dynamic, using a layered vocal delivery to add aural space and a cosmic feeling atop triumphant, almost Nordic chord patterns. The drumming has a hint or two of being programmed, but overall has a pleasing acoustic tone and enough variety to suit the trance-like quality of the song.
Mare Cognitum’s approach is more straightforwardly aggressive, opening immediately with a furious tempo and a thick, modern production sound. These drums have a more thunderous, death metal tone, and are mixed wonderfully to provide a heavy bottom end anchoring Buczarski’s reverb-heavy high gain guitars. The leads in “Mars (The Warrior)” bring to mind the best sounds from Blut Aus Nord’s Memoria Vetusta series, but without the brittle icy timbre BAN is known for. The energy of Mare Cognitum’s song carries the listener deep into the narrative while screaming “All life is dust in the wind” and throws them violently into Spectral Lore’s next song.
“Earth (The Mother)” starts off as a doom song, not a black metal one. Slowly plucked arpeggios and cavernous funeral vocals, intertwining guitar leads and massive cymbal crashes. The lyrics sing of the regret of humans who have left the planet, perhaps for dead, and are troubled by that reality. Halfway through the song, the drums pick up the pace and the guitars tremolo leads to weave a net of sound around the listener. The final crescendo of the song, from heartbeat pulse to inhuman drum machine snare rolls bordering on white noise is one of the most memorable moments on the album.
The next two songs, “Venus (The Priestess)” and “Jupiter (The Giant),” are both Mare Cognitum songs. Despite sharing the planets equally, Mare Cognitum actually has slightly more solo time on the album, with 48 and a half minutes to Spectral Lore’s 43. “Venus” calls to mind the epic black metal stylings of Summoning, with steady drums, huge reverbs, synth pads, and plenty of tempo changes for verses, bridges, lead breaks, and more of all of that. This album is incredibly dense, so if you just throw it on as background metal you’re missing out on the experience of Wanderers as a meditation. “Jupiter” might be by the same band, but Buczarski has changed up the sound again, bringing his take on the slower, doomier style. Synth and piano interludes break up the verses, and the guitars provide an ambient wash reminiscent of ocean waves. Even when the double kicks come in at the 12-minute mark, “Jupiter” feels vast and stately, far from the fury that was “Mars.”
Spectral Lore returns for “Saturn (The Rebel)” at the half-way point of the album. The echoing plucks immediately give this song the most experimental, eeriest tone so far, with major modes being hinted at in the progression but always collapsing back into diminished dissonance. The song feels uneasy, crawling along through ooze. This is the first prominent display of bass playing I noticed on the album; where before the bass simply filled in the sonic bottom end, here it meanders, outlining the most interesting of counter-melodies.
After a slow song, “Neptune (The Mystic)” returns us to the high tempos, thick production, and heavenly tremolos of Mare Cognitum. This is the final solo Mare Cognitum song on the album and thoroughly demonstrates the differences between the two bands. While Spectral Lore has a warmer, more analog or perhaps what one might call “traditional” timbre, Mare Cognitum provides a thoroughly modern atmospheric sound. Yet when it comes to songwriting, Spectral Lore is much more likely to try experimental, unique arrangements. When listening to Mare Cognitum’s work, you might think “this reminds me of…”, whether that’s Summoning, Blut Aus Nord, Immortal, or Borknagar, even if the final arrangement is still a fully unique experience.
These thoughts don’t intrude nearly as much in Spectral Lore’s songs, which wrap up with “Uranus (The Fallen).” Ayloss again makes good use of prominent bass lines, dancing scales up and down while the heavily distorted guitars drone a single chord deep in the mix. “Uranus” is the tightest turning of the screw, with the first chord change coming in at nearly five and a half minutes. When you’re engaged with the album, the constant feeling of tension pushes and pushes until everything breaks at seven minutes. The clean reverb pluckings build like harp and lyre strings as spoken vocals intone “the age of men is past.”
The final 23 minutes of the split are the collaborative “Pluto (The Gatekeeper)” tracks. The first, subtitled “Part I: Exodus through the Frozen Wastes,” is an instrumental ambient piece, while “Part II: The Astral Bridge,” completes the story of the album, bringing us through the solar system and into the realm of death. As somebody who listens to a lot of dark ambient music, I enjoyed “Exodus.” It’s an entirely modern synth track, with the notes flowing seamlessly from breath to breath, using pads that give the impression of sampled industrial machinery to add pulse to the song. “The Astral Bridge” bursts into the listeners ears with distorted guitars and an entirely unique set of programmed drums. Here the drums aren’t even attempting to sound like their acoustic counterparts, instead creating a much glitchier texture calling to mind IDM artists like Squarepusher or Autechre. Synths and guitars smoothly combine into massive walls of sound on either side for the drums and leads to play between. These two collaborative tracks were mastered by Jacob Buczarski, which is fortunate because his ability to create thick, meaty sounds is absolutely necessary when the song literally enters the realm of death at the six minute mark. Hearing chugging death metal riffs after an hour and forty eight minutes of atmospheric black metal is a huge tonal shift, but the bands pull it off with aplomb, particularly as Buczarski’s reverb-drenched leads soar overtop of Ayloss colossal bellows.
Wanderers: Astrology of the Nine is not an easy album to get into. It isn’t the kind of music that rewards casual listening. But if you put yourself in the place where you can really take it in, it has much to offer the listener looking for something mind expanding. And honestly, people in solo black metal acts can learn a lot about the value of working with another creative mind, as “The Astral Bridge” is by far the stand out track on the album. Those listeners looking for the full three hour solar experience could combine Wanderers with the previous Sol, but that journey is only recommended with the proper application of drugs.Category:ReviewsTag:Atmospheric, Black, I Voidhanger, Mare Cognitum, Psychedelic, Spectral Lore
The Queen of Frozen Forests(blastbeats in the distance intensify)All Posts jersey devil March 17, 2020 at 2:48 am
wow, amazing album. i’ll have to go check out the earlier stuff by these bands.Reply
Both bands are excellent. Spectral Lore’s III and Mare Cognitum’s Phobos Monolith are two of my favorite records from 2014.
I would also suggest checking out the music of Markov Soroka (Aureole-atmospheric black metal like Mare Cognitum and Spectral Lore, Krukh – crustier black metal with sublime melodies, Tchornobog – psychedelic blackened death/doom that fits in well with bands like Mitochondrion and Esoctrilihum and Drown – “aquatic doom”).Reply
After hours upon hours of listening, I am finally getting around to Spectral Lore and Mare Cognitum’s 2020 split album. Both projects are among the earliest black metal artists to venture beyond Earth itself and expand their palettes to capture the sounds of the universe with cosmic black metal. The derivative genre of cosmic black metal is one of limitless potential because of the universe’s infinite status. Spectral Lore and Mare Cognitum have worked together in the past with their collaboration Sol which was a fine piece of diverse black metal showing off their separate skills. Its concept, like the majority of cosmic black metal so far, was too broad and non-descript though causing the musical story to be lost in translation. That doesn’t mean there haven’t been any great records from the subgenre, but I’ve questioned when an artist would take that extra step and create a cohesive story that one can follow along with “easier”. By dialling the infinite universe back to a more finite area of focus that is still grand in size, Spectral Lore and Mare Cognitum’s second split Wanderers: Astrology of the Nine fills my hope for such a record.
Wanderer’s: Astrology of the Nine is a harsh and epic two hour masterpiece that drags the listener through the Milky Way galaxy passing by every planet and witnessing its wonder. Each track represents a planet along with its place in astrology and Roman mythology varying in style and intensity. Throughout the record, Ayloss of Spectral Lore and Jacob Buczarski of Mare Cognitum switch between being the solo artist on tracks. Normally split albums tend to falter from the artists involved having too much of a difference in sound causing records to sound like they’re taking turns. This becomes especially true when dealing with concept albums; growing in difficulty the larger the concept. Spectral Lore and Mare Cognitum overcome this hurdle with flying colors by finding a middle ground while retaining specific qualities that set them apart. Ayloss has more of a melodic focus in his parts and Buczarski is heavier with death metal fused within his pieces counteracted by spacious refrains to avoid overwhelming levels of brutality. These two make a collaboration of this size seem almost easy with its fluidity.
Beginning the record is Spectral Lore on “Mercury (The Virtuous)” easing into the Wanderer’s: Astrology of the Nine carefully with an atmospheric collage of guitars with occasional notes soaring like comets across the production. Blast beats then enter the mix increasing intensity before entering a whirlwind of brisk guitar riffs. Following is “Mars (The Warrior)” handled by Mare Cognitum which is kind of odd with its placement being the fourth planet in the solar system. My guess is to stagger both artists’ performances at the beginning based on who fits the planets’ physical qualities and mythology the best. It makes sense having the heavier Mare Cognitum represent Mars, named after the Roman god of war, and Spectral Lore represent the cold planet within the innermost circle of the solar system named after the messenger of the gods, Mercury. This attention to detail put into every track is phenomenal and gives the concept behind the record a significant layer of clarity and life.
Not only does every track fit the planet it is named after, but the technical prowess put into them is phenomenal. Compositions constantly transform providing countless memorable moments that never feel stale and grow in magnitude throughout Wanderer’s: Astrology of the Nine. Buczarski’s is airtight with his compositions and arrangements in particular making his more acoustic refrains more satisfying after the relentless brutality that precedes them. He even blurs the lines one may pick up between the two artists with grandiose melodic moments most prominent on the last half of “Neptune (The Mystic)”. Ayloss on the other hand creates melodic mosaics that emit indescribable emotions by switching into atmospheric passages on tracks like “Earth (The Mother)” and “Saturn (The Rebel)”. He’s not afraid to slow it down himself becoming almost ambient near the backend of “Uranus (The Fallen)” to contrast his heaviest moment on the record.
The production quality on Wanderer’s: Astrology of the Nine meets everything I like to hear in black metal. It is astonishingly beautiful even during the darker moments – just more subtle. However, there is still enough grit within the distortion to accent the intensity black metal requires. Plus every instrument and sound is so clear. The growls and shrieks sprinkled across the record are never too loud and play a role in elevating the atmospheres. Ayloss’s production in particular is insanely clear with prominent basslines in his tracks adding an extra layer to digest to match the density of Buczarski’s pieces. The production also plays a big role in making transitions from each track almost unnoticeable. Each track fades into the bulk of the song then fades out at the end keeping a tone that is similar to adjacent tracks even on Mare Cognitum’s fifteen minute goliath “Jupiter (The Giant)”.
The crown jewel to Wanderer’s: Astrology of the Nine is the two-part finale “Pluto (The Gatekeeper)”. Spectral Lore and Mare Cognitum come together on both tracks to make the ultimate ending to such an ambitious record. Part one is eleven and a half minutes in length composed entirely of cold ambient textures representing the vast space between the rest of the Milky Way and Pluto. I will admit that they could have cut it down a little, but they do their best to enthrall the listener with the staticy air, sharply textured feedback that never becomes overwhelming, and the frigid yet vibrant synths that flow into the second part. That spacious aesthetic is then shattered as the record creeps towards the outermost area of the solar system on the legendary “Pluto (The Gatekeeper), Pt. 2: The Astral Bridge”. Everything both artists brought to the table up to this point is put on display, brilliantly fused and epitomized, illustrating the harsh environment that holds the solar system together before subsiding as it reaches the edge of the Milky Way.
Wanderer’s: Astrology of the Nine is a masterpiece. Even with a couple of very brief moments that could have been more refined, Spectral Lore and Mare Cognitum were able to create some of the most attention grabbing black metal I’ve heard in awhile for the entirety of the record’s two hour length. A record this ambitious had all the potential in the world to fail at the hands of the broad and complex concept, immense length, and the juxtaposition of both artists’ styles. Somehow, none of that happened. Instead each aspect played a role in making the others work exceptionally. I have a newfound respect for these guys and although I cannot call this entirely perfect, this will go down as one of the strongest cosmic black metal albums ever.
Favorite Tracks: “Mercury (The Virtuous)”; “Mars (The Warrior)”; “Venus (The Priestess)”; “Jupiter (The Giant)”; “Saturn (The Rebel)”; “Neptune (The Mystic)”; “Uranus (The Fallen)”; “Pluto (The Gatekeeper), Pt. 2: The Astral Bridge”
Label: Entropic Recordings
Genres: Cosmic Black Metal, Atmospheric Black Metal, Blackened Death Metal, Ambient
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