Written by: The Voiceless Apparition
I've always loved the concept of a split album. The idea of two or more artists coming together to unite under one release is fantastic. Wanderers: Astrology of the Nine, however, is much more. Spectral Lore and Mare Cognitum join forces again to create a conceptual split release centering around the planets of the solar system and ancient mythology. This may sound like an overbloated idea, but it works out so well. This split release right here is something that will be looked up to in 5-10 years based off of the conceptual angle but also musically.
We begin the album with Spectral Lore's "Mercury (The Virtuous)." An effects-laden intro slowly builds into a mid-paced black metal stomper with loads of classy riffs and well executed double-bass and blast beats. After that, we are greeted with Mare Cognitum's "Mars (The Warrior)." This is a far cry from the serenity of the first track; this is a jagged, aggressive, and dissonant tune. There is no letting up, as a swarm of blast-beats and fast double bass keep you on your toes the whole time. I'd also say that this is a far more "progressive" song, as there are many changes in time signatures throughout the 9 minutes.
Spectral Lore's "Earth (The Mother)" is an absolutely beautiful song. It begins with a serene clean guitar line but then enters in a very moody and melodic riff. I'd also like to add that this song is far more doomy and I really enjoy that. The melody they use is so beautiful but it surely is heartbreaking too. During the 6 minute mark, a change of pace comes as the tempo picks up, more double bass and blast-beats greet us and welcome us with open arms. This is not meant to be ugly or evil, this is beautiful and atmospheric.
Mare Cognitum's "Venus (The Priestess)" goes in a more atmospheric direction with the inclusion of a triumphant intro riff. A majestic and epic piece filled with so many twists and turns. My favorite part of the song is towards the middle we get a nice clean guitar section which lasts for a while only to drop out and unleash the gnarliest black metal riff I've heard in quite a while. One of the highlights on this album for sure. Mare Cognitum continues his reign with "Jupiter (The Giant)", a sprawling 15 minute epic. I love the way the beginning builds up and then drops out into a beautiful piano melody and then bursts into a a doomed-out and melancholy riff. I feel enveloped as I listen to this song... truly otherworldly. Fucking brilliant song! Spectral Lore returns with the strangely groovy "Saturn (The Rebel)." An interesting change of pace, while carrying a doom metal weight to it. The dissonant riffs are long and drawn out but it doesn't feel lifeless and emotionless.
And now on to the last single Mare Cognitum song on the release, "Neptune (The Mystic)." Lots of twists and turns here--quite technical too. This song probably has the most cold and atmospheric riffs on the album but these riffs have quite the bite to them. Towards the middle we enter into a fantastic mid-paced section that will surely make you bang your head. This goes for the rest of the songs but this sounds so otherworldly and hits me close to the heart with these sorrowful yet somehow uplifting melodies. One of the best songs on the album for sure. Spectral Lore's final single song on the album "Uranus (The Fallen)" is by far the most straightforward song on the release. While still highly atmospheric, the riffs are what takes the lead on this song. I also want to take special note of the bass work too, as it really shines on this song. Not technical in the way of playing but so crystal clear in the mix and that makes me very happy. Around the 7 minute mark we go into the most quiet and subdued section thus far on this release. Slow clean guitar creeps in while a spoken word section sits below in the mix. It's strangely jazzy and proggy but doesn't last long as the metal aspect returns for the last few minutes.
We are reaching the final destination as "Pluto (The Gatekeeper)" is split into 2 parts, part I being entitled "Exodus through the Frozen Wastes," and part II being "The Astral Bridge." This conclusion is a collaborative effort. Part I is a fully ambient piece beginning with a sinister and spacious (no pun intended) noisy section, before leading into a beautifully serene and synth laden ending that continues to build up with foreshadowing tenseness leading into part II. "The Astral Bridge" wastes no time as it immediately kicks in in the most euphoric way. Synths and choirs flow like waves before leading into an almost industrial-like beat but it's neither jarring, nor unwarranted, this is executed with pure class. I love the inclusion of melancholy melodies around the 2-minute mark, purely sorrowful. The serenity doesn't last long as the song takes a sinister turn during the middle section and has a nice solid buildup before exploding into an absolutely crushing riff with blast beats accompanying it. I'd go as far as saying that this is easily the most brutal moment of the entire album. I could go on and on but I don't want to ruin the song for anyone eager to listen. It's a monumental way to end this monumental album.
The production on Wanderers: Astrology of the Nine is worth noting, as each artist's mix sounds completely different. Spectral Lore's songs are more typical black metal style in production but with more emphasis on the synths and keys being more upfront, while Mare Cognitum's side is cleaner and with more emphasis on guitars. I also have to give major props for the guitar sound, absolutely crushing tone. Also, the artwork for this album is marvelous, courtesy of Elijah Tamu. Beautiful and breathtakingly outer-dimensional. You did an absolutely amazing job with the artwork, Elijah.
After listening to this album your best option is to just sit back, absorb, and take a breather before diving in again because this is an album that needs repeated listens. Spectral Lore and Mare Cognitum really hit gold with this effort. This is a bold, diverse, atmospheric, and beautiful album. This is currently one of my favorite albums of the year so far, and I can't wait to purchase my own copy when it is released. If you are only into the raw and primitive stylings of black metal, you may have a hard time enjoying this. However, if you are into emotional, and atmospheric black metal with an otherworldly aura to it, this is for you. Highly, highly, HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!
Congratulations to both Spectral Lore and Mare Cognitum, this is a spectacular release.
SPECTRAL LORE and MARE COGNITUM - Wanderers: Astrology of the Nine will be released March 13th from (the illustrious)I, Voidhanger Records
Providing thoughtful reviews of music that is heavy, gloomy, and loud enough to wake us from slumber. Written by a groggy-eyed, highfalutin peasantry.