Mare Cognitum - Phobos Monolith
I, Voidhanger Records
Atmospheric Black Metal
4 songs (49' 39")
Release year: 2014
I, Voidhanger Records
Reviewed by Andy
Album of the month

In a sea of overproduced, low-content atmospheric black metal, it's easy to get discouraged and think the genre's best days are over. That is, until an album like Mare Cognitum's Phobos Monolith comes along. I wouldn't call this album a production so much as a handicraft, carefully assembled by one-man band Jacob Buczarski, and his dreamy, spaced-out black metal on the four tracks of the album is simultaneously bleak and gorgeous, darkly noisy and joyfully melodic.

Starting quietly, with gently picked guitar to a hushed background of roaring like a far away jet, Weaving the Thread of Transcendence takes a couple minutes for the first chord to hit, and even then it obediently follows the initial clean melody, fully under control, though underneath one can hear tremolo-picked layers of the guitar warming up. A third of the way into the song and things speed up. The production is exquisite, probably one of the best jobs I've seen on a black metal album. Somehow Buczarski lets the drums thunder away at the listener without taking over, midrange held firmly in check and the tremolo picking soaring over the top. As the songs continue, one loses track of how many guitar layers the guy's got going; all that can be said is that there are a lot of them, and they are all hell-bent on dragging the listener to a dream world. Just when the picking reaches a blinding speed and a melodic point, down to earth it comes in the form of Entropic Hallucinations, which is low and rough, but turns on a dime riff-wise -- even when it climbs up another wall of layered guitars, it stays more grounded than its predecessor, with Buczarski's vocals ripping away in a hissing rasp and the guitar occasionally ringing out in an atonal chord. The vocals themselves aren't good or bad; they're just another instrument in the production, and they are fiercely disciplined, emerging only to accentuate the melody.

Noumenon is even better. A piano gets into the mix and starts fading in and out to support the track at opportune moments, and the track gets even more melodic, with a note of melancholy of the sort I liked so much on Imperium Dekadenz's last album. The rhythm guitars are soloing down in the mix at one point with some savagely brilliant riffing, and halfway through the track the lead guitars solo cleanly, then in overdrive with tremolo picking. The resulting sound is like somebody managed to get a whole orchestra of black metal musicians to put together a single song; it's a big, theatrical sound that, by the end of the song, takes on the feeling of a grand anthem. Finally, we have Ephemeral Eternities, taking over where Noumenon left off; but after some spacey static, we get tough, blocky riffing, which, together with a deep vocal line, sounds like it belongs on a death metal song. Soon more layers come in, higher-pitched ones, and the tremolo solos are triumphant pieces that sound like they belong on a soundtrack.

I was taken by surprise by this album; I'd never heard of Mare Cognitum before, but after this one I'll definitely be checking out past releases. Despite the clear ability of Phobos Monolith to fill a stadium with its sound, it stays personal and dreamy, delivering not only on the atmosphere but on the songwriting portion as well. If you have an interest in black metal, this one's a no-brainer to get, but even if atmospheric black metal is not usually your thing, I highly recommend listening to Phobos Monolith.

Killing Songs :
All of them
Andy quoted 95 / 100
Other albums by Mare Cognitum that we have reviewed:
Mare Cognitum - Luminiferous Aether reviewed by Andy and quoted 92 / 100
Mare Cognitum - An Extraconscious Lucidity reviewed by Andy and quoted 88 / 100
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