Atmospheric black metal feels like a ‘solved’ genre at this point. All it takes is a cursory glance at the top ten trending in black metal on Bandcamp to find a band peddling washed-out reverb-drenched tremolo riffs and glistening synth lines packaged up into ten to twenty minute segments. To be fair, it really ruled for a while. Eventually though, repetition and a feeling of safety, daresay tameness, can set in. Fortunately, that’s not exactly what you’re going to get with Mare Cognitum’s Solar Paroxysm.
Jacob Buczarski’s fifth solo full-length (clock the stunning split with Spectral Lore from last year) is hard to describe as experimental. The material on Solar Paroxysm is baby steps from that of Phobos Monolith or Luminiferous Aether. It’s not easy listening stuff with its pummeling undercurrent of blast beats, but the melodic tremolo lines go down easier than a lot of black metal. That’s putting it in mild terms actually; these melodies soar, baby. The main setpieces in opening cut ‘Antaresian’ come in with ferocity and exit with a sombre, tear-siphoning impact. That is the underlying contradiction of Solar Paroxysm; in spite of being generally devoid of experimentation, it’s still Mare Cognitum’s best to date off the back of tight compositions and mastery of execution.
The majesty of ‘Antaresian’, likely Mare Cognitum’s most refined distillation of their sound yet, is potentially a primer for false disappointment. On first listen it’s easy to let one’s hopes sail beyond reach after the first eleven minutes and then come back down to earth a little too hard when the remaining four cuts fail to exceed the prior piece. Patient listeners will quickly recognize that there’s absolutely nothing wrong with the rest of the record, in fact these four songs are just a notch below ‘Antaresian’. They’re all tightly composed, engaging tracks that never overstay their welcome despite the long runtime.
For those seeking something outside the box, look elsewhere. For those familiar with Mare Cognitum’s prior work or those searching for a masterclass in tried-and-true atmospheric black metal, Solar Paroxysm is the one.
Solar Paroxysm is out now via Extraconscious Records and can be ordered here.
Words: Brett Tharp