Review Summary: Gone to space, but the tremory remains
Nihilus Ayloss' spasming wrist floats away from his guitar, leaving a distorted minor chord screeching from the 6W amplifier on his belt buckle.
“I bet you the cadaver in my boot that you can't play it faster,” he challenges.
“You think my RSI will stop me?” Jacob Buczarski replies, mouth twitching in rage at a similar rate to his right hand, which is locked into a claw. “In trve circles, RSI stands for Respects Satan Immensely. I don't need your cadaver- I have enough of my own- but I will gladly display the powers which He has granted me in my worship.”
Jacob approaches a workbench and lays down his quivering claw. He gathers a girthy, rusty nail from the bench, and begins to firmly push it into his impotent hand. The groan that accompanies the nail's penetration belies a grim determination, suggesting it isn't his first time performing this ritual. His hand ceases convulsing, the fingers spread and flex. He slowly licks at the wound, staring Nihilus in the eyes, smearing blood on his chin. A placid serenity falls upon him.
“Uh'e ah mnahn'. Fm'latgh vulgtmagll,” Jacob declares in a strong baritone.
He dashes for the wall and leaps three steps up its height, vaulting off into a flaired backflip during which he somehow manages to swing his guitar- previously strapped to his back- in front of him and seize it in his hands. His feet hit the floor in a lunging power pose, and he immediately starts riffing, trebly melodic minor madness blaring from the dual 3W amplifiers duct taped to his shoes. The riffs that emanate are fun, the chords and melodies he invokes are emotive and dramatic, the clean noodling he digresses into is soft and sweet, and he rips an unnervingly tasteful lead break for the year 2020. His hail mary run through the annals of black metal continues for fifteen minutes before his wrist closes into a fist that he can't seem to open, and he falls to his knees.
“...All these riffs will be lost in time, like bass in metal,” he opines, before finally succumbing to exhaustion. His face slaps against the cold concrete floor as he loses consciousness.
Nihilus sneers at his fallen foe. “I've been recording this whole time, you damned fool,” he gloats, sidling over to a window. He pokes his head out and yells, “You ingrates ready?!”
A nameless entity in the attic clutching a bass guitar in its talons gurgles out something that resembles confirmation. The faint, vaguely European shout of the drummer can be heard down the street.
“Are you sure we don't need to be closer to the microphone, Nihilus?”
cking amateurs,” Nihilus mutters. “ALL I ASK OF YOU IS TO PLAY FAST, PLAY LOUD, AND KEEP YOUR MOUTH SHUT. DON'T COMPLICATE THINGS.”
Lo, the second full-length collaboration between two giants in the one-man black metal band scene had commenced, and Lucifer's molten load seeped throughout the nine circles of hell.
Spectral Lore and Mare Cognitum's Wanderers: Astrology of the Nine
was largely produced in similar conditions to what was detailed above, and with this in mind it's no wonder that Ayloss and Buczarski are so keen on exploring life beyond this Godforsaken planet. If it were possible to achieve such an escape through the medium of black metal exaltations, then Wanderers...
would have never reached our ears, as the musical alchemy committed in its creation would have ripped its composers from their practice space and expelled them into death-by-vacuum as soon as the riff first emerged from the walls of flanging in Mercury (The Virtuous)
, if not when the piercing wall of wails into the void followed soon after.
Having wasted so many words already (and given that half the internet appears to be in quarantine at the moment) it wouldn't hurt to add a few more explaining that the cliches included in the official press release that I copy-pasted at the top of this review don't hold particularly true for these artists. The drums and bass are audible for a start, although the production is quite cold-sounding, and also has a tendency to fluctuate in its aims between artists and tracks (no surprise, really). This fluctuation is not necessarily a bad thing, as there is a lot of ground to cover on this album, requiring both artists to carefully turn over each feather in their respective caps.
When it comes to bands being reflexive in a genre with as many iterations as black metal, most tend to stick to one or two of the more notable trends established in the genre's birthing years. Spectral Lore's Nihilus Ayloss might have a weird fake name, but his knowledge of the genre in which he has entangled himself is pure and true. You can hear a little something of just about every significant wave of black metal within his music (particularly on III
), and although this thorough tributing might leave him a bee's dick shy of transcending the genre, he's certainly earned his right to knock on Triple H's (not that one) door for some red wine and God-bashing. I'm less familiar with Mare Cognitum's material at large, but a cursory couple of listens to Phobos Monolith
- along with his contributions on this release- have convinced me that his story seems similarly remarkable, albeit more melodically pronounced.
is split into four tracks from each respective artist, with an additional two-part finale which both artists are credited on. Each track is thematically tied to a planet within our solar system, with the song's contents being influenced by the given planet's geography, history, and symbolic significance. The goal, apparently, is “illustrating and anthropomorphizing [our solar system] into mythology which parallels our own humanity with the science of these mysterious formations.” This kind of thorough conceptualisation is very easy to label as overcooked and extraneous, but trudging through the themes, ideas, and lyrics in this album adds a layer of interest that's integral to holding your concentration for the lengthy two hours that Wanderers...
Lyrically, things are inconsistent, but more than serviceable. Mare Cognitum's first track manages to go from “Bodies coagulate into sinuous mass” in its middle portion to a misplaced yet touching tribute to Kansas (1973-1984, 1985-present (they're still together?!) in its final vocal passage. Fortunately, Earth (The Mother)
follows this anomaly up with not only the best lyrics of the album, but my pick for the best songwriting which reflects them. Just to balance the scales of artist bias here, Mare Cognitum's efforts on Venus (The Priestess)
also are well-deserving of praise, as is the songwriting of Jupiter (The Giant)
HERE'S THE SHORT VERSION OF THE REVIEW, BUT DO YOU REALLY HAVE ANYTHING BETTER TO DO RIGHT NOW?
This album's good, man. It's long, but it's good. If you like Spectral Lore, you'll like this. If you like Mare Cognitum, you'll like this. If you don't mind excessively lengthy and tactically derivative atmospheric black metal, you'll like this. If your music listening habits consist of listening to Darkspace with all of the lights off while chainsmoking and trying to muster up enough self-love to masturbate without crying, well, good on you, but this might not be for you.