PICK OF THE WEEK: Mare Cognitum, Spectral Lore traverse planets on enormous split ‘Wanderers…’

Often at night when I take my dog into the backyard so she can relieve herself/bark wildly at the dogs two doors down, I gaze up at the sky and wonder what the could be going on beyond our world. Sure, it’s probably chemicals bubbling and strange skies hanging over barren, uninhabited land, but it’s also cool to think what it might be like to stand on one of those faraway planets.

Establishing said mythology for each planet in our galaxy became a creative point for like-minded atmospheric black metal bands Spectral Lore and Mare Cognitum, who join forces once again on their intimidatingly expansive split release “Wanderers: Astrology of the Nine,” a 10-track, 115-minute collection that definitely weighs you down by its sheer girth. But don’t be intimidated by that insane running time, as the record doesn’t feel nearly that long because the two artists here—Ayloss of Spectral Lore and Jacob Buczarski of Mare Cognitum—fill this with explosive wonder and fluid musical storytelling. The two worked together before on 2013 split “Sol,” but this one is above and beyond that endeavor. Taking influence from Gustav Holst’s “Planets Suite,” an orchestral work with pieces named after each planet and its corresponding mythological representative. The songs take their time and build their own worlds, the goings on within, and the power emanating from each celestial body, blasting you generously with might and majesty.

“Mercury (The Virtuous)” has Spectral Lore starting off the collection with a storm whipping, which very well could be solar, before the track builds and colors rush. Finally, the playing begins to ravage as Ayloss’ screams destroy, and the pace is relentless. The track stampedes with savage vocals, melody spilling, and the track stomping out. “Mars (The Warrior)” is Mare Cognitum’s first cut, running 09:25, which is one of the shorter songs on here. Riffs erupt under a melodic passage, tracking violently and heading into cavernous fire. The guitars begin to bend in a Blut Aus Nord fashion before the playing unravels and raptures, hypnotizing before destruction rides again. The drums pound away, Buczarski’s vocals penetrate, and the track ends in a feverish haze. “Earth (The Mother)” is 11:56 and has Spectral Lore back in the saddle, offering clean tones and an eerie ambiance. The tempo kicks in along with Ayloss’ growls, while the guitars bleed into the pace, and a heavy wave of emotion strikes. The playing is blinding and just gets more aggressive, going faster, bleeding emotion, and lashing out with crazed cries. Mare Cognitum deliver “Venus (The Priestess),” a 12:27-long track that greets you with elegant playing and a breath of calm before a huge deluge lands, and Buczarski’s vocals cut through that. Heat melts into the fog and mist, as a freezing gaze pushes through smashing and smearing, and the playing wells up. The song floods the senses while riffs keep looping, charring to the finish. “Jupiter (The Giant)” is still Mare Cognitum offering a 15:04 cut that charges slowly, simmering into calm while thunder strikes, and a storm spreads over before the vocals land about 5 minutes in. The track plays games with your mind and heart as the playing snakes through the murk, and blood rushes. The main riffs comes back and infects, rains reload, and the song rushes to a huge finish.

Spectral Lore returns with “Saturn (The Rebel)” and envelopes you in shadowy darkness before Ayloss unleashes harsh shrieks, while mind-bending melodies come through and shock the senses. The vocals then ravage as the music goes into a light-headed slurry, the bass folds dimensions, organs spill, and the humidity bleeds out into the sky. “Neptune (The Mystic)” is Mare Cognitum, and the song blasts in with amazing force, as Buczarski’s shrieks carve wounds into your brain. The playing mauls and creates bruising, as the soloing explores the outer reaches of the galaxy before rage reignites and threatens safety. The music begins to spiral cosmically, hurtling toward the stars, while the melody gushes anew, and the end is ripped out dangerously. Spectral Lore brings you “Uranus (Spectral the Fallen),” which runs 12:24 and penetrates the world in mere seconds. Harsh growls hiss as the bass recoils, while doomy slithering adds an extra layer of grit to the song. Drums rain down while chaos bubbles to the surface, but then everything halts, and we’re in solemn sailing. Speaking and trippy adventures combine, working into the clouds as drone buzzes heavily, and the track returns to its bed in the stars. The final two pieces combine both bands, starting with “Pluto (The Gatekeeper) Part I” that’s an 11:30-long ambient passage that hosts a deep noise storm that reaches its long arms around you, as spirits from deep in the universe stretch their influences into our minds, leading to finale “Pluto (The Gatekeeper) Part II” that lasts a cool 12 minutes. The track opens in mystery before shrieks strike out of nowhere, and alien keys land and soak the ground. Guitars build a blaze before the music numbs momentarily before the next explosion. The serving of ferocity stomps as terrifying cries jolt from beyond, the leads fire up, and a bed of keys brings a steamy atmosphere that floats off into worlds unexplored.

Spectral Lore and Mare Cognitum not only are musically aligned, but they are cosmically as well as they prove yet again on “Wanderers: Astrology of the Nine,” already an early contender for one of the best collections that will come out this year. Their individual pieces stand apart from each other but also intermingle, and when they combine forces for the last two songs, this whole thing truly comes together. Granted, this record is a monster that takes a significant time contribution to handle at once, but that time you set aside will be more than worth it once you reach the end of this adventure, absolutely floored by what you just heard.

For more on Spectral Lore, go here: https://www.facebook.com/spectral.lorebm

For more on Mare Cognitum, go here: https://www.facebook.com/MareCognitumMusic/

To buy the album, go here: http://i-voidhanger.com/shop/

Or here: https://marecognitum.bandcamp.com/album/wanderers-astrology-of-the-nine

For more on the label, go here: http://i-voidhanger.com/

And here: https://www.facebook.com/entropicrecordings/