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Mare Cognitum > An Extraconscious Lucidity > Reviews
Mare Cognitum - An Extraconscious Lucidity

Cosmic brilliance from the abyss. - 84%

ConorFynes, May 29th, 2014

Keeping in mind that black metal has traditionally kept itself rooted in things cold, dark and vast, it's hardly surprising some artists would find themselves drawn to the milieu and aesthetic of outer space. In a way, space is the perfect symbolic reflection of the genre's collective identity, and those bands that dabble in matters of the interstellar have only carried black metal to its natural conclusions. Mare Cognitum, a one-man outfit from California, is one such act, drawing its name from a Lunar formation and sonic inspirations from even deeper into the abyss. As an album, An Extraconscious Lucidity distinguishes itself less for this so-called space gimmick, and much more for the resounding quality of its writing and atmosphere. Though it may be premature to say it, I think Mare Cognitum is among the most impressive atmospheric black metal bands around.

Multi-instrumentalist Jacob Buczarski has crafted a formidable record with An Extraconscious Lucidity. Though I'd hesitate to call the sound unique, the blissfully cold atmosphere and fiery songwriting make Mare Cognitum a rare find, especially in a genre where it tends to be one or the other, if any at all. Analyzed through the context of his contemporaries, Buczarski's sound bears a resemblance to the US 'Cascadian' and generally tepid 'blackgaze' scenes, but it would do an injustice to Mare Cognitum's sound to compare them directly. It's a surprisingly uncommon thing, but Mare Cognitum's style and strength of composition is based in the way Buczarski has married the typically drawn out scope and sound of atmospheric black metal with a more concise and momentous pace and structure.

I might even offer a comparison to Australia's Woods of Desolation, had this album's resulting atmosphere not felt so damned bleak. Even though the riffs are memorable individually, An Extraconscious Lucidity feels deathly cold. True to its promise of interstellar desolation, Mare Cognitum, like Blut Aus Nord, enjoys its greatest atmospheric successes through its intentional absence of organic feeling. Slight touches of space ambient and electronic (seemingly inspired by the classic Berlin School a la Tangerine Dream) are subtle, yet incredibly effective at conjuring Mare Cognitum's desired atmosphere. The guitars pack a surprising punch, with a tone that befits the atmosphere to perfection. I usually approach drum machines with the feeling that they're a necessary evil in light of budgetary issues; with Mare Cognitum however, the drums feel incredibly lively and fierce, no doubt the result of some considerable thought and effort Buczarski's put into the execution and arrangement of the album.

All of this, of course, would be void, had Mare Cognitum not had the strength of songwriting to back it up. "Collapse into Essence" is the clear winner of the songs here, a twelve minute epic with a logical structure and apocalyptic climax that blows me away every time I spin the album, although "Degeneracy of Pressure" and "Nascency", though shorter, offer a similar sense of awe and scope. If there's any part of Mare Cognitum that proves to be less convincing than the rest, it would have to be the vocals. Buczarski's instrumentation and programming are virtually mastered in their quest for atmosphere, but the pseudo-cavernous rasp here does pretty little to advance the work any further. The idea to have your standard black metal snarl undermixed and filtered through layers of reverb sounds perfect for this style on paper, but the vocals feel tacked-on, rather than a vital part of the atmosphere. Even if no one can hear you scream in space, An Extraconscious Lucidity suffers the absence of presence and conviction in its vocals. A minor gripe when all is said and done, but wasted potential nonetheless.

With a recent (and excellent) split with Spectral Lore this past year and a new full-length on the way, it seems there is no better time to be hearing about Mare Cognitum and Jake Buczarski's blend of cosmic black metal. For the sake of this album, An Extraconscious Lucidity is one of the best atmospheric black metal albums to come out over the past couple of years; even if Mare Cognitum isn't yet in the ballpark of mastery, he's getting pretty close to it.

Originally written for Heathen Harvest Periodical

Extraconscious Devotion - 90%

SXIII, August 21st, 2012

I don't write reviews all that often. I have several reasons for that, the most important one being that mostly, the music is not worth writing about. If I don't like a release, I generally will not feel like wasting my valuable time writing about how I don't like to listen to it. A lot of reviewers only seem interested in writing bad reviews, forgetting their primary job in the first place: Finding and pointing out stuff that they actually think is worth writing about. Well, I've found something worth writing about, and it's called Mare Cognitum.

Mare Cognitum is a fairly unknown and overlooked band from Santa Ana in California, USA. It was their second album, 'An Extraconscious Lucidity' that caught my attention, thanks to the ever so wonderful 'Forever Cursed' blogspot. At this particular time, the album has no physical release yet, so I listened to it on the band's bandcamp page. The debut album has had the same treatment, and meanwhile has gotten the band a tape release. Not much, but at least is something. However, I think this second album deserves a lot more than just an internet or a tape release. This stuff is high above your average black metal release.

Stylewise, we can place Mare Cognitum in a more or less recognizable USBM sound. Think Weakling, Deafheaven, maybe even Wolves in the Throne Room. Long melodic riffs accompagnied by fast drums, creating a mesmerizing and hypnotic aura. But while I'm typing this, I also have to say that there is some kind of a different element in this band. Once in a while, the music will drop down to almost doomy slow black metal parts, focusing on the atmosphere rather than the music itself. Besides this, we have some strange yet interesting influences from other styles. The intro of the first song example, shows us some space-influenced ambience, reminding of scenes in '2001: A Space Oddysey'. This intro gradually flows into a reverb-laden clean guitar introduction, immediately setting the right atmosphere. The following riffs immediately set the perfect - and I do mean perfect - setting for the rest of the album. Fast yet melodic, multi-layered riffing and plenty of drum changes to keep everything more than interesting. Besides this, we sometimes hear riffs that remind more of death metal than they do of black metal. Palm-muted goodness with weird drumming, however kept at such a level that they make the music more interesting rather than boring. It's this multitude of influences that makes this release special and more interesting that an average BM release.

The vocals on this album are a bit harsh, also something that we're used to from the USBM scene. I could imagine some people not liking the vocals, or expecting them to be harsher, sharper if you will. I, however, think they contribute to the overall feeling of the album and the band. Some clean parts, like the break at 9'00 in 'Collapse into Essence' show that the voice can be used for other things than just supporting the distorted guitar sound, building up to a great climax when the final, truely epic part of the song begins.

It was hard for me to pick a favorite song off this album, but after more than 10 listens, I'd have to go with 'Degeneracy Pressure', a song that again shows a lot of different interesting elements. We have the aforementions ambient influences, epic riffs with multi-layered melodies, some death metal influenced palm-muted riffs, drum and rhythm changes. But most of all, this song has one of the best riffs on the album; the one that starts at 1'58. The entire riff is like a dream, some kind of space dream that takes you onto a ride through the universe, through pressure and time. Maybe this is a great way to describe the entire album; a journey through space and time, reaching new elements and discoveries every couple of minutes. This journey, epic is it was, ends in a really memorable passage, when the final song ('Pulses in Extraconscious Lucidity') hits the 6'05 mark. Everything slows down to a part that is almost doomy, slow beats of the drums, guitar chords lingering and a single melody line going on through the entire part. Once more, the band proves not to be frightened by influences that might be considered strange in this kind of music. When you hear it, it doesn't even sound like 'strange influences' whatsoever. Everything fits together like a great unity, the unity that is called 'An Extraconscious Lucidity', by Mare Cognitum. I recommend this to everyone who can appreciate atmospheric black metal, in any form whatsoever. This is worth picking up.

To end this review, I feel I should mention that Mare Cognitum is a solo project in every single way. Up from the writing, recording and producing process being in the hands of the sole member, this guy doesn't seem to care about anything anyone will answer when he sends his music out into the world. He uploaded his music to bandcamp, free for everyone to listen and download. If you send him a mail, he will send you a CD-r for free. This kind of attitude, this devotion, deserves attention, and I hope this review might help with some of that. Go to http://marecognitum.bandcamp.com/ and just listen to the second album of this band. It doesn't take any trouble or effort, and you will not regret it. Support this band in every way you can.

Nascency of cosmic potential. - 82%

Lycaon, July 14th, 2012

Here is a gem for these who dig deep into the mines of underground black metal, perhaps not a diamond yet, but a precious find nonetheless. This is the second album of US one-man band Mare Cognitum, an impressive display of blackened neo-melodicism of progressive expansions ala Krallice or Wolves in the Throne Room, deathmetal-ish dense micro-structures and ambiental/post rockish atmospheric reverberations. Opener "Collapse into Essence" grabs you by the neck and never lets you go during its 12 minutes. It starts with a steady, slow pulse like the distant breath of an intergalactic star, topped with "spacey" effects and a droning synth melody, like the musical description of a cosmogonic event, giving its way not after long (3 minutes actually, for bad ambient intros this is long) to the primordial, solitary sounding clean guitar melody that universally and for all metal proclaims "Here we fucking go, and this is going to be loud". It is indeed so; melodic, epic riffs building up in intensity until being unleashed into raging blastbeats, mostly simple but fully engaging, melodic but without losing edge and getting transformed into shoegaze mush. Which is the biggest problem with bands of similar aspirations (either they're from Cascadia or anywhere else), melody turning into flabby self-affirmation, going nowhere, hanging around in passivity. This is lustful of life, dynamic, pursuing change, expansion, journey. It is quite a challenge to write metal that elates the listener, well while staying metal and Mare Cognitum does a good job on finding that special intermediary point.

While the opener persists in the heavy and emotional atmosphere of cosmic yearning until its end, "Pyre of Ascendance" begins angrier and faster, retaining the melodicism but offering more violence in its way, like a kind of anxious anticipation of a dangerous necessity. The lyrics, all extremely well written, very visual and putting out a "sci-fi" feeling which perfectly goes along with the music speak something about transcendence through inhaling the ashes of a decadent god-race. "Degeneracy Pressure" is a melodic funereal song for a dying star, with tremolo played, reverbed guitar lines taking the lead in typical post rock fashion. Although this is a much simpler song that the two previous ones, it still manages to engage, due to the excellent mix and general production quality (provided by the composer himself) which brings out the atmosphere to the surface rather than the rumble. Noteworthy is also the well-sequenced and mixed drum machine, something that most bedroom black metal bands never seem to get right (not even Blut Aus Nord, for instance). The high pitched, reverbed rasp also found in many other bands of similar vein also does its part contributing to the atmosphere in the background. "Nascency" and "Ergosphere" follow the melodic direction even further, this time getting even simpler in micro-structure, the riffs alternating between two guitar chords, basically providing background for the guitar leads. This is more like minimalist ambient black metal that is closer to slow orchestral movements in soundtracks or classical music rather than typical metal. It's a very interesting and original concept, and needs excellent melodic writing and mixing in order to work; it does for the most part, but in these two songs Mare Cognitum starts showing a slight compositional inconsistency, in that there feels that some elements could be added to loosen this continuous "sacrality" of the perfect, melodic riffs, to provide more dynamicness as in the first two tracks of the album. For those into minimalistic atmospheric writing though this might actually be heaven. The closer "Pulses in Extraconscious Ludicity" is bringing back the harshness and speed, with twin melodic guitar lines reminding me of swedish black metal like Dissection and Dawn. This I imagive to be an older track as it's not very close in style with the rest of the album. It's probably also the weaker,as it lacks this special feeling of immensity that characterizes the rest of the album.

This album shows a lot of potential for the future and since Mare Cognitum is such a young project with consistency in its output (two full lengths in two years) I think it's easy to say we should expect big things in the future. For now, "An Extraconscious Lucidity" is a really good album, with its only problem being that it doesn't quite fulfill the big expectations it creates with the first two songs, but still provides lots of excellent moments of progressive black metal mastery.