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Mare Cognitum > Phobos Monolith > Reviews
Mare Cognitum - Phobos Monolith

A Monumental And Triumphant Release - 98%

JustinBourdeau, January 30th, 2023
Written based on this version: 2014, Digital, I, Voidhanger Records

This record perfectly encapsulates the cosmic vibes that we all know and love about this genre. The artist mixes a healthy dose of straight forward riffing that runs the gamut between death metal and old-school black metal with airy, zephyr-like atmospheres that punctuate the run time of this record with gorgeous aural vistas that provide breathing room after well-paced onslaughts of aggressive riffing.

The artwork perfectly sums up the kind of sonic adventure that Jacob Buczarski has conjured on this release. I was initially drawn to this record based on the artwork alone as I was browsing through Youtube recommendations after spinning WITTR's "Two Hunters"; one of my favourite records at the time. To say I was completely awestruck by the opening track is a huge understatement. I don't think I can name a more perfectly crafted atmospheric black metal song to be honest with you. It just... It's perfect is what it is. The pacing of the opening track is flawless. It picks you up off your feet and sucks you through a wormhole directly to an aural scene that matches the artwork and surrounds your mind with the same splashes of sonic colour that are so beautifully depicted by the album art.

If I may pick out a singular passage on the track that always sends chills down my spine; there is a crescendo section mid-track with a rising high register melody that peaks in a unique way that I haven't heard anywhere else. This climax arrives and it feels like the floor just drops out from under you as all the melodic content of the mix gets pulled into the higher octaves. The thunder of the bass and rhythm guitars is abandoned for a brief moment as they accompany the lead lines up to the high frets of the instruments and you're left feeling weightless for a few moments, spiralling weightlessly along with the cosmic stream of melody before returning to your feet to struggle in vain to pick your jaw up off the ground at the majesty of what you just experienced.

"Weaving The Thread Of Transcendence", in my opinion is likely to be the strongest ever single song ever created in the cosmic/atmospheric subgenre of black metal. Some might argue this point, but for me personally I can't think of a single more powerful track released before or after this album. Since 2014 I've held this opinion. I'd be more than happy to be proven wrong but I really doubt that's going to happen.

The album continues down the track listing with comparable quality and enthusiasm. Track 3 "Noumenon" takes a more laid back approach after the ferocity of "Entropic Hallucinations", more ballad-like but without any of the negative connotations of the term. A truly majestic track.

The only points I can take away from this excellent release are mere nit-picks. For the sake of balancing out my review I think it's important to bring up some reasons why this record might not be considered perfect.

Nitpick: The linear songwriting here can occasionally leave me wanting to revisit a riff or section of a song before the song ends. There's a few missed opportunities to substitute a novel riff/section to accentuate an already existing one.

Nitpick #2: 49 minutes doesn't seem like a run time that should draw any criticism, but I believe that track 2 and 4 could have had a little bit of fat trimmed off them to create a more poignant progression through the track list. It's extremely rare to find my attention waning at any point on this album but there's room for a bit more focus on these two tracks to elevate the track pacing (in the tracks themselves and on a from track-to-track basis) to perfection.

Truly a monolith of its own, standing head and shoulders above it's peers in the genre, this album is a must-buy. It is best experienced in full and uninterrupted in as meditative of a session you can arrange for yourself. Just let yourself get lost in this album's soundscapes and moods. It feels so good. This is escapism in music form and my life has been better for having heard it upon its release. It is the album that spurred me to write my own music and release an album in this same genre. Its influence is far reaching and its accolades are well deserved.

This will likely be the most impactful record I will have ever listened to in my life. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.

Thank you, Jacob.

's ok - 50%

caspian, January 3rd, 2016

Music is an oddly subjective, irrational thing- half of its' appeal, I guess. I enjoy Darkspace heaps, and partly the reason is because it's just so incredibly bombastic, but here.. well. It's a tiring listen, even though I can't really say why. When you have a Summoning/Darkspace fan telling you that the music is just a bit too over the top, i think that means something.

Not that Mare Cognitum really sound like either of those two bands. Perhaps a bit is borrowed from Darkspace, but MC is clearly a much less dark beast- Nounemon is quite a polite and melodic song, really, and even within the furiously blasting churn of the first track there's plenty of melody, some of which is borrowed off some of the more polite forest-y black metal bands. To say nothing of the fairly cheerful, often quite new agey lyrics.

But yeah, it's hard to articulate why I find this album quite a drag. It's produced well- if they're programmed drums he's put a lot of time into them, no doubt- the guitars clear and crunchy, the vocals hovering perfectly, never too shiny or over produced, and you can tell that the man behind it spent a lot of time working on it. The riffing style is perhaps the problem- it's very cascadian-ish, all these post hardcore kinda chords being used. I'm not automatically opposed to the stuff from that scene but the constant sad, yearning chords do tend to wear on you after a while. "Stately" is perhaps another word to describe it.

Perhaps a good album that I can contrast it too (despite the wildly diverging subject matter) would be Panopticon's Kentucky. There's a few similar enough traits- tendency towards long form, epic tunes with plenty of different ideas thrown in, some similar things in the riffing style, etc. One easily identifable reason why Kentucky gets me going so much more than this is that Mr.Panopticon is obviously super into it, screaming his box off, shredding up a storm- and perhaps that Mr.P is not afraid to occasionally just rock super hard. I'm not going to say that MC isn't super into it- this isn't the sort of record that one would do if you were half arsed, but the passion isn't as palpable, and few moments get me banging my fist. It's all long form atmoblack, which is absolutely fine- but the best bands in this genre can mix the arty with the visceral. I'm not so convinced that Mare Cognitum do that. There's a fair few chunkier riffs in the closing track, but they fail to bring the fire.

As mentioned earlier, it is perhaps a bit too bombastic. By and large everything is really loud all the time, and it does grate a bit. The quieter moments are just as loud, due to perhaps a slightly over enthusiastic compressing job. It's one of those things that doesn't necessarily bother me with every band I ever hear, but perhaps like Wintersun (to really pull out a band that sounds nothing like MC), having everything super super loud and layered doesn't really compensate for material that is often relatively uninteresting. You do get the feeling that the occasional lead, synth line and whatnot could get removed with little drop in quality.

I don't really want to diss this album too hard. It's just a bit nothing-ish. Not quite vicious enough, or dark enough, doesn't really emotionally resonate, doesn't rock out hard enough. Not terrible by any means, and it's almost worth getting just for the sweet cover art. Otherwise, fans of the genre only.

Mare Cognitum – Phobos Monolith: A Cosmic Journey - 90%

Apocolocyntosis, August 6th, 2015

There are many one-man black metal bands out there. There are a lot of atmospheric black metal bands out there. But rising above them all is Mare Cognitum and all the proof you need is Phobos Monolith. With the third full length release from Mare Cognitum, we hear a band that has fully developed and matured its sound and taken its place among best that atmospheric black metal has to offer.

Phobos Monolith really consists of only four tracks, but each of these serves as a pillar that supports the album as a whole. The listener’s astral journey begins with “Weaving the Thread of Transcendence” a song that opens up with a quieter subdued introduction, however this gives way to some of the best black metal heard in recent memory. The atmosphere is incredible. It isn’t long before you find yourself floating through the void, trying to comprehend its infinite nothingness. This is not head banging metal, this metal makes you close your eyes and contemplate things: dark things, frightening things. It forces your mind to contemplate your own existence and the agony of its own futility. And this is not an effect limited to the first track; each of the four songs takes the listen to a different cosmic location, whether it is an exploding star, the center of a black hole, or drifting through nebulae. Perhaps the best example of this is the epically rewarding ending to the final track. It feels the perfect end to the cosmic journey Phobos Monolith has taken you on. It feels like being torn apart by a black hole and being enlightened at the same time. The fast and precise guitar work and thick atmosphere creates a feeling of agony, sadness, desperation, and rage. It is an emotional moment on the album, and the build up to this point on the album brings about a truly cathartic experience. That is not to say that Phobos Monolith doesn’t have moments you can’t head bang to or air guitar to, those are present, though a bit rare. But this album is really better suited to solo listening with the lights out in the deep of winter.

Mare Cognitum displays excellent production value on Phobos Monolith, especially for a one-man black metal album. The notes are all clear and the sound has great depth and breadth, which is very important when trying to musically convey the vastness of space. I honestly cannot tell if the drums are programmed or not, but if they are, they might be some of the best sounding programmed drums I have ever heard. If they are not, then it is just another testament to the musical skill of Mare Cognitum’s Jacob Buczarski. The mix is great too, the vocals are not too loud, nor too quiet, and they tastefully enhance the atmosphere. And atmosphere is very important on a black metal album such as this.

This album was actually quite a surprise, especially after listening to the Mare Cognitum / Spectral Lore split Sol, which I just could not really get into. The only bad things I have to say about this album are that the middle two tracks seem to drag on a bit longer than they need to. Or that could just be me wanting to rush to the epic and cathartic ending of the final track. Overall, this is an excellent album and one of the best releases of 2014. It is a huge improvement in terms of production, songwriting, and pure emotive power from its two preceding albums and hopefully in the future Jacob Buczarski can somehow top this magnum opus.

A mighty cosmic post-BM beast needing discipline - 75%

NausikaDalazBlindaz, January 15th, 2015

Translating into English as "the sea that now has become known", Mare Cognitum is a one-man atmospheric post-black metal project based in Santa Ana, in California. Its musical influences seem to come from Cascadian black metal and the post-BM of other American acts like Panopticon but MC main man Jacob Buczarski's thematic inspiration might well be bands like Darkspace. The rushing streams of Cascadian-style BM, by turns aggressive and melancholy yet hopeful, paired with concepts of deep space, the darkness within and the opportunity this affords for existential contemplation should be an ideal combination to tackle over several albums. "Phobos Monolith" as it turns out happens to be MC's third full-length excursion into this realm.

MC's style is a massive roaring behemoth and at times during this recording I marvelled that Buczarski was able to keep on top of it all, let alone control his creation enough to direct it to his ends. There seem to be endless layers of tremolo guitars all going off at once and their combined sound reaches high to the firmaments of heaven and as far as horizons reach in all directions. Drumming likewise is insanely manic for much of the album, in its first half especially. Yes, they are programmed drums but at least Buczarski has shaped the beats and rhythms, almost in the manner of a sculptor, to fit the changing moods of his guitar storms. In parts of the album, the machine beats of the percussion are even sped up to hyper-crazy levels to the point where they take form in feather-light double-helix spirals: now that's what I call inventive! In this maelstrom, the paper-thin rasping vocals are simply another element that helps to modify the atmosphere
and direction of the songs.

Well there are four songs but I would be hard pressed to identify them track by track as there's not a great deal to distinguish one from the next. Suffice to say the album divides into two halves with a faster first half and a more contemplative and sorrowing second half. I much prefer the earlier half of the album as the faster pace keeps Buczarski busy with a musical balancing act. Here the energy is fierce and the rhythms are vigorous and powerful. There's still plenty of space for atmospheric cosmic effects and Buczarski's own slavering vocals. An overwhelming sense of not just total immersion but also being pulled along by unseen monstrous forces is present.

The album's second half tends towards bombast (especially in the track "Noumenon" which is the slowest of the four on offer) and self-indulgence (on the paradoxically named "Ephemeral Eternities") that imagines itself soundtrack material for a Hollywood blockbuster sci-fi movie series. At this point it is not so much the music running away and doing its own thing as its potential for baroque richness (and the perils that lie within that) getting the better of its creator so that he allows his creation to control him.

Yes this album is a mighty monster but like all children it does need some discipline to become truly effective when mature ... some editing for length is needed in parts, and a few quiet interludes within and between tracks to allow listeners time to reflect on what they've heard, catch their breath and wonder at the scale of what they've just experienced might have been welcome as well.

Phobos Monolith - 90%

Twin_guitar_attack, December 10th, 2014

Here’s another treat from the ever interesting I, Voidhanger records, the new album from American one man black metal project Mare Cognitum. A far cry from the standard badly produced bedroom BM of most one man acts, Phobos Monolith is fantastic, an atmospheric black metal album with a great spacey feel and a warm production. Wolves in the Throne Room’s post-black metal meets Abigor, with a lot of original touches in an interesting and powerful release which is rather varied over the course of it’s four tracks.

Weaving the Thead of Transcendance starts the album off with beautiful slow acoustic lead guitar over lush windy soundscapes, before kicking in with mournful distorted chords and brooding drums. Slow, melancholic and beautiful with soft tremolo picked leads over the top, it builds over the first five minutes towards a powerfully atmospheric track. Atmospheric riffs and a warm bass presence combine with punchy drums and bright shimmering leads to give it a mesmerising hypnotic feel. The high pitched rasped vocals are great, especially as they’re used quite sparingly to greater effect, and the mix is balanced enough to let the music shine as a whole, with no instrument dominating in a great post-black metal piece. The bright leads shimmer, while the earthy riffs keep it grounded, giving one the feeling of stargazing. The speed kicks in with Entropic Hallucinations, and the tempo changes combined with the dissonant playing giving it a twisted, spacier feel, making the atmosphere more celestial and intense than the brooding opener. Dark, dense riffs twist around in the vein of Abigor, while the post-metal leads combine with them to give a sound that’s all at once intense, heavy and beautiful. It’s the best track on the album and the sound is so huge and well layered it’s hard to believe you’re listening to a one man project.

Noumenon drops the pace once more, a piano intro giving way to slow, powerful riffs with a rich heavy tone, sublimely moving from one riff to the next with a great sense of pacing, while the leads are once more a thing of beauty. The guitar solo through the middle builds brilliantly towards shimmering tremolo picking in an emotionally charged piece. Closing track Ephemeral Entities is another intense spacey piece. After an ambient intro the track flows effortlessly between sections of pummelling riffs and barrages of blast beats to more bright, beautiful walls of spacey sound. Memorable melodies and a great flow from start to end make it sounds like an intensely beautiful trip around the cosmos – though one with a fantastic array of riffs.

The use of dynamics between softer sections and full on walls of sound keep Phobos Monolith engaging throughout, flowing brilliantly throughout the whole album. The layering of the guitar parts is also sublime, and that’s how the huge wall of sound is achieved, making it simultaneously heavy and beautiful. With it’s warm production, crystal clear yet heavy, it sounds fantastic. And with it’s powerful emotional atmosphere and fusion of traditional atmospheric black metal with a modern post-metal approach, it’s the best post-black metal release since last year’s Sunbather by Deafheaven, but one that’s going to appeal a lot more directly towards a black metal audience. Another essential from this year.

Originally written for

Not so much Cosmic but still very Brilliant! - 90%

Jabawock, December 2nd, 2014

Mare Cognitum is a one-man black metal project from California, started in 2011, and having previously released two full length albums and a split. Their new album, Phobos Monolith, is to be released this October on IVR (I, Voidhanger Records – sub-label of ATMF).

I was not unaware of this band’s existence before picking up this album; I heard the name several times before, and probably listened to a few songs here and there. At least the split they did with Spectral Lore last year definitely sounds familiar. I never really gave the band much attention though, and I was not yet fully familiar with their music. When I came across this new album, knowing that IVR often has interesting releases to offer, I wanted to give it a try. Plus, the band dubs themselves as “cosmic black metal”, and being a huge fan of Darkspace, I found that quite appealing.

Well, let’s get this out of the way: this album sounds nothing like Darkspace at all. Instead, we are offered a rather fast-paced atmospheric black metal, very much in the vein of The Great Old Ones (especially their debut), with some influences from the Cascadian scene (Sadhaka, Alda…). In fact, apart from the lyrical aspect, and some spacey-sounding keyboards and samples from time to time, the “cosmic” tag is rather misleading if you compare to other bands labelled similarly. But, with that out of the way, I was really impressed by the music on this release!

The four songs on this album make use of the typical elements of the atmospheric black metal genre, with long blast-beats sections filled with guitar leads. Not always distinct and catchy melodies, but more like layers of high tones to create an aura. And this is achieved very well here. The riffs and leads always “go forward” (each riff is new and does not come back later in the song), and while some similar bands may fail at this, losing the listener’s attention by continuously introducing new but non-distinctive elements, it isn’t the case here, as the aura being created is just so captivating in itself. I generally listen to music while working on other things; when I first heard this album, I found myself actively paying attention to what was going on.

Next to those fast parts and some slower, airy moments, common within the sub-genre, some more articulate guitar riffing is also used for a change of pace (mostly in songs 2 and 4). This gives us some diversity between the songs, which is very welcome. Drumming-wise, there is not much to comment; it stays very tight despite the overall high tempo (I suppose those are programmed drums), sits well in the mix, and just does the job here.

The vocals from main-man Jacob Buczarski are mostly black metal rasps, quite similar in tone to those of Don Anderson from Agalloch, although having a lot more effects applied to them. Just as in the case of Agalloch, I am not a big fan of those kind of vocals, as I feel they lack some body. In the case of Mare Cognitum it bothers me less though, as they blend well with the music and fit the atmosphere of the album. Some growls are also used, which is a nice addition. I always enjoy the use of growled vocals in (atmospheric) black metal, as it reminds of Hate Forest. The growls of Jacob are done in a rather standard Death Metal fashion, but they work perfectly here, adding some power where needed.

I really don’t have much to complain about regarding this album, as the music has a clear identity, a nice aura, and is well executed. It doesn’t sound totally unique but is no copycat of anything else either. It’s the band’s third album and it shows; the compositions sound mature and well thought-out. I have the impression that the four tracks are a bit uneven in terms of musical quality, but not by much, and it’s something that’s bound to improve with subsequent releases. There are also a few moments when I thought: “this could be done better”. The most significant one being the ending of the last song, which felt a bit like “ok, it’s over, let’s stop playing”, at least to me. I don’t believe that Jakub simply forgot to think of an ending for this album, but I do think it was not the best choice in this case.

But these are all very minor points. This album is very good (dare I say awesome), and I would recommend it to all fans of atmospheric black metal. I will definitely keep an eye open for the future releases from this project; if the quality continues to improve from here, the band will become a true classic within the genre!

Originally written for

Meticulously crafted; a communion with space. - 81%

ConorFynes, November 26th, 2014

Given the sense of solipsism inherent in most styles of black metal, it's no surprise that so many artists have taken the solo route in realizing their art. However, whether it's the sheer saturation or the fact that most of these projects tend to be mediocre at best, there has been a backlash against the one-man act (I know of at least one 'full band', secretly a solo artist who wants listeners to believe there's more than one member for this very reason). While it's rare that these solo projects ever extend past the bedroom/basement/shed, there are an elect handful that offer some of the most beautiful and frightening realizations of the psyche in black metal. The Ruins of Beverast would stand as the most impressive example in my mind, but Coldworld, Taake and Panopticon have all released some incredible albums in their time. New to the list would be Mare Cognitum, hailing from the sunny city of Santa Ana, California. Beginning my experience with this project of one J. Buczarski's with An Extraconscious Lucidity before working my way to the debut, I've been consistently impressed with the work Mare Cognitum has continued to unleash upon the world.

Phobos Monolith is Buczarski's third album to date under the Mare Cognitum moniker, and early reports that it's his best aren't without merit. This is challenging, dense and simultaneously hypnotic music. It's not often I come across music I believe to hold complexity and repetition with equal weight; such is certainly the case here with Mare Cognitum. While Buczarski often capitalizes on the trance-like state that atmospheric black metal can create over the course of effectively repeating chord progressions, there are often multiple guitar lines in the well-balanced mix, each contributing to this growing astral symphony. It's a sign of a gifted composer when multiple melodies can be handled simultaneously in unison; Phobos Monolith never seems to run short of this inspiration.

With four lengthy, ambient-oriented chunks of space worship here, Phobos Monolith at first conjured to mind what I imagine Tangerine Dream's Zeit would have sounded as an atmospheric black metal album. For Mare Cognitum the awe of space and fear of it are one and the same; the twisting melodies and harmonies are beautiful but predominantly cerebral. Whatever profound musings that may occur listening to Phobos Monolith are further driven by the often frantic rhythm of the music; the speed and energy give the impression of running away from some astral terror, but the sad melodies and repetition serve as a fatalistic counterweight to this sense of frantic self-preservation; even though our first impulse is to run and flee, it's ultimately a futile exercise. Whatever spectral form that haunts us in Phobos Monolith is certain and absolute.

With longer songs and so many ideas, it's surprising (and a little disappointing) that I don't have very much to say about the individual tracks themselves. Contrary to An Extraconscious Lucidity (which had several distinctive tracks) the songs here tend to blend into an amorphous mass. That's not necessarily a bad thing however; I get the impression that, far moreso here than on Mare Cognitum's work in the past- Phobos Monolith is intended to be digested as a whole; the parts are worthy on their own, but require the full context to get anywhere near the full effect. With that having been said, "Weaving the Thread of Transcendence" stands as a particularly excellent track, with a central tremolo-heavy melody that seeks to dig into my lungs, and succeeds. More specifically, there's a section a couple of minutes into "Ephemeral Eternity" that nearly made me jump out of my seat with the sheer aggression and intensity- comparisons to Anaal Nathrakh would not be unfounded. Barring that and some mandatory space ambience, Phobos Monolith is frighteningly consistent with its stoic focus on harmony-centered composition. Although the style rarely deviates, my attention is enraptured throughout the entire thing. There are too many ideas here to allow an idle mind.

Whereas most black metal soloists consider themselves lucky if they're capable guitarists, Buczarski's skill extends far past that. As much as I'm impressed by the brilliant harmonies and interplay, the best performance here might be the way in which he's arranged the drums. I've always preferred a human touch to drums, but Phobos Monolith ultimately goes to show that programmed drums can be just as intense and exciting, provided they're given enough care and design. While Mare Cognitum's greatest strength lies in Jacob's ability to make multiple guitar lines work simultaneously together, hearing programmed drums with this much detail and busyness is a rare pleasure.

I was surprised to read a couple of reviews lauding Jacob Buczarski's vocals as one of the project's greatest assets. Personally, I find the opposite to be true; his wispy rasp is not weak in of itself, but it feels superfluous and underwhelming; it's a problem I had with An Extraconscious Lucidity, and the same rings true for Phobos Monolith. There seems to be an effort to broaden the limited vocal palette to incorporate death-ier growls with "Ephemeral Eternities", and while they're generally less distracting than the trademark rasp he's used over the past couple of albums, it still feels like Mare Cognitum struggles with properly integrating vocals into the music. I understand that it's very rare that vocals ever play an integral role in the composition of atmospheric black metal, but when done right, they should accent emotions the listener should already be feeling. I'm feeling plenty of things while listening to Phobos Monolith, but the vocals haven't helped on that end at all.

Artwork here was done by Luciana Nedelea. Until now, Mare Cognitum's I, Voidhanger labelmate Spectral Lore's (another fantastic one man band!) cover was my favourite art of 2014, and now it has some steady competition, in Phobos Monolith. I think I have a favourite album cover artist. The surreal mountains in front of an astral starscape is a perfect visual representation of what Mare Cognitum's sound is all about; the subjective and personal experience of the unknown and otherworldly.

In a broad sense, Mare Cognitum seeks to undo many of the bad preconceptions I and many others have towards one-man black metal. Where one might come to expect imbalance and crudity, Buczarski offers meticulous sound design and all-around instrumental capability. Ultimately, I am unsure whether I truly prefer this over An Extraconscious Lucidity. The widening of scope and sound undeniably mark it as the most ambitious and complex MC album by a large margin, but I long for the brilliant hooks and dynamic that his second album was awash in. One thing's for sure however; Mare Cognitum has breached another frontier in composition and arrangement with this album. The possible directions and approaches Buczarski might take Mare Cognitum down are virtually limitless. Quite like space itself.


The Stars Are Right. Again. - 82%

autothrall, November 3rd, 2014
Written based on this version: 2014, CD, I, Voidhanger Records (Limited edition)

Where a band like Darkspace explores the 'cosmic' aspects of black metal through sheer nihilism and oppression, there are others who approach the subject matter with a little more elegance and dynamic range. Chief among these atmospheric astronauts is Californian Jacob Buczarski, aka Mare Cognitum, who has lain somewhere beneath the radar only in so much that he's drifting so far beyond the satellite range that it's often difficult to pick his signal out among the stars. That's not to say he's advocating the most unique or experimental brand of black metal, for a lot of his writing has traits in common with the melodic European sect that went viral in the mid 90s...but like label mate Ayloss and Spectral Lore, he gifts us with a more colorful and balanced glimpse at the universe, at the colors of fields of celestial bodies burning and inert, at the nebulas unleashing a spectrum of beauty across the universe. No wonder the two bands chose to release their split album Sol together, a recording that had me primed for Jacob's next full-length solo offering...which has arrived in the autumn of 2014.

Four tracks of fulfilling, melodic black metal saturated with resonant rasps, intense drum patterns and enough tempo and rift-shifting moments to fill out their oft-staggering durations, generally beyond the 13 minute mark. At once, there is little 'new' to how he puts these progressions together: floods of tremolo picked, somber riffs layered together to create an intense, often desperate sense of beauty, like an expedition through space which encounters periods of turbulence and danger; in particular captured through the speed of "Entropic Hallucinations", the album's shorter, 8 minute piece. Against these we are presented with more solemn, introspective passages where the frenzy of the beats drops to a steadier, magnificent pace and the individual strings of the guitars are slung into lavishly picked harmonies that flesh out the slower overall rhythm ("Noumenon"), and there are also some periods of lush interstellar ambiance like the excellent intro to the 15+ minute finale "Ephemeral Eternities" which absolutely feel like one beholden to an alien landscape...a cerebral scoring that generated images of an astronaut on some lifeless moon staring unto infinity, so good that I wish there had been a higher ratio of the pure ambient tinkering measured against the metallic material. Fortunately, the songwriting is scripted well enough that Buczarski never dwells on any one riffing structure or tempo for them to ever wear out their welcome...

...some new melody is always being woven forth, and thus the album becomes much like that surreal space tunnel which bridges the two (uneven) 'halves' of 2001: A Space Odyssey, a funnel of color through which the unknown-yet-suspiciously-familiar awaits us all. Buczarski's rasps and growls remind us of the eminent, imminent hostility of the emptiness as it presses in on all of us, here on our fragile eggshell of a world, but the Phobos Monolith as a whole serves as a symbol of space's eternal beauty, regardless of how much it is touched by the manifest destiny, or 'stain' of humanity, relative to how you personally view the gradual transmigration of our species. It's not so much that the man has uncovered some entirely new form of language in the genre, which anyone with even a cursory history with black metal will tell you when listening to these riffs, but more that he's taking the quality and integrity of that 90s approach, when the style hadn't yet been victim to endless cycles of derivation, and giving it berth on a rocket ship, hurtling towards some distant galaxy where it might be shared with some other race. Like the ethereal, ascending figures on its covers, it's out of here, man, on a one way trip to the infinite. Would it have left more of an impact with me if it the theme had been imbued with a more distinctly bizarre, left of center musical approach? Absolutely, but Mare Cognitum's third album is nonetheless a thoroughly engaging, memorable sojourn beyond the sky, the product of a consistent and welcome voice in USBM.