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Review

Spectral Lore and Mare Cognitum – Wanderers: Astrology of the Nine Review

Band: Spectral Lore and Mare Cognitum
Album: Wanderers: Astrology of the Nine
Label: I, Voidhanger Records
Genre: Atmospheric Black Metal
Country: Greece, United States
Release Date: March 13th, 2020
FFO: The Great Old Ones, Blut Aus Nord, Wolves in the Throne Room, Cult of Fire

Though completed in 1916, it wouldn’t be until 1920 in London that anyone would be able to hear Gustav Holst’s The Planets in its entirety. The piece was largely adored and praised for its structure and unique composition, and is still widely loved for those same reasons. If you are a fan of music, and have yet to listen to Holst’s The Planets, do yourself a favor and do so now. Spectral Lore and Mare Cognitum clearly did, probably many times, when conceptualizing and recording their collaborative album Wanderers: Astrology of the Nine

This is the second collaborative project between these two stellar artists, the first in 2015 with Sol, a sonic exploration of the life and death-cycle of the sun that shifted beautifully between the atmospheric and the energetic. Taken separately, Mare Cognitum and Spectral Lore have been producing incredible works of atmospheric black metal, each with an ear towards the mystical and cosmic as thematic elements. This new collaboration sticks quite closely to the themes and sounds each explore separately and together, while also standing quite firmly in the shadow of Holst’s conception of astrology over astronomy as a means of conveying thematic emotion.

What is ultimately remarkable about this album is its ability to maintain sonic and thematic consistency across a nearly two hour run time without causing fatigue in the listener. That’s right: this album is nearly 2 hours long, more than double Holst’s entire planetary cycle. Taking the listener on an irregular journey through the solar system, where the order of the planets on the tracklist I’m sure makes more sense to someone with a keener understanding of astrology than me, the artists take time to give us their sonic interpretation of each planet’s physical environment as well as their mythical and philosophical meanings. And aside from the mystical and philosophical energy they attempt to interpret and produce, this album just totally rips musically.

The playlist is generally shared by each artist, vacillating between each of them across the tracklist until we get to the final track (which, for those of you keeping track at home, is Pluto). That’s not so say that there isn’t a definite difference in sounds between each song: Spectral Lore continues to show their ability to fill in the atmosphere and lean-in to a more Mediterranean sound, and Mare Cognitum continue to show their ability to pummel you. This should be no surprise to anyone who has listened to their previous collaborative work. What this album does, however, is bring out the best in each artist. The performances each of them bring to the table exceeds all of their previous work. And I’m willing to fight anyone on that statement. 

One would be hard pressed to find any real “stand out” songs on this album. From beginning to end, Wanderers shifts seamlessly between melody, atmosphere, and sheer aggression. It seems unable to stop itself from pumping out auditory bliss over and over again. This is an album for long road trips in the middle of the night, where the infinite darkness above you allows your mind to ponder the meaning of all that once was and has yet to become. What Spectral Lore and Mare Cognitum create is really incredible, even by the giant standards that should be set for each respective artist. Holst would be proud. 

Rating: 9.5/10

Tracklist:

  1. Mercury (The Virtuous)
  2. Mars (The Warrior)
  3. Earth (The Mother)
  4. Venus (The Priestess)
  5. Jupiter (The Giant)
  6. Saturn (The Rebel)
  7. Neptune (The Mystic)
  8. Uranus (The Fallen)
  9. Pluto (The Gatekeeper) Part 1 – Exodus Through the Frozen Wastes
  10. Pluto (The Gatekeeper) Part 2 – The Astral Bridge Approaching the Frozen Gates

Total Playing Time: 115:14

Click here to visit Spectral Lore’s Bandcamp
Click here to visit Mare Cognitum’s Bandcamp

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