My review of Mare Cognitum’s 2016 album Luminiferous Aether was one of the earliest pieces of writing I published when I first started writing for Nine Circles. As such, they are a band that occupies a special place in my heart, not just because I think they are one of the best names in black metal today, but because each album that I have a chance to engage with is a chance to see how both I and they have grown. It feels much like checking in with an old friend, even though Jacob Buczarski wouldn’t know me from Adam, a way to mark the passage of time and the distance we’ve come on our respective journies, and on Solar Paroxysm, it seems the passage of time has left both of us with no patience for fucking around.
Despite coming very hot on the heels of last year’s collaborative album with Spectral Lore, Solar Paroxysm feels like both a departure from the style of that album as well as Mare Cognitum’s repertoire as a whole. As to where this shift in tone came from, Buczarski’s writing process for this album has been described as being influenced by “…the failures of humankind over the past epoch, [Buczarski’s] frustrations with humankind and politics.” Written between 2018 and 2020, this is an album that has been shaped by a time of both hope and desperation, by the fight for marginalized communities to stand up against violent systems of oppression, by the poisonous creep of fascism into society, by our fight to try to save our world from the extant looming threat of global climate change, and even now into the fight to keep each other alive during the time of a global crisis when the forces of capitalism demand we throw our bodies on the altar of the stock market. In a world where it can be a struggle just to get out of bed in the morning, Mare Cognitum chooses not to give up hope, but to loose the reigns and rage against the dying of the light.
Solar Paroxysm is delivered with an immediacy that is rarely seen this consistently through the band’s music. If albums like Phobos Monolith and Luminiferous Aether were a nebula, beautiful and twisting and full of spacious depth, Solar Paroxysm is the neutron star at the core of that nebula, impossibly dense and blindingly brilliant. The one-two punch of “Antaresian” into “Frozen Star Divinization” that kicks the album off sets the tone with nearly twenty-three minutes of unrelenting black metal fury. The first seven minutes of “Terra Requiem” give a bit of necessary reprieve from the ass-kicking before ramping things up to the stratosphere again, and resuming pedal-to-the-metal ferocity on “Luminous Accretion” straight through to the end of album closer “Ataraxia Tunnels.” That isn’t to say that the beauty and atmosphere that has been the hallmark of Mare Cognitum’s sound isn’t still here; the earnest melody that has always been a defining characteristic of Buczarski’s music is still the driving force of his style of black metal, and Solar Paroxysm‘s breakneck pacing works in tandem with this sense of melody to deliver songs that hit you in the gut and the heart at the same time, completely knocking the wind out of you.
Solar Paroxysm is far and away the best thing Mare Cognitum have ever put out, a crowning achievement on an already laudible discography. As far as black metal goes, it’s going to be tough to find something more affecting than this. Press play, turn the volume way up, and let the waves of rage propel you into the fight for the future.