Aah, space; the final frontier. Cosmic black metal might not be new and uncharted territory, but arguably there’s no one who voyages deeper into the black depths of space as Mesarthim, the Australian powerhouse project that never seems to take a break for anything. On their newest release CLG J02182-05102, which came out digitally in July but is seeing a physical release this week, they manage to literally and figuratively journey farther out into space than they have ever managed to before, and somehow still keep everything fresh. The title might not roll off the tip of the tongue, but this is an album that will be caught in your brain for a long time to come.
So, the obvious question about CLG J02182-05102 is…what’s with the title? As you might expect, it’s a space thing, specifically the name of a recently discovered cluster of galaxies that might just be the most distant and primitive galaxies we have encountered yet. What’s most striking about this cluster is just how much resemblance it bears to other, more modern galaxy clusters based on its cosmological makeup of old, massive red galaxies that usually show up after billions more years of development. I’m not an expert and I’m not going to dump all the details here, but as someone who has more than a passing interest in space and cosmology, go look that shit up; it’s fascinating. And, more surprisingly, it serves as an almost perfect analogy to Mesarthim, who continue their self-styled “Phase II” that began with the Vacuum Solution EP released earlier this year. The prolific output of the band is nothing to sneeze at, not only in breadth but also in a newly embraced sense of depth. CLG J02182-05102 continues the band’s flirtations with EDM liberally sprinkled over their trademark black metal, and recaptures their early power metal and melodeath influences. If you’re wondering if that makes for a truly wild listen, you’d be right. If you’re thinking that sounds absolutely incredible, you’re also right.
CLG J02182-05102 is an album that almost singlehandedly proves that cosmic black metal doesn’t have to be cold and dreary. Right from the first notes of “A Generation of Star Birth, Part 1” this album sucks you in with tones that are warm and inviting, melodies that are insanely catchy and hooks that sink in deep, not to mention a guitar solo that genuinely whips ass. You would not think that black metal and dance beats go well together, but as soon as the electronic drums kicked in, I literally could not stop myself from grooving in my seat. The synth work on this thing is absolutely stunning, in the sense that it is the last thing you would expect, and in that it makes these songs absolutely come alive. The punk energy of “Infinite Density” is perfectly augmented by trance electronics, the combination of which evokes a lot of power metal vibes, and “A Manipulation of Number, Part 2” builds off of almost hip-hop drums into a melodic, groovy stomp with synth leads that are unironically epic. It cannot be overstated how much this album actually sounds like space, but the kind of space that you actually want to visit. There is so much joy and life in CLG J02182-05102 that the juxtaposition might be jarring at first, but within seconds this album hooks you.
CLG J02182-05102 is an album that deserves to be listened to in a physical format, if your wallet and sound system of choice can support it. There is so much depth and nuance to the sound, so much wonder and amazement that it would be a shame to waste it on bad speakers. I guess it’s about the time to start thinking about year end lists, and if I’m honest, this one is going to be a surprise front runner somewhere down the line. It’s that mesmerizing.