(We present Andy Synn‘s review of the ambitious new double album created by Mare Cognitum (California) and Spectral Lore (Greece), which is being released today by I, Voidhanger Records and features cover art by Elijah Tamu.)
Call me a glutton for punishment, but not only is this the second double-album I’m reviewing this week, but it’s actually even longer than the first one!
What makes it different (very different, in fact) is that rather than being the product of just one band’s vision, Wanderers: Astrology of the Nine (and that’s the last time I’m going to be typing that in full) is a split-release from two artists, Spectral Lore and Mare Cognitum, each of whom contributes a full album’s worth of blistering blackened riffage and eerie, extraterrestrial atmosphere.
But wait, there’s more! Not only is the album arranged very differently to a traditional split – instead of grouping the songs by band they’re arranged (mostly) in an alternating pattern, loosely following the order of the planets in our solar system – but the final two tracks are in fact the result of a collaborative effort designed to fuse the best parts of both artists into one collective whole.
Of course, the problem with shooting for the stars is that there’s a lot that can go wrong out there in the formless void… so the question is, have Spectral Lore and Mare Cognitum found a way to boldly go where no band has gone before, or is this one giant leap too far?
Well, allow me to put your fears to rest. Despite clocking in at a jaw-dropping one-hour-and-fifty-five minutes in length, Wanderers rewards any time and effort invested into listening to it tenfold, and more than justifies its extended length by virtue of just how stunningly immersive and unceasingly engaging it is throughout.
Of the two artists involved it’s probably Mare Cognitum who makes the strongest impression overall, although that’s not to downplay the impressive work of Spectral Lore, whose slightly rawer, and arguably more expansive, approach on songs like “Mercury (The Virtuous)” and “Saturn (The Rebel”) – whose doomier nature immediately marks it as one of the album’s stand-out tracks – offers more than enough thrills and chills to please anyone who considers themselves an aficionado of the more atmospheric side of Black Metal.
That being said, there’s nothing soft about this record – hypnotic, yes, mesmerising, certainly, but never soothing, never soporific – and both artists deliver more than enough bang for your buck, with Mare Cognitum in particular delivering some of the most intense and dynamic material of the band’s entire career during tracks like “Mars (The Warrior)” and “Venus (The Priestess)” (the latter of which could give The Great Old Ones a run for their money with its scintillating sense of drama and dynamism).
I’ll grant you, a part of me still wonders whether or not the album might have functioned and flowed a little better, structurally, if each quartet of songs had been grouped together by artist instead of by celestial alignment (although, for some reason, even this isn’t quite right, with Venus and Mars switched around in the running order), and I sincerely question what, if anything, the entirely ambient first part of “Pluto (The Gatekeeper)” adds to the album (although the second part is a near perfect example of what both artists are capable of when working in harmony).
But, even with these concerns in mind, I can’t help but be a little in awe at the staggering scale of this album and all the effort and ambition (and sheer fucking hubris) which must have gone into its creation.
It’s an album where, despite its flaws, despite its excessive, exhausting, nature, the whole is still far greater than the mere sum of its parts, and Wanderers more than deserves to be held up as a shining example of what can truly be achieved when you refuse to allow your vision to be defined or constrained by the demands and expectations of others.