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.