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You can go to hell; I'm going to space.

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Mars: the Red Giant. A crimson beacon in the night sky. Mars has been "the next frontier" for global spacefaring culture -- close(ish), but just out of reach. We've never been to another planet yet, and Mars taunts us: close, but so far. Representing our neighboring planet is space pioneer Mare Cognitum, whose "Mars (The Warrior)" illustrates the feral spirit of the unknown landscape that comprises Mars. Named for the Roman god of war, this track features an unexpectedly aggressive side to the oft-atmospheric Jacob "Shrek" Buczarski -- something chugging, hateful, and full of ire.

Taking a warrior's stance, Mare Cognitum's new, more "metallic" face is a welcome albeit unprecedented change in a skyward-gazing, ambient sound. Buczarski's musicianship truly shows here, be it a technically-proficient flair between riffs or zeroing in on being as monstrous as the giant to which this song represents. So much atmospheric black metal puts emphasis on two-thirds of their imbued title, but, on this new split with Spectral Lore, Mare Cognitum puts full emphasis: atmospheric black metal. So much happens within the confines of this song, "Mars (The Warrior)" almost feels tangible, but Buczarski's devotion to atmosphere and ambiance leaves it just out of reach. You can almost catch it, but not really. Much like Mars, Mare Cognitum remains elusive: something we can see and dream about, but never actually grasp.

-- Jon Rosenthal

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Earth: the Pale Blue Dot. A speck among specks in a cloud of specks among other clouds of specks, forming an entire universe of specks each individually pointless but collectively, everything. But we, here on the Pale Blue Dot, give it meaning just by existing, decrying the cosmic pointlessness for something a bit less… deflating. But that alone doesn't revert the universal constant: that of instant annihilation's chances at any given moment. It's a harsh reality, one that we conveniently cover up to either save face or maintain brain, but a reality nonetheless. How meaningful must everything and anything be if it can be swatted out of existence in a microsecond? Will a lucky gamma ray burst end the misery/joy duality we so often spend our time navigating on this watery rock?

Maybe. But we're still here, and as long as we're still here, we'll still have black metal. And as long as we have black metal, I (for one) shall continue on. I've written before about how much I respect Spectral Lore's music, so I won't rehash too much (or over-polish anyone's pole). Suffice it to say: "Earth" sees mastermind Ayloss in all his resolute spectacularity. The shining beacon of his songwriting style are the effortless, nearly transparent transitions which imbue the music with the dreamiest of atmospheres. It's not just the dense layering, thick distortion, and newly revamped vocals which sell Spectral Lore on this collaboration; those things help for sure, but goddamn, it's how Ayloss just writes music. It flows, it pulses, and it surges without even making the mechanics and whatnot known. It is atmosphere itself, undistilled; it is outer space itself, if you stretch your imagination far enough.

What else would imagination be for other than escaping the True Fact that human life on the Pale Blue Dot will never be permanent?

-- Andrew Rothmund

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Wanderers: Astrology of the Nine releases March 13th via I, Voidhanger Records (EU) and Entropic Recordings (US). Preorders available for CD or vinyl.

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