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Album Reviews : Mare Cognitum – Luminiferous Aether

By on September 16, 2016

a3742228094_16I don’t know how or when it happened, but at some point, black metal slithered into the lowest basement of “mainstream” and started producing some uncomfortably listenable music. I always took my aversion to black metal as a sign that that particular little subgenre was healthy; if I’m not enjoying it then they’re doing something right. Yet at a glacial pace, like grandma getting out of her chair, black metal has started to be more and more, well, good, in the pejorative sense of the word. It’s gone from the filthy, low-fi rot I could snidely joke about while listening to the new Periphery album (seriously it’s real good) to an undeniably, inappropriately enjoyable medium.
Or maybe that’s always been the case and I’m just ignorant, I don’t know. Or care.

Mare Cognitum are very good. I want to say that up top because I’m about to tear into aspects of this album, and I want you to keep remembering that this is all framed by the notion that I really like this whole record. But…

I can’t help shake the feeling that the black metal style is losing some of what should be integral to it. At the risk of sounding like the metal curmudgeon who complained about SOAD using blast beats, the curmudgeon I am most definitely turning into, I always thought black metal was, above all else, evil. Luminiferous Aether is a lot of things, but I’d call it inspirational, epic, even fucking joyous, before I’d call it evil. It’s as if there is a black metal template, consisting of screechy reverbed-as-fuck vocals, thrasy blast beats and thrasier guitars playing big chords, that you can take and the plug in other genres defining sounds. Mare Cognitum have seemingly taken the post-hardcore/emo extension and let rip; if you took the same chord progressions and note selections and played them without that black metal scrubbing, if you got the vocalist to sing and turned off the “Empty PCYC” effect, if you got the drummer to just calm the fuck down, this could sound like one of those bands that are one persuasive manager away from breaking into Triple J rotation; as if to prove my point, the first song I listened to after this album was the new Safe Hands track, and the intro only sounded different because of the production. There’s no threatening aspect to this CD, nothing that makes me think “I bet those boys take promo shots in the woods and wish they could kill their band mates.” Just the sound of an arts major realising that like, you don’t have to, you know, be confined to like, old school parameters and paradigms, you know?

The other aspect that bums me out about this really very good album is this; when the fuck am I ever going to listen to it again? The shortest songs are eight minutes long, they’re full of slow burns, and they meld into one big cohesive hole, like the chewy under your school desk. There are a few stand out moments which I’ll get to, but I’m just not sure when the urge will again strike me to chuck on a couple of ten minute long nihilistic and unskippable explorations into the limits of how well you can hide melody behind anguish and noise. I usually skip my little brothers Christmas recitals for this same reason.

But beyond those two points; fuck this is good. Like I said, I’m not a fan of black metal, so bugger all my preconceived notions of genre limitations. Move away from them, I say. Black metal; it’s french for “yuck.”
“Constellation Hipparchia” starts with a Cloudkicker-esque intro that develops into a melancholic blackened pop song, while “Occultated Temporal Dimensions” (how good are these names) is a thundering old school death-cum-black metal banger, with some seriously impressive drumming that I really hope isn’t programmed. The rest of the songs swirl between these two extremes, with plenty of clean guitar breaks (which my normie flatmate calls “tickling guitar”), spacey extended riffing sections, and pulverising blasts. Considering just how intense and breackneck most of this CD is, it’s still best enjoyed washing over you without too much scrutiny, like a sprinkler in summer or a K-Hole.

All I can recommend is that you make time for this CD. Maybe you’re the type of person who could have it on in the background, and good on you. I’m not. But I’m glad I deliberately put aside a chunk of my night, a few nights in a row, to get around it all, because Luminiferous Aether is an impressive, dizzying and epic, if not somewhat foggy and unfollowable, wall of sound. I like it. It’s good. That’s weird to type without being sarcastic.

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Mitch is a 26 year old vegan, socialist, atheist, utilitarian, reductionist metalhead, stand up comedian and philosophy major that hates labels. When he isn't being politely ignored at dinner parties he's being politely ignored on comedy nights around the country.