The Athens, Greece-based Spectral Lore and the Portland, Oregon-based Mare Cognitum unfurl an absolutely stunning psychedelic black metal experience on their new collaborative album Wanderers: Astrology of the Nine, which features almost two hours of music. The ten songs feel staggering in scope, and every moment feels richly engaging as the artists keep a poignantly personable dynamic variety running strong throughout the record. The music hinges on a rabid fury, but the dynamic shifts and complexly circulating rhythms that the artists include in the piece send the frenzy to what feels like an alternate psychological dimension. Wanderers: Astrology of the Nine feels like the sonic encapsulation of a unique, extraordinary sense of being as the disorienting, twisted rhythms present with the backing of frequently dizzying black metal ferocity, including lacerating guitars and mind-boggling drum rhythms that come together in songs that feel like blasts through the fabric of reality.
A particularly intriguing aspect of the music is how close it brings an experience of rising above the limitations of our individual physical experience. In these songs, esoteric exploration no longer feels like some kind of wistful, otherworldly endeavor. Instead, it’s basically unmissable because of these frequently absolutely incinerating songs.
The tracks are each tied to a particular planet, with the final two songs designated for Pluto and one for each of the rest of the perhaps most familiar heavenly bodies, including our own planet Earth. Each title contains an anthropomorphized description of the individual planets, and the feel of the songs connects to these descriptions. For example, some of the most physically formidable parts of the album are found on the second track, “Mars (The Warrior),” and the extended riffs on track five, called “Jupiter (The Giant),” loom like immersively huge shadows.
Although every moment pops with mind-bending intensity, “Mars (The Warrior)” definitely feels like a standout track. In that song, razor-edged riffs streak across a devastatingly heavy mix pockmarked by frenzied, furious drum blasts that feel legitimately physically unnerving. It feels astonishing that this much raw energy could be packed into a piece of sound. Here and elsewhere, the sound features a dizzying thickness, but there’s never so much chaos that the forward force gets anywhere close to lost. In fact, the readily evident, melodically-expressed forward focus makes this staggeringly piercing album land even more powerfully, like some kind of asteroid barreling straight for the listener.
The artists’ melodic bent gets time to shine including the regally dramatic surges of poignant melody amidst the shredding on “Venus (The Priestess)” and the galloping rhythms that feature on the very final song, “Pluto (The Gatekeeper) Part II: The Astral Bridge.” Amidst the ferocity, some truly beautiful moments also emerge, like on track three, called “Earth (The Mother),” which features feedback-drenched but softly strummed guitar melodies that feel reminiscent in their shape and feel of a pattern of stars lighting up across a night sky.
Ultimately, Spectral Lore and Mare Cognitum, who’ve collaborated on an album before (2015’s Sol), feel like they’ve captured something truly special on Wanderers: Astrology of the Nine. The album, which came in a formidable three-disc vinyl edition, features a glorious, mind-melting lurch into the cosmic fringes of extreme metal.
Check out the music below! Portland’s Entropic Recordings and Italy’s I, Voidhanger Records collaborated on the release.