January 30, 2015

Darkspace - Dark Space III I & Mare Cognitum - Phobos Monolith

Written by Kaptain Carbon // Space Pilot from the Year 5000.

This is how the universe collapses. Darkspace's legacy is rooted in their interesting exploration of ambient black metal, as well as one of their guitarist’s work in the seminal side project Paysage D’ Hiver. It also helps that the band has an air of mystery, with their releases becoming increasingly more sparse. Darkspace’s previous record Dark Space III was released in 2008, and for the past four odd years fans have been awaiting the arrival of whatever the fourth installment would be called. In thematic fashion, the band’s announcement of their new record came in cryptic transmissions, with the full album being released almost immediately. I think I would have been happy with anything, but this is something else entirely.

Darkspace makes music that are pieces to a whole. Since their first release Dark Space I, and even their 2002 demo Dark Space -I, the band has released sequentially numbered tracks that vary in length but seem to be a part of the same cold universe. To add to this, the band seldom releases lyrics, save for dialogue and quotes from literature, philosophy, and film texts. The band’s dedication to the exploration of the coldest recesses of space is extraordinary, as sometimes the most horrifying things can dwell in the limitless expanses of darkness. Darkspace has kept this mystique strong for more than ten years and the fact that their records keep getting more and more interesting gives me hope for a century of darkness over this galaxy.

Throughout their timeline, the Darkspace albums have become more and more dynamic with their production. Dark Space III cemented the full range this band was capable of with heavy guitar tones and a dynamic range of atmosphere. Rather than the high end swirls that marked their first two albums, Dark Space III was lower and deeper in a contrast that makes the whole experience immersive. For this reason, Dark Space III I steps into its place as one of the most effective records of the band’s career, with a heavier drum machine and even more panoramic horror. Split into three tracks ranging from 18 to 27 minutes, the landscapes in “4.18,” “4.19” and “4.20” are something fitting of deep cosmic terror — one that could only be achieved by a band who is probably not of this earth.

If this review sounds like it was written by a fan, it is because Darkspace has achieved a non traditional thematic scope that is backed by outstanding releases. The presentation of this record, combined with their stellar past releases, make it an event that is either on a trajectory into deep space or something coming back from its depths. Given that the records are getting increasingly clearer in their sound, I imagine Dark Space X to be even more horrifying when it is released in 3022.

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

Cover art by Luciana Nedelea

Part of me finds the cover for Mare Cognitum’s third full length odd, while the other half is convincing the former that it is all part of a new realm of black metal. Mare Cognitum is a one man black metal outfit who seems to be completely obsessed with the darkness that dwells in space. I have been familiar and friendly with Mare Cognitum since his 2011 debut The Sea Which Has Become Known. It has been a few years since then, and I am pleased to realize that his new album, Phobos Monolith, is perhaps the best work from this creator and probably one of the more enjoyable atmospheric black metal records of 2014.

Space is a vast theme with multiple angles. Unlike Darkspace, Mare Cognitum retains some starry eyed wonder for the mysteries held between the darkness. Unlike his previous two records, the cover for Phobos Monolith is bright and iridescent with violets and whites. Additionally, Mare Cognitum's music is starting to embrace multi layered flourishes, such as the guitar cascade on “Weaving the Thread of Transcendence” or the half tempo acoustic accents on “Noumenon.” These changes in the music, along with a continual maturing of his abstract and transcendent lyrics, allows Phobos Monolith to step out as a solid record that can be embraced by crowds outside of atmospheric black metal.

I have made mention before how atmospheric black is flooded with bands that can easily mimic the sound. Phobos Monolith is a special case, as it allows this style of music to fully embrace its thematic focus and makes those style choices interesting. Why not have a record dedicated to the majesty of deep space filled with wandering atmosphere? There has been a lot of atmospheric black metal records in the past decade, but Mare Cognitum will never cease to be interesting or entertaining with his records.

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

Kaptain Carbon is the proprietor of Tape Wyrm -- a site site dedicated to cassette releases and underground metal reviews. In his free time, Kaptain Carbon reviews sword and sorcery films for Hollywood Metal, moderates Reddits r/metal, and spends way too much time playing Magic the Gathering.

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