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(I, Voidhanger Records)

Alienation is a common theme in Black Metal and it often translates in the overall mood and aesthetic of the genre; the tremolo effect creates a wall of sound, the drums blur, the vocals beckon, they float around you in an icy haze instead of pummeling you with icicles. The coldness devastates you but never cuts. In my opinion, I'm more likely to get pinned than penetrated, yet its difficult to deny the dull, aching pain that stays with you for the duration. "Sol" is joint effort between MARE COGNITUM and SPECTRAL LORE. The two feature similar manifestations of the epic, distant, Black Metal variety but with key differences. The first track by MARE COGNITUM is a drifting iceberg of a song. Its extended lags feature cold guitars layered with synth to create some sort of unholy blizzard; its winds are seemingly peaceful, but they are the ones that will chill your right to your bones. These long interludes are interrupted every so often with heavier parts often taking the form of a frenzied climax or a slower, steadier bridge or sorts. The winds pick up and thrash you around for a bit just in case the frostbite didn't already take you. SPECTRAL LORE's track is just a touch grittier in production and includes more vocals in a thickly layered affair that feels more like a cathedral than say, Siberia. Repetitive riffs are slightly obscured by ominous and airy synth and enhanced by blustery, almost inhuman vocals all swirling about a steady backbone of drums that seems to guide the song through a meandering journey of tempo changes and rising intensity. The overall effect is rather theatrical but also slightly terrifying and almost labyrinthine, like the ending of The Shining when Jack is chasing the kid with an axe through a frozen maze. Being homicidal and lost is a rather interesting combination and it's one I can definitely feel in this song. A common link between these two bands is how varied their songs are. There are moments where you feel you have reached the end due to the deceptive ways the song seems like its winding down. When I did make it to the end, I felt like I had really been through something; in its own way, the music is telling a story. It's even cinematic. The finale on this split is a combined effort from both bands. Interestingly enough, its a rather minimalistic song compared to the other two. The songs opening creates an ominous atmosphere and the mood makes a slow and lumbering shift to feel almost reassuring, a bit of a cleansing moment that allows you to reflect on the experience from the former, rather epic songs. There are real complexities about the aesthetic of this music as it is mainly fantastical but it's able to be futuristic and timeless simultaneously. Either way, I recommend this expansive and psychonautic trip for anyone looking to get lost for a while... just don't let the man with the axe catch up to you.,

Angelica Jannone

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