In Praise of “Solar Paroxysm” by Mare Cognitum (#5 in 2021’s Top Ten)

As the barrier to entry for music continues to lower, the possibilities of one-man bands continue to skyrocket. For those with the patience and talent to execute a vision, going solo opens the doors to create something distinctly unique and unrivaled, which is exactly what California native Jacob Buczarski set out do with his band Mare Cognitum and continues to do with 2021’s “Solar Paroxysm”.

From a technical standpoint, there is little about “Solar Paroxysm” that differentiates itself from other atmospheric black metal releases – the backbone on the album is built on ethereal screaming, breakneck drumming, and endless tremolo picking. Where “Solar Paroxysm” does differentiate itself is it’s gorgeous atmosphere of melodic brutality built on top of excellent song structuring and album progression. At five songs, but over an hour long, “Solar Paroxysm” manages to avoid the common trap of letting the atmosphere of the song become the song itself, swallowing any momentum and bringing the flow to a grinding halt (something that contemporary one-man-band Spectral Lore occasionally struggles with). No, “Solar Paroxysm” is uncharacteristically fluid for an album of it’s kind, and combined with the fact that each of these five mini-epics sound distinct from one another, “Solar Paroxysm” hits the sweet spot of capturing everything that makes atmospheric black metal brutally beautiful without importing the genre’s tendencies towards less-than-stellar song structuring or album composition.

Poor production quality is a long hallmark of black metal, and while the mix on “Solar Paroxysm” is surprisingly good (relative to black metal standards), it doesn’t change the fact that the album itself is not the most pleasant thing to listen to. This is not the end of the world – black metal is very much an acquired taste – but it will turn off many who would otherwise find “Solar Paroxysm” wonderful had a budget been behind it. If production quality is not a deterrent, you may find “Solar Paroxysm” full of energy and elegance, never letting up nor becoming repetitive, harrowing and heavy.

“Solar Paroxysm” by Mare Cognitum is available wherever you get your music. #4 tomorrow.

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