Author: Caspian Yurisich
(I, Voidhanger Records, 2016)
#FOR FANS OF: Progressive Black Metal, Darkspace
The most obvious description with 'Luminiferous Aether' is a hi-fi, somewhat maximalist Darkspace. Whereas those swiss guys do a fantastic job conjuring up a cold, lifeless universe populated sparsely by primal, unyielding alien evil, Mare Cognitum basically get something closer to a darker Mass Effect universe. Somewhat grim still, but here the nebulae are in that blazing false colour we're used to, the explosions are bright yellow, and the sound effects are physics defyingly-loud and vibrant.
I have no problem with this- I'm a cheerful guy myself and am perfectly happy to lose myself in a musical version of a jam packed space opera. The main problem is basically that there's not enough dynamics, and there's not enough riffs.
They're pretty intertwined problems, I think. There's enough bands that stay in a forteissmo dynamic for 70 minutes straight and pull it off because good riffs flow from one to the next- things build, despite staying fully loud the whole time. That doesn't really happen here; most of the songs have very promising sections but then there's a tendency to wander off into aimless blasting where nothing much happens, where nothing much progresses. Call it New-Metallica syndrome if you want; you get the feeling that you could cut 25% of each song quite comfortably.
Things just float on in these overtly layered tunes until the songs end. I found myself drifting in and out of focused listening fairly often with this- there's just not enough to grab your attention for the whole album. I reckon a few parts like the album intro would've been a good addition. Mellow parts, when done properly don't have to be soppy or an Opethian exercise in song lengthening; they can make the songs flow better and establish new moods, they can draw a listener's attention back to the song. I'd refer to Spectral Lore's mind boggling 'III', an album of similar ambition and scope, but one that use dynamics one hell of a lot better.
I know I've whinged about this album for much of the review - but honestly I don't hate it or anything. You flick to any particular part of it and for a few minutes you'll be all "jeez, this is pretty cool" as your mind imagines some super futuristic space battles with all sort of mind blowing, space-time shattering weaponry. Problem is a few minutes later you'll likely be absentmindedly checking your email. Worth a look if you're into big, spacey BM - you may well like it more than me. Personally I think I'll stick with Darkspace.