Review: “Phantazein” by Cognizance

“This record is undoubtedly our most creative and individual record yet. The evolution of Cognizance has always been driven by our intrinsic vision and less of what our fans expect the band to deliver based on our previous work” ~ Alex Baillie

After a pair of very well received albums in 2019’s “Malignant Dominion” and 2021’s “Upheaval” released via Prosthetic Records, which were enough to see drummer David Diepold become the skin basher for German Progressive Technical Death Metal masters Obscura, Leeds Death Metal quintet Cognizance inked a deal with Willowtip Records. The first album of the new partnership is a concept release that transcends the band’s previous boundaries and delves into the intricate interplay between art, obsession, and the profound influence of one’s environment. Mixed and Mastered by Ronnie Björnström (Aeon, Blood Red Throne) and wrapped in artwork from Dan P Carter (Behemoth, Empire State Bastard), the journey begins with “Ceremonial Vigour“…

…a rampage through pounding Groove Death territories with flamboyant melodic leads and sublime technicality. It’s as if the band never left the studio after unleashing “Upheaval” and instead remained there for the past three years, crafting a sonic assault on the senses that feels like 50,000 volts from a Taser. Henry Pryce roars “Father forgive me for the devils work!” as “A Brain Dead Memoir” dances on the cerebral cortex, the melodic leads from the twin guitar attack interweaving to create a delicate balance between haunt and heavy. The pace and energy of these tracks is enthralling, the technicality of their approach giving them a razor sharp edge with every moment clearly well thought out with meticulous attention to detail. A searing hot solo in “Chiselled in Stone” takes us from dark to light and dark again as the band plunge us headlong into a breakdown like riff pattern, the bassline from Chris Burns rising from the mix to give it more bounce. As a band Cognizance attack from all sides, their confidence in their cryptic writings shining through with the verve and swagger of the material. A sweeping solo in the first half of “Introspection” is spellbinding, almost a nuance with the delicate approach and yet captivating at the same time. It feels like Scott Carstairs from Fallujah is an influence on this one, injecting it with fresh blood. This time a sample adds a point of difference before percussive battery from Diepold reaches artillery shelling levels of destruction. Curiously there are also moments that are reminiscent of the self titled Chimaira album but with so much more drive and obsession that any mirror they are placed in front of would shatter into a million pieces.

Despite its bleak natured lyrical narrative and thunderous percussion “Futureless Horizon” has a wonderfully warm solo at the centre of its black heart. A sublime tapping passage follows that and you can’t help but stare into the middle distance in wonder at the talents of these musicians. They can truly turn their hands to anything as this Blackened Death offering, perhaps inspired by more avant-garde bands like Imperial Triumphant demonstrates. Every moment is as perfectly executed as a laser guided missile strike, the bands ambitious vision matching their abilities stride for stride in a race to self immolation. Adrenaline surges through “The Towering Monument” like a lightening bolt from a wrathful God as Cognizance restlessly and relentlessly conjure as they see fit. A lethal dose of northern hatred translated from a brutal language it shimmers like a Gold in the distant darkness, reflecting back all the light shined upon it. After those first seven deadly sins a 73 second moment of respite surfaces in “Alferov“, an eerie and haunting moment that is presumably named after the Nobel Prize winning Russian physicist and academic who contributed significantly to the creation of modern heterostructure physics and electronics. That would make perfect sense with “Shock Heuristics” following it, a cut that flies out of the blocks with electrifying speed, Pryce’s venomous vocals cutting through the ear drum like a hot knife through butter.

A drop off from the savage into a haunting acoustic moment in the centre of “Broadcast of The Gods” is mesmerising, the band building back to the heavier sounds with purpose and precision before finishing in style with blast beats. This one feels like being trapped in a storm the beauty of nature revealing itself as it subsides in spectacular fashion. Looking back on it from the raging winds of “In Verses Unspoken” it feels like the calm before the storm as Pryce roars like a demon over the dissonant flourishes of the guitar work, this one taking a leaf from the Psycroptic playbook as it flows from the river to the sea. The chaotic rhythms continue into the almighty “Shadowgraph“, a beast from the black depths that knows no fear. Once again the melodic leads are sublime, counterbalancing the bands aggressive nature perfectly before a ripper of a solo elevates the cut to a new realm of existence. A Death Metal record that flirts with subgenres in impressive fashion, Cognizance have once again outdone themselves by taking a different fork in the left hand path. The only real question is where will that journey lead? [8.5/10]

Track Listing

1. Ceremonial Vigour
2. A Brain Dead Memoir
3. Chiselled in Stone
4. Introspection
5. Futureless Horizon
6. The Towering Monument
7. Alferov
8. Shock Heuristics
9. Broadcast of The Gods
10. In Verses Unspoken
11. Shadowgraph

Phantazein” by Cognizance is out 26th January 2024 via Willowtip Records with pre-orders available over at bandcamp.

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