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Cognizance - Upheaval Award winner

by Paul LaPlaca at 23 November 2021, 1:26 AM

“Upheaval” the follow-up to 2019’s debut, “Malignant Dominion” marks the highly anticipated return from UK’s COGNIZANCE. The opening track, “Hymns” explodes with a glorious and vicious blast that immediately sets the tone for the entire album, a technical death tour-de-force that leaves no prisoners. Each element is sonically positioned and clarified in as near a perfect mix I have heard for this genre. The guitars are throaty and the dissonant chord structures are so clear you can almost see them in the air. The vocals are dark and low but there is a depth in the diversity in tone and approach that puts this band head and shoulders above so many one-trick-ponies that seem to only do one thing well. The song breaks into a headbanging, mid-tempo section before building syncopated patterns when the vocals return, which steps up the game with every repetition. The song clocks in at 2:15 with a 10-second guitar solo that packs more melody, vibe, and tone than I’ve heard on some bands’ entire albums.

“Drifting (R)evolution” comes in, firing on all cylinders- no intro, no fluff, just balls to the wall ferocity with the vocals coming in on the first beat. The intricate strum patterns dovetail into a beautiful arpeggiated guitar section followed by the second verse. The short guitar solo is absolutely brilliant, full of angular melodies and chromaticisms that bring MESHUGGA to mind. This one ends at 3:20 and there is a clear punk rock aesthetic of just getting to the point and going for the jugular that I really love about this release. “Oneiric” features two brilliant but way too short guitar breaks, the melodies and head-shaking level of playing just leave you wanting more.

The thrashy, “The Mouth Which Cannot Speak” finally delivers some extended lead playing and it is like waiting for an asshole going 55mph in the passing lane to finally get out of the way and you can finally let the engine roar. “Fever Dream” starts with a dreamy clean guitar part with distant harmonic feedback before launching into a frenetic and relentless assault. Now I know why the songs are so short, this is a marathon workout for every player. At 2:10 the band opens up like a break in the storm clouds and treats the listener to a brief, layered harmony section at a more relaxed (still blistering though) pace. If I had one recommendation for the band it would be that adding more of these types of sections would greatly impact the faster heavier sections by comparison.

They close with the powerful, “Aeon Sickness” as swept-picked arpeggios launch out of the speakers at you. After 22 seconds of pummeling you, the band settles into this stomp beat that makes me want to run into a pit. This album is superlative in so many ways. Each player is at the top of his game and the songwriting is air-tight. There isn’t a wasted note on this album. The production is sheer perfection as the mix/master give this music incredible detail and precision. Just incredible work here on all fronts.

Songwriting: 9
Musicianship: 10
Memorability: 9
Production: 10

4 Star Rating

1. Hymns
2. Drifting (R)evolution
3. Decaying Gods
4. Oneiric
5. The Mouth Which Cannot Speak
6. Forbidden Alchemy
7. Syntheticus I: Atrophy
8. Syntheticus II: Refuge
9. Fever Dream
10. Aeon Sickness
Record Label: Prosthetic Records


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Edited 04 February 2023

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