Journey Into Darkness – Infinite Universe Infinite Death Review

There is no overstating the legacy of Emperor. Even before I’d taken the plunge into the icy seas of black metal, I was well aware of the enormous influence and respect they laid claim to. Listening to Journey Into Darkness, I think Brett Clarin likes Emperor a lot too. Yet it appears the band’s sole member came at it from a very different angle. A guitar player for death metal band Sorrow in the 90’s, Brett released a single solo synthwave album inspired by metal’s penchant for atmospheric intros and interludes, and promptly let the project drift off into a coma. For 24 years it lay dormant, until last year, when Multitudes of Emptiness brought it roaring back to life in the midst of the pandemic, breaking out of its chrysalis with a new, icy black metal body. How does Clarin’s new direction fare on the second post-hiatus release?

For a band initially inspired by intros and interludes, it certainly doesn’t waste much time on getting up to speed. “Leave This Place” storms the cosmic palace with all the subtlety of a frost-laden freight train. And the first thing you notice when your brain catches up is the massive, inescapable wall of synthesizer that looms over every riff and blast. This is not a great surprise considering the history of the band, but it takes some adjusting. Infused with the spirit of a hundred digital organs, they saturate the music with a certain theatrical flair that reminds me somewhat of Dimmu Borgir, à la “Progenies of the Great Apocalypse.” That’s not to say it’s necessarily a bad thing; it does equip the music with the sort of bombast that is oftentimes difficult for a one-man band to produce. But its application is far from dynamic; without changing much in tone or texture, the keys are slathered royally across a good 90% of the music, and such unrelenting insistence can get a tad tiring, like a child who demands all the attention.

Dimmu isn’t the end result that comes to mind, however. Despite the synths’ best efforts, the frostbitten grandeur of the aforementioned Emperor is a closer match for the atmosphere laid bare here, albeit with a much clearer production and a significant helping of death metal in the primordial soup. Clarin’s clearly got a vision for the freezing, uncaring, endless void of horror that is the cosmos. Additionally, and more importantly, he has more than sufficient chops to convey it. When you redirect your attention to the riffs, there are a lot of damn good ones crammed in the tight 35 minutes of running time. “Cosmic Knot” with its sci-fi military march channels some of Samael in its ominous approach, and “Entanglement” takes a head-spinning approach with a riff that plays with rhythm in unexpected ways. Other times, however, the synths just seem to swallow the song whole, such as on “Infinite Disillusion.”

And to reiterate, giving the keyboards a big spotlight is not the problem in and of itself. It’s the firehose application where the problem lies. On the rare occasion Clarin changes it up, it betrays an underused versatility: “Entanglement” comes to mind once more, as the keys take a more direct approach, mingling with the guitars in a cool and energetic way. The organ wall is not entirely without merit, but it does get wearying in the long run. It draws attention away from the quality mixture of growls and screams, the riffs, even the tasteful drum arrangements.

It’s clear that Brett Clarin is a very talented musician. Journey Into Darkness has a clear vision and all the necessary skill to execute it. Right now, though, it feels a little like the project is getting overshadowed by what it has been in the past, and the phrase ‘too much of a good thing’ rings truer than ever listening to Infinite Universe Infinite Death. That the album nonetheless remains a highly enjoyable experience is testament to Clarin’s many qualities, and I have faith there is much more of his brand of cosmic horror yet to plunge into our atmosphere. I’m looking forward to losing my remaining sanity on the next journey.

Rating: 3.0/5.0
DR: 8 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Physical: Spirit Coffin Publishing | Digital: Self-released
Websites: | |
Releases Worldwide: September 10th, 2021

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