Register Forgot login?

© 2002-2021
Encyclopaedia Metallum

Best viewed
without Internet Explorer,
in 1280 x 960 resolution
or higher.

Privacy Policy

Cutting the fat - 87%

we hope you die, October 13th, 2021

Journey into Darkness’s third LP ‘Infinite Universe Infinite Death’ jettisons some of the baggage of symphonic metal’s contested past, cutting the fat from a bloated style with class and poise. This homage to the vastness of space eschews the barren soundscapes of a Darkspace, and instead attempts to present us with a universe of chaos, danger, activity, and of course life’s end. No ambient preamble, no lengthy interludes, all is motion and conflict, no space left unfilled. It comes across as an interesting hybrid of styles which is surprisingly difficult to pin down. This is essentially a technical death metal album with the aesthetic of European romanticism; think Septic Flesh, or Sentenced circa ‘North from Here’, with an undeniable colouring of Dimmu Borgir circa ‘Death Cult Armageddon’ without the extra cheese.

But this highly traditional and neoclassical approach to melody that defined the European approach to extreme metal in the 1990s is supplemented on ‘Infinite Universe Infinite Death’ with some pronounced American percussive flavourings. The rhythms are choppy, impatient, varied, they cut across the soaring harmonies in bracing schizophrenic tempo changes, pieces dive from breakneck blast-beats to unfolding mid-paced riffs defined by meandering drum patterns in whiplash inducing transitions.

This melding of traditions is reflected in the aesthetic choices made at the mixing desk. Drums are kept synthetic sounding and without dynamics, accentuating the shifts in rhythm and style over organic expressive qualities. This artificial underpinning in turn dictates the tone and presentation of the guitars, which offer a clear and crisp distortion, fully articulating the complex web of riffs as they relentlessly compete for airtime. Vocals stick with a modern black metal sheen, high end and distorted but with plenty of attack, allowing them to match the music for rhythmic nuance.

Keyboards are a near constant presence throughout this album. And here we might as unpack that word “symphonic”. Journey into Darkness are one of those artists that, even sans keyboards, could still be described as symphonic. The atonal and chromatic approach of death metal is largely avoided, yet the music is dense and rich with musicality, unlike the sparse soundscapes offered by a purer form of black metal. The riffs themselves follow a certain neo-romantic tradition of melodrama, complexity, yet are still defined by highly traditional melody. Taking the density of death metal and the harmonic techniques of romantic era classical leads us to conclude that ‘Infinite Universe Infinite Death’ is symphonic to the core.

It is interesting to note therefore, that the keyboards are surprisingly limited in their range of timbres. They stick largely with synth string tones, some more textural and understated, others heavy on the attack, allowing them to match the pacing of the guitars and sometimes follow them note for note. Unlike Summoning say, who flip the keyboard/guitar relationship within black metal on its head by making the former the lead instrument and the latter a mere textural lever, Journey into Darkness instead fully integrate the keyboards into the melodic dictates of the guitars. This not only gives the music a sense of unity in spite of the density of the compositions, but also imbues the guitars themselves with symphonic qualities, accentuating the melodrama. Every percussive punch thrown at the listener is opened out with size and grandeur.

Beneath its surface level chaos, ‘Infinite Universe Infinite Death’ is an interesting and subtle marriage of disparate melodic traditions within metal. And in this pursuit it goes some way to bringing symphonic metal back into the fold of legitimacy after its long wilderness years in the cheese wagon. Whilst the vastness of space provides the bedrock of inspiration for Journey into Darkness, the aesthetics of this album are kept broad, allowing listeners to either immerse themselves in this conceptual material or simply admire the mechanics of the music itself, both from a technical perspective and in the subtle understanding of its sonic lineage.

Originally published at Hate Meditations