Dec 082021


(We present Comrade Aleks’ interview of Brett Clarin, the main man behind the symphonic black/death metal band Journey Into Darkness, whose latest album (which we premiered and reviewed HERE) was released in September 2021 by Spirit Coffin Publishing.)

Brett Clarin was one of a few guys who started the death/ thrash / doom act Apparition in 1988. They changed the name in 1991, becoming Sorrow, and got a contract with Roadrunner Records for a full-length album. Some may suppose the guys were lucky, and indeed the album Hatred and Disgust saw the light of day in 1992. But as it happens sometimes with some labels, Roadrunner switched their attention to something more appealing for them and Sorrow didn’t get their deserved exposure.

Sorrow was soon disbanded but Brett started that strange project Journey into Darkness. His first solo work under that name, Life Is a Near Death Experience (1996), was an experiment, something like darkwave, a kind of sympho black metal without vocals and actually without guitars or typical metal instruments at all. Brett left the project for 14 years but now there are two more albums in his discography – Multitudes of Emptiness (2020) and Infinite Universe Infinite Death (2021). It’s okay now!

With Jei Doublerice on vocals Brett provides us symphonic death / black metal and it’s something we’re going to talk about with him.


Hi Brett! You started Journey into Darkness some time after Sorrow’s split-up. Why did you decide to return to music after all the disappointment you had trying to bring Sorrow to a higher level?

To quote Fender Tremolo from the Van Damme movie ‘Cyborg’ – “I like the misery!”

Okay, I did have to look up the character’s name. After the breakup of Sorrow, I never really stopped doing music. There was some overlap between the end of Sorrow and the start of Journey Into Darkness. About one year after Sorrow broke up, I opened a record store in 1993 (None of the Above). So I was still heavily involved in music. In fact, two years later I decided to start a record label (also None of the Above) and put out my music as well as Mike’s (Sorrow drummer) new band and a few other bands. I released a few industrial bands and also some hardcore bands (most notably the first Kill Your Idols album).

Then by 1999, I quit it all. I tried very hard to make it all work, but in the end, I sold off the store and closed the label. It was just too hard to make it all work. I kept writing music, but very slowly. It wasn’t until about 2017 that I really got the urge to get serious with writing music again. There was a 15-year gap, but I missed writing and just felt I had to start again.



What was the most difficult thing regarding the store’s work? I guess that the ‘90s were quite good for this industry, not the same as it is nowadays.

The ’90s were certainly way better than now for stores! As with any retail, the toughest part was managing inventory. It was always a guessing game on how many items to order for new releases and which titles to keep in stock. If you order too many, you are stuck with inventory that does not sell and if you order too little people would be upset! In some cases, if it was a larger title, like a Slayer album that someone could just buy elsewhere. But I had many titles that no other store within 40 miles would carry, so usually they would come back in a week or two. Most people were regulars and came in from once a month to multiple times every week! It wasn’t a huge money maker, I could pay off my bills and survive, but that was about it.


Journey into Darkness’ first album is the synth-based Life Is a Near Death Experience (1996). Why did you choose to work in this direction after Sorrow’s savage doomy death metal?

I used to love all the intros and interludes on death and black metal albums. In fact, at the end of Hatred and Disgust you can hear a synth fade-out with the music! So I bought a synth and started messing around and writing on it. Dungeon synth was still pretty young, but I didn’t particularly like the direction of it. It was too minimal for me and I thought it would be great to mix the synth style with death metal melodies, arrangements, and drums. So I just started putting it together and I really loved the atmosphere it made. It was still heavy (to me at least!) and I enjoyed the sound and eventually had enough material to write a full album.



Ha ha… Well, I never understand the worth of intros and outros… Were you disappointed again with the scene and the music business in general? How did you promote Journey into Darkness in those “early” years?

YES! After Sorrow, the record store, the label, and early JID I was very disappointed. That is why there is a 20-year gap between the first and second JID albums! Obviously there is a huge difference in how to promote back in the ’90s than there is now. In those early years, most of the promotions were through magazine ads, fanzine ads, paying for tracks on samplers, pressing up single cassettes, mailing out about 100 CDs for reviews, sending to college radio, and sending to record stores to play in-store. Looking back, it was clear that I was spending way too much money and promoting in a way that was not smart for a very small label. Eventually I ran out of money and patience.


Was the album noticed by listeners back then? What made you put the project aside after the release?

Being honest, the album got very little attention. It got a few write-ups and reviews, but not much. As with Sorrow, the music I was making crossed styles and was not accepted by many of the fans of each independent style. It was very unique, and sometimes being unique makes it hard to appeal to many people. In this case, it was dungeon synth and death metal. The melodies and drums were too heavy and busy for dungeon synth, and since the music did not have vocals or guitars, it was not brutal enough for death metal fans.



You released Multitudes of Emptiness in 2020 after 20 years of silence. What made you return Journey into Darkness back to life?

I just needed to create again. I had been writing music on and off for those twenty years, but never very seriously. Well, there was a time around 2005 I was thinking about resurrecting JID, but I didn’t. In 2016-2017 I started writing music again regularly and decided that I really wanted to write another album. But this time, I also missed writing heavy music with guitars and vocals. So I decided that JID was going to have guitars and vocals too. Over the many years, starting from the early ’90s until then, I had been listening to a lot of death and black metal,  mainly symphonic black metal. To me, the natural blend of the original all-synth JID with guitars and vocals was symphonic black death metal. It just brought together all the music I loved.


Which bands did you have on your mind when you were writing Multitudes of Emptiness? I read a review where the album was compared with some of Summoning’s albums.

Honestly, I do not have any particular bands in mind when I write music. Ironically some of the bands I get compared to, like Summoning, Dimmu Borgir, Cradle of Filth, I really don’t listen to much! I think Summoning are a bit more slow and doomy whereas I have more movement in my music. As for Dimmu Borgir and Cradle of Filth I think my music is heavier and way less gothic. Other bands I get compared to that I do listen to are Limbonic Art and Emperor.

The process of writing is more about discovery. I do have a framework that I like to stay within, where I have certain criteria for selecting parts and leaving out parts. I wouldn’t say to myself this needs to sound like band X or Y, but I may think to myself this needs to be heavier or more melodic, or a different tempo. I am sure some of the bands I listen to over the years have had an influence on my style, how could they not! But I try my best not to copy any one band, and I hope I have succeeded.


This album was composed around symphonic blackened death patterns which have very little common with Sorrow’s material as one could expect…

The JID sound is much more epic and powerful in my eyes, although I do think there is a bit of overlap between the two. The new music allows for more melody, layers and complexity to the sound. In Sorrow, it was all guitar-centered. When the songs were written, I would write riffs that used a lot of syncopation and muting. But now, when I write for JID, I write a lot of the music using piano and orchestral sounds. It forces the riffs to be melodic. I am not relying on palm mutes to be heavy. The music needs to be heavy and emotional on the keys before I will take it to the guitar and work some guitar style picking into the riff. Of course, some riffs are written on the guitar too, but then they still need to be dark and ominous when I play them on the keys.



You recorded the album with Jei Doublerice on vocals. What were your requirements for a vocalist? And did he also write lyrics for Multitudes of Emptiness?

Jei did not write the lyrics, I wrote all the lyrics. Lyrics are very important to me and are an integral part of the song. Good lyrics will always make a song better and it was important to me to be able to express myself through the lyrics too. I wanted someone who could do both black metal and death metal vocals. But I also wanted the lyrics to be somewhat discernible (no clean singing though!!). Back in Sorrow, the vocals that Andy sung were incredibly articulate and I wanted that too. In addition, I wanted someone who was professional and would respond back in a timely manner! Jei was all this and more. He had sent me a few songs he had done for other groups and I thought they were great. He has a lot of different styles and ranges and I think he did a fantastic job on my albums.


The album is relatively short, just as following release Infinite Universe Infinite Death. Is this format enough suitable for you to speak out your musical and lyrical ideas?

Since I am writing all the music, lyrics and orchestral arrangements it can take a long time to finish up one song. It’s a huge undertaking to write an album by myself. I felt that after 8 songs there was enough material for an album. The time happened to be about 30-35 minutes.



Artworks for both albums were done by Johny Prayogi and they represent some enormous cosmic landscapes and abstract images of human beings. Do these images have any connection with your texts? Actually Journey into Darkness looks like a concept band: where one album ends – another one starts.

JID is not really a concept band, but there are definitely a few closely related themes that run through all my songs, musically and lyrically. The album covers have a deep connection to these themes. Those themes being the universe is cruel, indifferent and beautiful, life has no meaning or purpose, humans are insignificant, and everything will come to an end. The covers convey those feelings and ideas very well. On both covers, I had explained to Johny the concepts that I wanted and he drew them perfectly as I had envisioned. I love his artwork and style.


What led you to such fatalistic views on humanity and its place in the world? Don’t you believe in things like freedom of good will, etc?

I’ll start out by saying I am not really a depressed person, certainly not in the clinical sense. I prefer to be happy rather than sad and miserable. But there are facts about life and the universe that are inescapable. The universe is grander than we can ever imagine. Both physically and temporally we inhabit a fraction of it that is practically non-measurable and our actions are irrelevant to almost all of it. Compared to the age of the universe and many of the objects in it, our lives are extremely short. We get to experience life, but only for a brief moment. And much of what we experience is grief.

As far as humanity, we do have freedom of good will, and I think many people on an individual basis will be okay, but in groups, in a society, we tend to be destructive. Of course that is not always the case, but in general, human nature will never allow for a truly peaceful existence, even if we have the means to provide it. I’ve been led to this conclusion by history. I could write a book on this one question!

Let me end this answer by saying life’s not fair, it’s full of pain and tragedy, and I believe there is absolutely no inherent meaning to our lives. I’ve come to view those facts as inevitable and immutable, but, BUT, it does not stop me from enjoying those things in life that are enjoyable, and there are plenty. Try to live and do what makes you happy, just don’t hurt other people!



There’s a very short break between Multitudes of Emptiness and Infinite Universe Infinite Death. How do you see the core differences between the albums?

There was one year between releases. The second album Multitudes of Emptiness was more of a bridge between the old all-synth style and the new symphonic black death style. Some songs are the old all-synth style and some songs are the new style with guitar and vocals. The new, third album Infinite Universe Infinite Death is a more complete transition to symphonic black death metal. There is only one short all-synth song and the rest have guitars and vocals. Well, there is a full orchestrated piece at the end too, sought of a bonus as there are two versions on the album.


Brett, what are your plans for the next Journey into Darkness release? Will you take a pause or do you already know your next creative step?

The next release will not be within one year. The last few months I have spent more time trying to promote this album and less time writing music. I just started writing again, and I am working on the first new song so I really can’t say how long it will take for a new release. It won’t be 20 years though! LOL


Infinite Universe Infinite Death was also released by Spirit Coffin Publishing. Does it make things easier regarding promotion?

It does help. Having a label makes you look more professional. It also shows that your music is good enough that someone else is willing to invest time, money and energy into it. The label also does a lot of the promotions. A label also has a built in audience so that if you like one band on a label, you will check out the other bands too. But that does not mean I don’t have to do anything! On the contrary, I feel a certain amount of responsibility to make sure that I do my best to help promote the music so that their trust in my music was warranted. I still work daily at promoting, so it’s an effort by all involved. And a quick thanks to Josh at Spirit Coffin Publishing for putting this album out.


Brett thanks for the interview and reminding us about the cruelty of the universe and the futility of our lives! That’s much appreciated! Did we skip any other important topics regarding Journey into Darkness?

Thank you Aleksey for the interview! I’m always happy to share my misery and gloominess. I’ll end with a plug. The album Infinite Universe Infinite Death is available on CD, limited cassette, limited vinyl (vinyl delayed, should be available in December) and digitally on all platforms.




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