On the Brink of Infinity by Various Artists (Review)

Anyone who considers themselves a fan of World Serpent, Projekt, Cold Meat, or other similar labels would do themselves well to find a copy.
On the Brink of Infinity - Various

On the Brink of Infinity is a compilation of various neo-industrial, dark-ambient, apocalyptic folk, and power electronic groups. If you have no clue as to what those terms mean, or if the very sound of those genres frighten you, stop reading this review now. But if you’ve ever listened to any of those styles of music, you’ve probably realized one truth. The artists that fall into those genres fall into one of three groups. There’s the really good stuff. There’s the stuff that sounds good but is actually just a bad rip-off of the aforementioned good stuff. And then there’s the stuff that sounds alright, but could almost be a parody of the genre — they try too hard to be dark and sinister and end up sounding like a demonic cover band.

On the Brink of Infinity skirts with all three groups, though a good deal of the music fortunately falls within the first. As much as the genres covered by On the Brink of Infinity were/are revolutionary, it often feels like there’s very little development or growth within them. In other words, if you’ve heard one dark-ambient artist, you’ve probably heard them all. The really good ones, like Caul or Lustmord, may use the same general sounds other similar artists use, but you can still hear the difference. There’s still something that sets them apart from the rest.

That’s the case with the good stuff on this compilation. It’d be easy to compare Howden/Wakeford with Writ On Water, or even one of the Projekt-based artists, or compare Empyrium with Dead Can Dance or even Ordo Equitim Solis (based upon what little I’ve heard by them). But you can’t get past the fact that “Death’s Head” is still unsettlingly beautiful or that the music of “Die Schwane Im Schilf,” with it’s Renaissance and Mediterranean flourishes, is so lovely it’s almost a shame when the chants and vocals come in. Anima In Flamme may sound like a Transylvanian Christmas carol if penned by Black Tape For A Blue Girl, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a lovely song.

As the compilation progresses, the music gets less structured and focused, moving away from the folk and neoclassical to the realm of dark-ambient and power electronics. Towards the middle of the album, the music holds less of my interest and I find myself wanting more stuff like the Howden/Wakeford track. The album closes with the second best track, a slowly building neoclassical piece by Backworld (a band I’ve been wanting to hear for quite some time), which vaguely reminds me of David E. Williams, or even Scott Walker.

All in all, a solid compilation covering some genres that most people have probably never heard of. Personally, I would’ve liked to hear more folk and neoclassical artists, but the ones featured are excellent. There’s a wide range of material on here, and while my preferences lean more towards the “structured” side of things, anyone who considers themselves a fan of World Serpent, Projekt, Cold Meat, or other similar labels would do themselves well to find a copy.

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