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As a band that exercises a philosophy of hatred towards every living thing, you wouldn't think they have many friends. That hasn't stopped them from making a split EP however, here with the Finnish doom act Dolorian. Although many of Shining's earlier releases have passed me as being somewhat bland when compared to the hordes of other bands within depressive black metal, this split sees them stepping up to the plate. Each of the two bands delivers one song,and as short as this split is, each track is strong enough to warrant a solid recommendation for lovers of ambient black and doom metal.
First is Dolorian's offering, a plodding doom mini-epic called 'Ekstasis'. It begins with a flood of clean guitars and a slow, intentioned pace. Eventually, Dolorian burst into a crushing display of ambient funeral doom, with vocals and instruments nearly garbled by the effects and atmosphere. To be honest, I had never heard of Dolorian's work before hearing this split, but I know I will have to listen to them in the future. Their music here is profound and full of rich, sad atmosphere. While not as impressive, Shining's 'Through Corridors Of Oppression' is a beautiful track that sounds a little more pleasant on the ears than what Shining typically produce. Like Dolorian, it has a doomy feel to it, but follows a more conventional structure. Kvarforth's vocals here are clear-sounding, filled with grief but never going over the top like he usually does.
Dolorian's half is arguably better than Shining's track, although both are strong and memorable. I do not usually expect much from these one-off releases that bands churn out, but the Dolorian/Shining split proves to be one of the better ones I've come across.
In the past I’ve found myself liking Dolorian’s attitude more than their music, for the most part. Both of their albums seem to represent sort of a subversive take on the sound of bands like Katatonia (or perhaps what “suicidal black metal” would like given a better-developed aesthetic and less drama), the first being more psychotic and overtly scary-sounding and the second being quieter, subtler, more subdued, utilizing whispered vocals – it almost sounds like the work of a completely different band. Neither was too shabby (though I prefer the second), but I wished they’d back off of the rock influences in the riffing a bit and cut loose a little with more free-flowing melodies.
Well, it appears they have, at least for one track. Their contribution to this split, a song called “Ekstasis”, is easily the best thing they’ve ever done, at least to my tastes, and possibly even more different from the styles of their first two albums as they were from one another. I think people will end up comparing this to the band Esoteric… it’s bottom-heavy, slow, ambient, psychedelic and laden with reverb, and the vocals are growled (I was surprised at that; it’s not a vocal style the band had used before). The apparent similarity could be mostly a coincidence – Dolorian’s distinctive feel is still lurking beneath the surface. Anyway, this has me anticipating this band’s next album with a great deal of optimism.
As for the Shining side, I am less impressed. Weren’t these guys a black metal band at some point? Well, the vocals are a tad raspy, but otherwise, this is a fairly straightforward four-minute doom metal song, with monotonous rockish rhythm guitars and some overwrought and repetitive “depressing” keyboard melodies that very strongly remind me of why most doom metal is so aggravating to me. Aside from the melodies themselves, I’m not especially fond of the synth tones used – the lead keyboard part sounds like the high end of a cheap xylophone, the other is playing imitation “backing strings”. Pretty cheeseball to my ears, and not a terribly accurate approximation of actual emotion.