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Lost within deep, dark chambers... - 72%

Ilwhyan, October 11th, 2011

Shining, a notable member of the lately (in)famous depressive/suicidal black metal family, released their debut full-length album when the band mastermind Niklas Kvarforth was only sixteen years old – although he had a few more experienced musicians helping him out here, such as the former Bethlehem vocalist Andreas Classen (who sang and played keyboard for legendary Bethlehem album ”Dark Metal”) – and perhaps it's not entirely hard to believe this album was largely written by a teenager (as I assume it to be), for the song structures show considerable lack of experience, and the riffs downright radiate with youthful enthusiasm – what a strange dichotomy for a supposedly depressive black metal album.

As the imagery of Shining and this album suggest, the music is very dark; at times even lethargic though never catatonic, at times bursting into rampages of violent anger. Kvarforth melodramatic lyrics about depression, suffering and solitude are, however, perhaps slightly overstated juxtaposed with the actual nature of the music. The atmosphere recalls Burzum at its darkest, but not at its most melancholic. It isn't sorrowful in that it would induce mournful feelings in the listener; the atmosphere is mainly isolated and hateful. It could be said to represent the solitude of one whose persona is too unnatural to warrant any true contact with other human beings. The monotonous drone of highly reverbated wall-of-soundesque richly produced black metal riffing; the riffs that are not always sorrowful, but rather anguished and insane; the atmosphere of claustrophobia – all this makes ”Within Deep Dark Chambers” a work of music rather about hate and isolation than depression itself. It's more of an adventure indeed in deep dark chambers with no way out than an excercise in tearjerking. Nor is the album anguished to the point of being distressing: it is in fact strangely calming. It's main effect is the momentary dulling of one's feelings and perhaps the standing out of apathetic ones, and a feeling of isolation from peers and the world as a whole.

Though the album is cleanly produced and sounds good, it's a primitive one. Shining use chord progressions highly typical of black metal, as well as the standard melodies to go with them. The musicianship is also raw; the beginning of ”Vita Detestabilis” shows the drummer's lack of stamina as he slightly stumbles and slows down the blast beat, and Kvarforth's vocals – as a counterpoint to Classen's more controlled screeching and the occasional impressive deeper growl – are an apparently intentional half-assed black metal vocal performance, perhaps indolent in order for Kvarforth to make an impression of being wounded and physically sick. Even the songwriting is undeveloped, again perhaps intentionally so, or maybe merely because of Kvarforth's immaturity and lack of experience at the time. The first impression, however, is one of a refined album, due to the clean drum tone and full, rich and layered guitar tones saturated with reverb, and though young and inexperienced, Kvarforth shows himself to be highly talented particularly in the riffwriting department. Though they are not original, they are often of laudably high quality.

Shining's first full-length album is a rather standard dark black metal album obviously influenced by Bethlehem's ”Dark Metal”, and is not in fact that similar to the depressive/suicidal black metal bands that are so often seen as Shining's closest peers. The stylistic choices are mostly fine, and while there is apparent inconsistency within songs, nearly each song on the album is on equal level. In some songs the filler material is more pronounced, but each song features quality moments together with those less worthy passages. It doesn't entirely hold up for intensive listening due to the even placement of lacklustre moments, but as semi-background music it's hard to beat. Some parts will catch the listener's attention and play with his emotional states, while others will simply drone on and drown out. Song titles such as ”Ren Djävla Ångest” (which literally translates to pure fucking angst) are perhaps more than not misleading, because the music is largely atmospheric, dark black metal, and not particularly angsty or agonising. There is apparent angst and hatred in the music, but not the kind to serve as a stereotype for suicidal black metal.