Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Shining - Within Deep Dark Chambers (2000)

Within Deep Dark Chambers is the first full-length album from the Swedish band Shining. The main point of interest for a lot of people may be the fact that this record features the former vocalist of Bethlehem, Andreas Classen. Recorded at Abyss Studios and released through Selbstmord Services in 2000, this collection of songs is designed to create an atmosphere of negativity and despair, as the band belongs to the Depressive/Suicidal Black Metal scene. Their popularity has been growing for over a decade, though not entirely for the right reasons.

Few people in the realm of Black Metal are worthy of as much scorn and ridicule as Niklas Kvarforth, the shameless frontman of Shining. This attention-starved junkie has amassed some sort of cult following, which should not be too surprising. The whole emo movement has been going strong for many years, and this clown seems to appeal to that sort of crowd. The band's popularity is largely due to the type of kids that like to cut themselves and post pictures of their handiwork on the internet so complete strangers can see how "tortured" they are. There is a different between being truly miserable and simply mutilating yourself in public for attention. Kvarforth seems to be among the latter, with the moronic suicide stunt really topping it off. For these and several other reasons, I have never supported this cartoonish character in any of his musical endeavours. Still, for the purposes of this review, an attempt will be made to focus primarily on the music itself.

The album begins with "Reflecting in Solitude", with an eerie intro that slowly gives way to music that rises from the murky shadows. Once the song truly begins, a familiar pattern is heard, with fast tremolo riffs and blasting drums that are reminiscent of many of the Norwegian Black Metal releases of the early 90's. Despite being highly derivative of older acts, such as Darkthrone and Burzum, the music serves as a nice backdrop for the anguished vocals of Classen, a seasoned veteran of the underground. The tempos vary, resulting in the song never really becoming too repetitive, despite clocking in at nearly nine minutes. Later in the song, one can hear dual vocal tracks, and I can only assume that the Varg-influenced shrieks represent the contributions of the guitarist. Not a bad opener, though some of the riffs seem kind of pointless and could have been worked on a bit.

"Stonelands" is next, and this begins with mid-paced riffs that create a haunting atmosphere of darkness and sorrow. Classen's vocals hearken back to his work on Dark Metal, though the music is not on the same iconic level. That said, this is one of the better tracks on here and really does well to convey a sense of misery and hopelessness. The faster sections interrupt the continuity and are rather detrimental to the flow of the song. The riffs show some promise, but do not quite live up to their potential. The slow parts are where the track really manages to draw the listener in, though the momentum is killed on more than one occasion. In some cases, variation is good, but not when it is done just for the sake of stretching something out or trying to break up the monotony. At least the damage is minimal, and the slow, mournful riff dominates the latter half of the song.

This is followed by "Vita Detestabilis", which utilizes a faster pace and a riff that sounds quite similar to Darkthrone's "En As I Dype Skogen". After a couple of minutes, the riff changes to something more generic and forgettable. This track fails to create much of an atmosphere until the middle, where the pace slows down and some open-arpeggio notes are utilized, followed by a sombre clean guitar. The stolen Darkthrone riff reappears, and obviously puts the rest of the guitar melodies to shame. Not really a wise move to plagiarize another band, using a riff that is far superior to anything else on the whole album.

"Ren Djävla Ångest" begins with more fast tremolo-picked melodies, though the drumming maintains a slow pace similar to the title track from Hypocrisy's The Final Chapter. Though the music does well to conjure up a sense of misery and sorrow, one has to really avoid reading the lyrics since they kill the effect from sheer childishness. Looking past this, the song is not too bad. There is some idiotic stop-start section that is very much out of place, but it is rather brief. The dismal guitars and tormented howls work together in establishing a bleak aura of sorrow and death-worship.

The next song is "Inisis", which speeds things up a bit while still maintaining the grim and hopeless feeling. There are some moments which may remind one of Strid, though the influence is not as overt as some of the others. The quiet acoustic section actually sounds like something from a Katatonia album, rather than Bethlehem or something of that nature. It is a little too "pretty" to really fit in with the depressing vibes that the song is so desperately trying to give rise to, so it can be seen as yet one more flaw. The track never recovers from this, as the following riffs are too weak and generic to do much, and then the final nail in the coffin comes when the acoustic part returns at the end.

The album ends with "And Only Silence Remains". This track employs some eerie keyboard use, adding a little depth to the sound and actually being used sparingly enough to not detract from the rest of the instruments. The feeling conveyed by this song is less depressive and more ominous, as if the nightmares are tearing through your mind and taking hold in the real world. The tempo changes throughout the piece, though none of this really justifies the length of nearly eleven minutes.

Within Deep Dark Chambers is not a bad album, just kind of average. The band could have done well to work harder on the material and re-write certain riffs in order to maintain the desired atmosphere. The vocal performance of Andreas Classen remains the highlight of the album and, though there are moments where the listener is able to be swept away in the torrent of grief and suffering, a lot of the guitar melodies only hint at potential that is never fully realized. Despite the presence of several stolen or derivative riffs, Shining succeeds in creating a dark and miserable vibe, at times, but the results are far too inconsistent to overlook.