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Submit to Selfdestruction (1998)
 

Released in May 1998, Submit to Selfdestruction is the first official offering from Sweden's Shining. This E.P. contain two songs of Depressive Suicidal Black Metal, according to many. It would be difficult to really label this as Black Metal, considering the total absence of any sort of evil or Satanic vibe. This would be better described as Dark Metal or even blackened Doom, before putting it into the same category as such albums as Under the Sign of the Black Mark, De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas or Under a Funeral Moon.

Musically, this bears some similarities to the works of actual Black Metal bands. One can easily detect influences from Burzum and Strid, though the most notable inspiration for this had to be Bethlehem. The vocals, in particular, seem to try mimicking the type of tortured screams found on Dictius Te Necare, or even Varg's early releases. This is also, probably, the weakest element of the entire release. Niklas's performance is laughable, failing to convey any real feeling, and coming off as very childish and pathetic. The material features a lot of tremolo riffing with slow-paced drumming underneath. This really has nothing to do with any other Swedish band, taking a good deal of influence from the Norwegians, instead. There are parts that include clean guitar and spoken word passages, which is an obvious nod to the band's German heroes. The two songs of this release are not very good, but they have their moments. "Endless Solitude" boasts a mournful guitar melody, late in the song, that is actually kind of memorable. The title track is less engaging, until things slow down during the latter half. Even then, it fails to truly pull the listener down into a realm of utter misery and sorrow.

Regarding the production, it is really poor and serves as a detriment to the music. The already-weak vocals are buried in the mix, though that may have been to hide just how awful they were. In addition, the percussion is much to high and distracts from the guitar melodies. For something that was attempting to be a part of the Black Metal movement, there is no excuse for the guitar to be taking a secondary role while the bass and drums are featured so prominently. More or less, everything is able to be heard, but the lack of emphasis on the guitar limits the potential that this effort possessed.

Submit to Selfdestruction is an average E.P. that is fairly consistent in its inability to create a really sombre atmosphere. One can clearly see what Shining was going for, but they were way off the mark with this one. The material presented here displays no sense of originality or sincerity; rather, this is merely the product of children that were trying to imitate other bands that they liked with no real understanding of how to create something meaningful. Avoid this band, altogether.
 
(20 Dec. 2011)

 
 

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.

While not knowing him personally, it can at least be said that the public persona of Niklas Kvarforth comes off as a shameless attention whore and drug addict. This is precisely the kind of person that we do not need in the Black Metal movement. This character has amassed some sort of cult following, which should not be too surprising. 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. 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.
 
(21 Sept. 2011)

 
 

There has been an element of sorrow and gloom within Black Metal, almost since the very beginning. Songs such as Venom's "Buried Alive, Hellhammer's "Triumph of Death" and Bathory's "Call from the Grave" all possessed a sombre atmosphere, to one extent or another. This was expanded upon, in the early 1990s, as various bands incorporated an increasing number of mournful melodies into their overall sound, including Burzum, Darkthrone, Strid, Dissection and so on. From tortured screams to miserable guitar riffs, this sort of negative and depressive vibe certainly has a place in Black Metal, but only as one part of the greater whole. In time, bands came along that sought to focus on this one aspect and no other. Thus was born the Depressive Suicidal Black Metal movement.

The question is then, at what point does this music cease to be Black Metal? It all depends on the manner by which the bands go about creating such a bleak and dismal atmosphere. However, with Shining, it is clear that this does not belong to the same sub-genre as the likes of Mayhem, Gorgoroth or the aforementioned groups. There is a line between making music that carries a feeling of despair, versus just outright emo nonsense. When your band is making songs with titles like "Att Med Kniv Göra Sig Illa" (meaning, "To Hurt Oneself With A Knife"), that line has been crossed. While many can relate to the horrible feelings that this sort of music may conjure up, there is nothing evil about self-mutilation. Even when Dead, himself, did so during Mayhem gigs, it had nothing to do with evoking a dark or evil aura and that was by no means the central part of the performance. Nonetheless, it was but one part of the greater whole. Shining seems to have latched on to such imagery and, maybe thinking it to be more significant than it was, built their identity around such things. Even the cover of Shining's 2001 release, Livets Ändhållplats, is a simple image of a bloody forearm. While some people are legitimately troubled and do such a thing, albums like this one have inspired countless brainless sheep to slice themselves to pieces and try to show it off, thinking it will make them cool or more Black Metal than the next person, when it has nothing to do with it at all.

This band is a good example of what one can accomplish with the right hype and image. The brainchild of Niklas Kvarforth is rather popular within certain parts of the Black Metal underground, despite not having so much to do with it. While the band's debut album, Within Deep Dark Chambers, contained all of the generic prerequisites of the sub-genre, the follow-up is something a bit different. Though the 2001 album, Livets Ändhållplats, bears the image and some of the trappings of Black Metal, it would better be described as Dark Metal, in the vein of early Bethlehem, though not nearly as effective.

Musically, it is evident that Shining was influenced by some of the Second Wave bands, most notably Strid and Burzum, but their strongest inspiration is Bethlehem. Kvarforth's vocal approach seems to follow that of Andreas Classen, who handled those duties on Within Deep Dark Chambers (as well as Bethlehem's debut album). Sometimes, he attempts tormented shrieks reminiscent of Landfermann's work on Dictius Te Necare, but not as extreme. The guitar tone is distant and fuzzy, but non-threatening. There is a decent amount of clean guitar that is utilized, from time to time. The main riffs sort of drone on, while tremolo melodies come and go. Every song is mid-paced and crawls along lifeless and bereft of any trace of aggression or energy. The bass lines are much more audible than on most Metal releases, and this instrument appears to have a more prominent role on Livets Ändhållplats. Despite all of these elements, the end product is not particularly dark or depressing. One can see how it might come off as such to someone that is inexperienced or just does not know better, but a seasoned listener can see right through this. The effort is there, but the songwriting skill is lacking. Kvarforth should have spent less time trying to scream like his idols and more time composing sorrowful melodies that actually possess some sort of feeling, rather than the boring and average material that Shining's sophomore L.P. consists of.

The songwriting for this album is deceptively simplistic. While possessing some more extreme aesthetics and musical elements, at its core this is very easily digestible music for a mass audience. This, in itself, goes against what Black Metal had become by this point. There are still the harsh and tormented vocals and moody tremolo melodies, here and there; however, the main rhythms are rather Rock-oriented and take more influence from the likes of The Cure or mid-period Katatonia than from Darkthrone or Mayhem. Listening to "Ännu Ett Steg Närmare Total Utfrysning", one is first drawn to the throbbing bass lines and the very boring drumwork, as well as the soft keyboards in the background. While this may seem shocking to those uninitiated into Black Metal, anyone with even a rudimentary experience will be able to sense how soft and tame this is. That said, the atmosphere is dark at times and it will certainly drag one's mood down if already somewhat melancholy. However, the successor to the likes of Strid this is not. One might even suggest that, substituting the harsh vocals for some melodic female singing, and this would not even be considered remotely Black Metal.

The production is pretty clear, more than not, especially when compared to the band's so-called peers in the underground. The main guitars are distorted but not so much as to really create a raw feeling. The bass and drums come through, very well, almost too much. That is, if they were not so key to the overall compositions. The acoustic bits are loud and kind of high in the mix, never getting lost or forgotten. The vocals are painfully clear, when perhaps they would benefit from a slight bit more obscurity. The whole album would sound a little better if the sound was dirtier and more pure, but then again the songwriting does not really warrant such an approach.

Black Metal fans should avoid this, as it only shares certain technical aspects of that sub-genre, without actually belonging to it. However, even for a Dark Metal record, this is painfully average and ineffective. Livets Ändhållplats is unable to create even a fraction of the disturbing atmosphere that was present on classic Bethlehem albums, such as Dark Metal and Dictius Te Necare. With such limited musical abilities, it is no wonder that Kvarforth turned to other methods of whoring for attention, so people would notice him and his mundane band. This is safe and kid-friendly stuff for beginners or girls that are sad because their favourite brand of eyeliner was discontinued. There is no true darkness here.
 
(30 Nov. 2011)

 


Shining is an incredibly overrated band from Sweden, often labeled as Black Metal or even DSBM. By October 2002, with the release of III: Angst - Självdestruktivitetens Emissarie, Kvarforth's vehicle of attention whoring had already strayed quite far from its more underground roots. What one hears with this album is an over-produced, empty and meaningless collection of noises that serve no purpose and are a complete waste of the listener's time.

As if the production of Livets ändhållplats was not already too clear for this type of music, the third Shining record possesses an even cleaner sound that removes what little darkness might have remained with a murkier approach. The bass lines, in particular, are higher in the mix than necessary, and the same can be said for the drums. The vocals are actually buried, somewhat, with the guitars sort of blending into the middle of the rest. Though, with the overall weakness of the songwriting, this is not a real problem as there is nothing lost. No amount of distortion or rawness could have possibly saved this record from its fate.

The compositions are very bland and pointless. Whereas the previous efforts showed a significant influence from early Bethlehem and even some Burzum, Angst - Självdestruktivitetens Emissarie has more of a depressive rock feel that is taking over. The main problem with that description is that there is really nothing depressive about this, other than the severe lack of effort put forth into the writing and recording of this horrid album. Everything from the empty and useless guitar riffs to the overactive percussion just reeks of a band that had nothing to offer and no real point for bothering to waste anyone's time listening to this worthless trash. One is likely to get a headache even trying to comprehend what these guys thought they were attempting to do by even entering a studio when they clearly had not bothered to compose any real songs. The guitar melodies do not flow well and really go nowhere, limping from one ill-conceived idea to the next. There are still some nods to the Black Metal scene that spawned this wretched project, such as the tremolo riffs and fast drums that can be heard on the title track, yet the riffs possess no feeling and none of this accomplishes anything, whatsoever. Even the addition of acoustic bits and silent passages fails to create any sort of atmosphere. In the end, it just shows a very confused group of musicians with no idea what they were doing. The most interesting song, "Submit to Self-Destruction", still manages to fall short of anything from the previous two albums and is actually a re-recorded song from an old E.P.

Angst - Självdestruktivitetens Emissarie is a worthless album that should be avoided, at all costs. Even if you are a fan of the early work of Shining, this really is not worth bothering with. This is such a step down from its predecessors that it makes them seem like brilliant classics, by comparison. It is a shame that Kvarforth didn't kill himself before recording this foul collection of under-developed ideas and passing it off as music. If you see copies of this anywhere, be sure to burn them all, rather than just throwing them in the garbage. The true "angst" of this record is from realizing that the cartoon character known as Kvarforth actually achieved fame based on such talentless releases as this.
 
(10 July 2013)
















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