Review: “Shadow Kingdom” by Chamber of Mirrors

Black Metal is usually an art form that emanates from the frost bitten North of Europe with Scandinavia in particular a place that inspires it. However they say you should never judge a book by its cover and while Searles Valley in California may not usually be associated with it, there is no reason that it should not. “Shadow Kingdom” marks the debut full length album from the one man Black Metal band Chamber of Mirrors, sole member Mortem credited as a multi instrumentalist and lyricist with a vision that if fuelled by themes of the occult, mythology and anti-Christian rhetoric. He recorded at Devil Dunes Studio September 2022 before mixing and mastering himself, making his a true labour of love…

…Raw and atmospheric throughout, the album has the feel of a demo, Mortem’s demonic vocals reverberating from every surface. The sonics are less affected by that with the  haunting “Into Emptiness” giving us icy synths against powerful guitars. There are moments which feel improvised like a live performance and in truth it is hard to tell if the drums are real or programmed because there is the odd flat cymbal crash however it could simply be a one take performance. “Bed Of Thorns” cuts abruptly short as if someone simply pressed stop on the recording mid flow before the chaotic plague riddled melodies of “Lost In Silence” take hold, the quality of the recording making it a challenging and yet ultimately rewarding turbulent listen. The synths of “Starless Womb” have an ethereal quality to them, adding an element of majesty to the dark melodies and nails on a chalk board gravelly vocals from beyond the barren lands. A dark  energy to the performance makes for a compelling white knuckle thrill ride and while some of the seams maybe showing in a slightly disjointed fashion that it part of the glory of the warts and all approach. Nothing is polished out and that is not a bad thing.

As warm as a freshly dug grave on a frost bitten hill in December, “Call From Beyond” rampages through riffs and breakneck speed with the synths providing nuance and elegance as a eerie light from the black depths. Space age tones introduce “Voice from the Distant Winds” in a quirky fashion before driving down the darkness once more with second wave of Black Metal influences littered throughout. The bleak undertones mask the calloused nature of the lyrics as the cold winds blow, a rare solo breathing new life into the corpse before inevitable and untimely death. Synths that sound like they belong on the soundtrack to Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey make up the album title track as an instrumental of unexpected epic grandeur, an aged horror soundscape that then serves as the underpinning of “Golden Ash“. In comparison the latter is a blunt force truma to the head, a skull battering of blast beats and caustic vocals carried forth by the winds of plague. Chaotic, the train threatens to derail with the turbulence but somehow Mortem manages to become the puppet master, reigning everything in just in time to save us from spontaneous combustion. Survival is paramount, resistance is futile [7/10]

Track Listing

  1. Into Emptiness
  2. Bed of Thorns
  3. Lost in Silence
  4. Starless Womb
  5. Call from Beyond
  6. Voice from the Distant Winds
  7. Shadow Kingdom
  8. Golden Ash

Shadow Kingdom” by Chamber of Mirrors is out now and available over at bandcamp.

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