8 ½ - Feberdrömmar i vaket tillstånd

Written by: EW on 19/01/2014 18:49:04

As suggested by the '½' in the album title, this latest release from Swedish depressives Shining is not quite the next installment in their numbered discography (at least until the numbering ceased in 2012) but is a half-way house til the next suicidal slab of misery from Kvarforth & co arrives. Advertised as "early tracks taken back to pre-production stage" with new recordings of various instrumentation added in, it is painfully obvious from the outset that this is a recording for die-hard Shining fans only. "Terres des anonymes" raises the bar high in the quest to be the most poorly produced track of the six but unfortunately the remaining five confirm the errors of this track to be a plague across the whole album. Guitar tones devoid of anything but the highest, most distorted range, programmed drums killing any attempt to generate real power, a hi-hat sound so nauseating - during "Szabadulj meg önmagadtól" in particular - that I wonder if it was chosen as a bet, a mix of varying guest vocals often finding themselves too low in the I selling this to you?

The Shining of today have come a long way since the more distorted, caustic days of their youth - and it really was their youth considering ever-controversial mainman Niklas Kvarforth formed the act at just 13 - so there can be no surprise in noting the more basic, tremolo-laden structures of these early tracks do not stand at all well compared to the more artistically worthy fare of their mid-later years. But even so, it is with such great difficulty that I can make it through the opening trio to the better stuff towards the end that all hope is by the time "Black Industrial Misery" enters the fray to salvage some pride my mind has gone, lost in a sea of discontent wandering when is it time to put on "V: Halmstad" instead?

"Terres...", a rerecording of "Fields of Faceless" from "III - Angst - Självdestruktivitetens emissarie" displays a clear Burzum influence as the song progresses through ten trudging minutes of hellish distortion and sweeping synth, led vocally by Famine of French BM’ers Peste Noire. It's unsettling tones are continued through into "Szabadulj meg önmagadtól" (originally "Mörda dig själv..." again from "III...") where even Attila Chisar's legendary demonic howl cannot stop the horror of the sampled symbal sound riding high in the mix during the venomous blasting section. "Ett liv utan mening" (from "Livets ändhållplats") starts well enough with acoustic chords fading into the empty ether before the annoyance of the drum samples kick in, only to sound even worse once the track speeds up 2 minutes in. The resultant sound quality is on the worse side of Burzum's classic early 90s work, but at least then Varg had the good grace to record his own drums.

Feeling little will to continue on from here, "Selvdestruktivitetens emissarie" attempts a haunting atmosphere with operatic synth sitting low in the mix but the general construction of the song and inaudible riff patterns give it little backing. Only an interesting layer of casio-sounding guitars gives the song any real note. "Black Industrial Misery" gives the earlier blasts a kick in the unmentionables with a better attempt at unrestrained power before "Through Corridors of Oppression" harnesses the suicidal notoriety of Leviathan and Striborg for a better attempt at atmosphere and destruction with a more natural-sounding drum performance and agreeable rhythm through it's brisker four minutes.

I've no doubt Kvarforth had genuine reasons for the release of this record at a time when Shining have made a real mark in the BM world with their at-times brilliant, intelligent compositions, but all "8½" does is bring to attention the less salubrious nature of their earlier works and the decrepit recording techniques employed here. An album very much for the completists.


Download: Black Industrial Misery
For The Fans Of: old Burzum, Leviathan, Striborg
Listen: Facebook

Release date: 23.09.2013
Dark Essence Records

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