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Written by: RUB on 06/02/2018 12:30:55

My first real encounter with Sweden’s Shining was when I saw their disturbing (to say the least) video for the song “Vilja & Dröm” (which translates to “Will & Dream”) from the 2015-outing, “IX – Everyone, Everything, Everywhere, Ends”. It instantly caught my attention with its very extreme sounding vocals and instruments, and of course by virtue of the gore featured in the clip as well. Fast-forward three years, and a new album from the group has just arrived. Directly translating as “Wolf Without a Pack”, the band is once again ready with their haunting take on extreme metal, which mixes the genres of doom (sometimes of the depressive variant) and black metal and constantly has you wondering how the songs are going to progress. And progression really is key here, since all of the songs — apart from the 2:52-minute, instrumental piano interlude “Tolvtusenfyrtioett” (“12041”) — tend to last more than seven minutes, giving them plenty of room to grow and evolve.

Kicking things off with “Svart Ostoppbar Eld” (“Black Unstoppable Fire”) we’re treated to a high paced drum and guitar piece, which shows Shining aren’t messing around. Singing in his native tongue, vocalist Niklas Kvarforth truly sounds like a madman here, his haunting shrieks and maniacal growls sending shivers down your spine as the extreme soundscape unfolds in front of you. And when this is done in Swedish, it just sounds that much more malevolent. Equally characteristic for Kvarforth’s style of singing is his flickering his tongue every now and then, which contributes to the sensation of insanity by virtue of sounding like the voice of a possessed man. This is what’s so interesting about Shining’s music; as beautiful as doom metal can be, with its long, instrumental passages, just as evil and menacing it can be when the black metal element unfurls in liaison with Kvarforth’s pipes. Coupled with passages that are half spoken, half sung to create the impression that the music is leading toward something majestic and grandiose, what you have is an album full of well-crafted compositions. And then — from a clear blue sky — strike the blistering drums and fierce guitar, like day and night in the same track. This is the recipe Shining uses in order to engulf the listener and it truly is something that they have learned to master over the course of their 22-year existence.

Although on several occasions the songs do slow down, the evil tone never lets up — partly because of Kvarforth’s voice, but also because of the way the songs are structured. Even when the tracks slow down, it still feels like you’re bearing witness to something menacingly beautiful, yet also terrifyingly sad, as heard on one of the highlights, “Gyllene Portarnas Bro” (“The Bridge of the Golden Gates”). In what is probably best described as some sort of ballad (dare I say so in the realm of black metal…?), the guitars adopt a mourning style from the get-go, switching to acoustic during the verse to underline the weeping sadness inherent to the song — but still you are constantly aware that the track is building towards something grander. The vocals are strained, yet perfectly decipherable — that is, just until the 04:38-mark, when all hell breaks loose in an inferno of haunting screams, blasting drums and piercing guitars. This is where Shining excels, but none of it would feel so powerful if the build-up hadn’t been there.

And that is basically, on many levels, how I feel about Shining’s music. It sounds like some beautiful nightmare waiting to erupt in a pyre of insane shrieks and scorching tremolo melodies, which is most precisely depicted on the album closer, “Mot Aokigahara” (“Towards Aokigahara”), which provides a clear-cut example of how to transition from the dwelling calmness of doom into the thunderous roar of extreme metal. Needless to say, you will find me in the front row when Shining graces Denmark with a visit in April to play a concert at the Royal Metal Fest in Århus.


Download: Gyllene Portarnas Bro, Svart Ostoppbar Eld, Jag Är Din Fiende
For the fans of: Primitive Man, Bethlehem, older Katatonia
Listen: Facebook

Release date 05.01.2018
Season of Mist

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