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Shining is certainly an interesting band in the black metal scene. They play a very distinctive style of black metal with a heavy focus on atmosphere, and should be noted for their unique message. Shining is a self-professed pro-suicide group, and the band’s leader and main songwriter Niklas Kvarforth has stated in multiple interviews that he takes pride in the fact that fans have killed themselves under the influence of his music. While it is often easy to dismiss a group espousing such views as an extreme metal cliché, a band simply trying to shock their listeners, for the most part Shining’s music is surprisingly convincing. The band has an excellent discography, and their albums IV - The Eerie Cold and V - Halmstad stand as landmark releases for the subgenre of depressive black metal. The mentioned albums are arguably the band’s creative peak, and serve as an excellent demonstration of Shining’s signature sound. The music featured on the mentioned albums alternates between harsh black metal and cold acoustic passages, and is absolutely drenched in depressive atmosphere. When one hears the intensity and emotional depth of the music featured on many of Shining’s albums, it is difficult to not take this band seriously.
Three years before the release of the excellent The Eerie Cold came Shining’s third full-length, III - Angst - Självdestruktivitetens emissarie. The title, which translates to “Angst, Self-Destruction’s Emissary”, should make it very clear that the album’s subject matter is just as dark as the group’s later work. Indeed, the album fits in very well with the rest of Shining’s discography. While it falls short of the brilliance of its immediate successors, Angst is an important album in regards to the band’s musical evolution. Angst is the first of the band’s albums where clean guitar work and ambience was featured as an important element in the music. This marked the shift in focus from the unrelenting aggressive black metal performed on the band’s first two releases to a new, more creative form of extreme metal. Ambient passages would go on to become a very important aspect of Shining’s sound, and Angst is the album that began to experiment with these new elements. Angst laid down the groundwork for the masterpieces that would follow it, and while it is not an album without issues, it should prove a worthwhile listen for any fans of the band’s later work.
Repetition is a key element on Angst - Självdestruktivitetens emissarie. Each song on the record, excluding an instrumental track, is very lengthy; the shortest full-band piece, bluntly titled “Submit to Self-Destruction”, clocks in at just over seven minutes. While the long song lengths would certainly allow for a variety of musical ideas to be introduced and expanded upon throughout a single track, it is disappointing to say that the majority of the album’s tracks only feature two or three ideas that are repeated for minutes at a time. While the repetition does contribute to the overall atmosphere of the album, giving the music a hypnotic feel, the band simply overdoes it on many of the album’s tracks. Album opener “Mörda dig själv” is an excellent example of this. The song drones on for nine minutes without going anywhere, playing variations on a single riff for the track’s duration. The only variety featured on the track is a few tempo changes and variations in drumming patterns. The music starts to blend together after a while, and goes on for far too long.
The wall of sound approach featured on “Mörda dig själv” is present on the majority of the album’s tracks, at least during the metal segments. The album starts to get interesting on its third track, “Självdestruktivitetens emissarie”. After beginning with two minutes of harsh black metal, the song abruptly breaks into an atmospheric segment driven by clean guitar. The segment, while soothing in an eerie sort of way, retains the dark atmosphere of the album as a whole. This atmosphere is intensified when the drums kick in and vocalist Kvarforth begins moaning over the calm guitar, creating a disturbing ambiance. The clean guitar segment featured on this piece serves as a prelude to Shining’s later work, as clean guitar work is featured to a much greater extent on the albums following Angst.
While the ambient segment featured on “Självdestruktivitetens emissarie” is very effective in adding to the atmosphere and sonic diversity of the album, unfortunately not all attempts at creating atmosphere through ambiance on Angst are successful. While the inclusion of an instrumental keyboard track marks the beginning of the band’s tradition of making the fifth track on each album an instrumental, the song Shining chose to include on Angst is an abysmal representation of this tradition. The track, titled “Till minne av Daghen”, consists of a (poorly) improvised synthesizer lead played over rain and thunder sound effects. The track is obviously supposed to be disquieting, but unfortunately comes across as poorly-conceived and extremely cheesy. The song really breaks up the flow of the album, and the album honestly would have been better without the song’s inclusion.
There is one aspect of Angst that deserves enthusiastic praise. This is the excellent drum work provided by Jan Axel Blomberg, long-time drummer for the Norwegian black metal band Mayhem. Blomberg’s performance on Angst stands alongside his absolute best work, and his drumming contributes greatly to the album’s overall mood. This is especially clear on the album’s second track, “Svart industriell olycka”. The drum work on this song features excellent cymbal work and intense, unrelenting blast beats that alternate with calmer segments. The performance gives the impression of being improvised, but this does not detract from the listening experience. Unlike the aforementioned synthesizer segment on the album’s instrumental track, Blomberg’s improvisational drum techniques are performed very well.
Although the drum work on Angst is truly impressive, it must be noted that the bass work is less than stellar. Bassist Phil Cirone, who stayed on board for the follow-up album The Eerie Cold, is just not given any time to shine on the album. He is an excellent musician, and his work on The Eerie Cold provides the album with some of its best, most haunting moments. Unfortunately, his talents are greatly underused on Angst. The bass is clearly audible on each track, but often just mirrors the guitar work. This is a great disappointment, as some inventive bass lines would have really enhanced the musical depth of the album and contributed to its uniqueness.
Addressing the vocal work on the album, there really isn't much to say. Kvarforth gives an excellent performance as always, providing tortured harsh vocals that fit the music in a perfect fashion. Kvarforth often uses his vocals as more of an instrument than a way of communicating his lyrics; he growls and moans over the music to contribute to the album’s depressing mood. Kvarforth has one of the best voices in black metal, and his vocals only get better on later albums with further experimentation.
Overall, III - Angst - Självdestruktivitetens emissarie is a solid album that should easily be enjoyed by any fan of Shining’s work. While the music performed on the album is not as refined as what is featured on its immediate successors, the band’s potential is clearly demonstrated. Angst is best viewed as a starting point for the experimentation that would follow on later albums, an album created during the process of a band perfecting its signature sound. The album does have a very effective atmosphere and several strong points, but in the end suffers greatly from too much repetition and a regrettable instrumental track. Although the album is far from perfect, the excellent drum work alone makes this album worth at least one complete listen.
Before Shining went on to release some of the most devastating depressive black metal albums of all time in the form of 'IV: The Eerie Cold', 'V: Halmstad' and 'VI: Klagopsalmer', this suicidal band played a less refined, more straightforward brand of black metal. 'III: Angst, Självdestruktivitetens Emissarie' shows Shining at the end of their early stretch of albums, and the potential that would later go to be realized a couple of years later is here. All the same, while this music was evidently inspired by the same dark feelings that would fuel the masterpieces of this band, Shining's third album does not yet demonstrate Shining's now- trademark emotional intensity, although it is a certain step up from their origins.
More or less, Shining's 'Angst, Självdestruktivitetens Emissarie' is a depressive black metal album on the more aggressive side of the spectrum. Much like Burzum, Shining at this point delivers repetitive, somewhat hypnotic songwriting through atmospheric riffs, subtle melodies, and blastbeats aplenty. Of special note to any black metal enthusiast; the legendary drummer Hellhammer delivers a percussion performance here, and his skill with the double kick brings a power that I was sorely missing on the band's debut. In comparison to the more modern Shining that more people are evidently familiar with, the songwriting here lacks the same heavy-to-soft dynamic that draws so many comparisons to Opeth, although a few passages see the black metal riffage take a step back in favor for some cleaner tones, at times. The production is a small step up from your run-of-the-mill black metal.
'III: Angst, Självdestruktivitetens Emissarie' has some very good ideas in regards to some guitar melodies and keen drumwork at the hands of Hellhammer. The songwriting on this album is still somewhat immature, and like the earlier two albums, a generic production holds the band back from excelling in their field. It is too repetitive and monotonous for my tastes, but there are enough intriguing ideas planted throughout each of the songs to merit a listen.
Reportedly, Shining disbanded in 2004 and this would have been the last effort if that short break-up had been everlasting. Thankfully, the band came to their senses and decided to continue on their black metal pursuit and one year later, after the reported split, the band released a record that would change the direction of their career for all eternity. This effort, entitled ‘Angst - Självdestruktivitetens Emissarie’ is the last of the formulaic records from the Swedish force. ‘The Eerie Cold’, the fourth record in the illustrious career of the band, marked a change in the portrayal of the themes that the band focused on. Many state that Shining are the penultimate depressive black metal band and before the fifth monument to their greatness, ‘Halmstad’, that might have been true. Alongside bands like legendary sideshows Forgotten Tomb and Forgotten Woods, time had caused an evolutionary effect on the bands’ sound. Forgotten Tomb altered into an experimental band that shocked the world with the inclusion of clean vocals, much like Shining had done on latter efforts, and Forgotten Woods changed from their iconic depressive style that had a hand in forming the roots of the sub-genre into a completely new entity. All bands have required a bit of patience in the modern era, including Shining, but unlike Forgotten Tomb and Forgotten Woods, two of black metal’s greatest performers of the past, Shining didn’t strike up a long-running debate about their material.
Everyone seemed to accept that Shining had progressed in leaps and bounds from this style, to the style they have nowadays, which consists of more experimentation, variation and a sound that isn’t as conventional as what is present on ‘Angst - Självdestruktivitetens Emissarie’. If this short split did actually occur, one must be under the impression that it was the single most life altering moment in the bands career because after that, the band were changed forever, never to return to this dismal sound which acts as a series of anthems for depression. There are elements on this record present on latter day records, but a face-lift has been given to the bands style in the form of a less conventional style which has actually made the band more prosperous on the global market, attracting an influx of new fans and maintaining the strength of the old fan base who are thankful for the change in emphasis, seeing as Shining had now produced three fairly similar sounding records in the space of two years. It was pivotal for Shining, and the fans, that the band had some time to rest to allow their already well established material to sink into the minds of those who had heard it because they were producing records consistently, year-after-year, without a break. So, three years had passed since the arrival ‘Angst - Självdestruktivitetens Emissarie’ and ‘The Eerie Cold’ interrupted the longest break in the bands history without a new record.
‘The Eerie Cold’, with its unfashionable style, marked a new era and the ending of another that saw ‘Angst - Självdestruktivitetens Emissarie’ act as the final swansong for the depressive style of Shining, that came in a formulaic box, with generic packaging. This record isn’t, by any means, a corrupted piece, intent on disrupting the harmony of the bands discography. It fits nicely into the first wave of Shining records and is a pleasing contrast to the second wave, the one in which we’re currently in. The band maintained a number of features from previous records and illustrated them on this piece with more colour and vivid descriptions of pain, sadness and sorrow. Like the step-up in fiction, the first two records were like accounts of fiction intended for the eyes of the young adult market, but with ‘Angst - Självdestruktivitetens Emissarie’, Shining made the step-up in maturity and fulfilled their destiny by becoming a reliable source by being like fiction intended for the eyes of mature and responsible adults. The emotive aspects are still the same, as shown on the re-mastered version of ‘Submit To Self-Destruction’, but they’re enhanced by a mature sounding Shining, who have begun to benefit themselves by using a clean production style that allows the band to use the full width of the soundscapes.
This includes using a lot of ambiance, driven by the distorted guitars and an increased presence in percussion, which is leading by example with its talented use of cymbals, double bass and snares. Including a song the band wrote several years previous to this record, but glamorising it, definitely gives the band a side that they might not have previously explored - a mature side, as stated before. By doing this, Shining have made themselves more reliable when it comes to the emotions they portray. Kvarforth, despite being a rather dramatised person, has made himself appear to be a reliable narrator of the lyrical themes, as opposed the unreliable narrator that he might have seemed like, given his dramatic personality in times gone by. Although this era of Shining has been largely forgotten, there are remnants of it in today’s sound with the darker ambiance still affecting the mindset of the listener. The acoustics, clean vocals and dynamism aren’t to be found here, but all the traditional elements that made the seductive Swedes a force to begin with are still present and in abundance, making this a generally good record in contrast with its peers, a number of whom have let their side down. A lot of the content may be similar to what was on the previous two records, in terms of the mood, the feel of the instrumentation and the portrayal but, as stated, there isn’t anything striking me as completely terrible.
So many black metal bands out there take the Darkthrone approach to song craft that the appeal of fully exploring a repetitive riff in a song often looses its power to the listener. Bands that spend entire songs making the tiniest changes as a dark riff is repeated hypnotically have become a genre of their own, and this album certainly falls in that category. However, like the better moments of Judas Iscariot, this Shining album sculpts singular towers of dark and powerful repetitive riffage. There is a purity and strength that resonates in me with such minimalist music, as 6 minute songs that contain 3 or even 2 riffs wash over the listener: appealing simultaneously with the primal hypnotic parts of the brain as it engages the careful listener with a complex latticework of changes and iterations.
From the words above, the score this album gets may seem confusing. While some of the songs presented on here are amazing pieces of minimalist art, others seem far too much like a band stuck in an uninspired blackened jam session. Particularly, the first minutes of the first track present a wavering combination of two simple dark chords moving back and forth, accented by a seemingly improvised bass line. At 2:47, a painfully bluesy pentatonic bass flourish causes the listener to wince. Almost 5 minutes into the song a heavy metal breakdown shatters all semblances of emotion and reverie as an unexpected musical direction dispels the simple tension of the song. The first track here almost sets the ground rules of the album’s composition without presenting any of the greatness it has in store.
However, the opening strains of the second song are the perfect antidote for the first. This is a riff to sink one’s teeth into; so gritty and yet polished, so darkly thick and majestic, it quickly begins to mutate even on the fourth measure and continues to grow and spread its singular power like a potent variant of musical cancer. The riff is a dark minor-scale exploration of floating harmony, as a singular diade is voiced on two strings while a third tone moves with ethereal yet aggressive intent through the chords to constantly recontextualize them. When the typical black metal full strength orchestration comes in about 40 seconds into this; it is not so much predictable as it is necessary. The stops and starts and emotional dynamics as the guitar voices the riff, alternating between being voiced by itself or with the band, are almost perfect. Almost drowning in the sound, 2:22 brings a startling syncopated run of cymbals from Hellhammer that are jarring yet indispensable. Another riff provides counterbalance, only to snap back into focus a minute or so later; and again the riff drastically devolves and is re-voiced on a bell-like synth sound, only to come back again as if to force the listener to appreciate the original orchestration. This is indeed a monster riff that completely dominates the entire 8 minute song. With all that repetition, however, there are always subtle changes in tone, harmony, and arrangement to keep this from being a simplistic parody of hypnotic black metal. This song very nicely illustrates the difference between the simplistic and the artfully minimalist - the highlight of the album.
The next song revolves around a much more traditional dark minor riff (as does the sixth), but is almost as enjoyable. Drumming, more furious but not without accents and mutations, crucially moves this song forward. There are rapturous evil moments in this song, like the jarring break of clean tones with blurred thick chords at 4:12 that seem like menacing storm clouds that come spiraling too quickly from distant mountains to darken an already bleak landscape. Some of the riff and tempo changes here loose the emotional force it continually builds, but it remains an inspiring example of the might of simple dark chords driving vital music.
Some of the moments to follow are mired in heavy metal worship that, while well performed, looses the strange power the more droning organic moments of this release has to offer. The fourth song nicely illustrates both aspects of this album, as some riffs work amazingly well only to contrast sharply with disappointing ideas that seem almost afterthoughts when compared to the polished and flowing nature of the minimalist elements. As mentioned earlier, guitars, drums, and bass all play equal and important roles in moving the music along. Vocals seem uninspired, matched in mediocrity only by the disappointing guitar solo at 4:59 of the fourth song, bending notes and flatly emoting like a washed-up hack trying to show off at Guitar Center (though the fifth song is almost as bad in the tiresome ambiance and synth department).
While the release presents a work that is at times disjointed and ill-conceived, the moments that do work here are simply amazing. Definitely recommended to black metal fans willing to sift through periods of eye-rolling to find sections of sheer brilliance.
This album is pretty good. Heading into the 3rd album, metal bands are usually faced with the 'curse' of metal. I consider this album to be a decline from their other two so I'm hoping that the next album they release isn't going to be utter shit. Anyway, you are probably all aware that this album features a 'star', namely Hellhammer. I don't really care who is on their albums just as long the music is good. There is bits on this album where Hellhammer tries to be too technical and it spoils to music significantly. Most of the time he does the simple Shining beats the way it is meant to be. The opening track Morda Dig Sjalv (Murder Yourself) has to be the highlight of the album. It is typical Shining, don't expect anything less. The next two tracks are also of a high grade. The 4th track has this shitty drum intro, a couple of rockin riffs, and some strange melodic solo that should appear on a death album. Shining riffs should be this constant fuzz, listening closly you might notice some chord changes (over the bass which always sounds very good). This song has palm muting type riffs so I am disappointed. The next sound picks up again (reminds me of Burzum). Hellhammer still throws in some alternating beats (kind of like Old Man's Child) but its ok this time. Throughout the album one big change in the sound would be the guitar. I mean the sound is very similar but it is a bit clearer. It could just be the bass giving the perception of clearer guitar like all previous Shining releases. However, I don't think that Shining lost its overall sound (the bass drum isn't louder etc.). This is something that only a few bands have managed to achieve due to selling out or losing passion for music.