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Although Shining’s imagery causes me aneurysms, Kvarforth’s talent can’t be denied. That he composed and recorded – if, admittedly, with the assistance of more experienced folks – a full-length album of enjoyable and not even painfully derivate black metal at the age of sixteen speaks of his potential.
It’s disheartening that he appeared to squander his talent because of excessive obsession with imagery and self-indulgence. Beyond “Within Deep Dark Chambers”, the following couple of albums promised some musical evolution, even though the outright results came painfully short. Shining’s fourth album, “IV – The Eerie Cold”, is where the band’s current and longest standing style would be set in stone. The typical slow, supposedly atmospheric passages with acoustic guitars, combined with usually faster passages with thickly layered distorted guitars form the essential Shining sound. What makes this reliance on textbook quiet-loud dynamics appear particularly weak is how poorly they manage to bring variety to the tedium of Shining’s music. Typically, quiet-loud dynamics can make sustained repetition the same themes considerably more excusable, but Shining’s insistence on using boring, simplistic chord progressions and inability to write inspired guitar riffs dissipates any rectifying potential that altering dynamics could’ve brought.
Why this incredibly dull tripe can be considered a waste of talents is due to its apparent self-conscious nature. The band claims promote self-harming tendencies, and the music is in accordance with the feelings of desolation and depression commonly associated with self-harm. Not quite the compelling, emotionally intensive kind that even some bands of the depressive black metal subgenre are capable of producing, but rather extremely dreary, tedious and miserable music that sucks the life out of the listener. Rather than being aggressively melancholic or cynically hateful, it’s passivating and incredibly dull. It’s something like a musical journey into the depression-dulled mind of a mentally challenged man, with repressed anger towards the world. Unable to even lash out in frustration, he merely wallows in impotent self-pity. Admittedly, even calling it that would be giving far excessive credit to this tripe – that would imply there’s some degree of honesty in this odiously pretentious garbage, whereas “IV” is calculated, dishonest and relies on cheap tactics to bring appeal to otherwise worthless music. Even the sound of “IV” is overproduced and plastic. There are almost no enjoyable riffs on the album (“Claws of Perdition” makes a welcome exception, but even that is short-lived, and ultimately nothing particularly impressive), and everything is coated in endless, unrelenting boredom: plodding, unchanged drum beats and ever so unvaried chord progressions counterpointed by Kvarforth’s utterly idiotic vocals. Despite the embarrassing clown that he is in front of the microphone, the annoyment factor that his vocal inanities bring to this album is mercifully low, as his vocals aren’t particularly prominent in the mix, nor is it completely incessant. Apart from the occasionally interesting bass playing, that’s about as much kindness as this album deserves.
Kvarforth was a young musician even at the time his fourth album was released. Some of his albums prior to that featured a somewhat confused and incoherent musical image, and though “IV” would seem to rectify this issue, it’s ultimately nothing but a regressive, laughably talentless work of image-obsessive nonsense. “Livets Ändhållplats” still owed to Bethlehem’s dark, nocturnal atmosphere, with some attempts to replicate its almost nightmarish atmosphere (failing utterly, of course). “III” stripped away some of the darkest elements, and it was perhaps there that Shining’s shambling musical integrity was beginning to show in earnest. “IV”, however, not only fails to recover from the artistic vacuum that the second and third album suffered from at the hands of progressive expulsion of black metal elements. It attempts to crudely sew together the misshapen corpse of Shining’s music through casting away all elements that aren’t in outright concordance with the core elements, instead of developing those other musical threads further so as to discover genuinely interesting paths. Although "IV - The Eerie Cold" isn't anywhere near to being unlistenable, it deserves a particularly low score for being so utterly artificial and fake, and partially because of what this album, and Shining as a whole, could've been if Kvarforth cared an iota about merely creating a good album.
Shining are a band that are consistent, if anything. Although I was not too keen on their debut, this band has gone on to release some of the most powerful and unique black metal out there. Often labelled as a 'suicidal black metal' band, Shining are a far cry from anything warm or cheerful, and while their music's tone is almost unrelentingly bleak and negative, they have managed to stir some profound emotions in me. 'IV: The Eerie Cold' is arguably the album where the band starts taking hold of their more progressive tendencies, a move that would thrust them into the highest echelon of modern Scandinavian black metal.
Much of the knowledge of this band surrounds the unending black metal shenadigans of frontman Niklas 'Kvarforth' Olsson, a man who I would have dismissed as a petty attention whore, were it not for the brilliance of his music. From self-inflicting harm, to advocating suicide to faking his own death, don't let Kvarforth's behavior trick you into thinking that Shining is merely a gimmick band attempting to cash in on the notoriety of black metal. The idiosyncratic behavior has undoubtedly introduced some to the band's music, but Shining's work stands above the context. 'IV: The Eerie Cold' is a less refined work than what they would later do with the excellent albums 'V: Halmstad' and 'VI: Klagopsalmer', but it is equally as powerful and emotionally stirring. The music is rooted in an emotionally volatile breed of black metal labeled as 'depressive black metal', gearing the atmosphere of the music to reproduce feelings of total desolation and despair. Atmosphere is Kvarforth's main aim here, but there are some guitar riffs that pack alot of punch. Kvarforth's vocals have not yet achieved the distinct sound they would have on 'Halmstad' and beyond, but they are grim and diverse, ranging from a soft whisper to a maniacal howl.
As would be the case with 'V: Halmstad', the aspect of the songwriting that really stands out as being incredible are the band's more laid back sections. 'The Eerie Cold' is rife with spoken word samples, one monologue most notably taken from the film American Psycho. Incidentally, Christian Bale can now proudly declare he has offered guest vocals on a black metal album. In seriousness, these spoken word pieces could have been handled horribly, but the music never feels cheesy, and Kvarforth is clever enough to pick source dialogue that was powerful to begin with. When a woman heard towards the end of 'Nagonting Ar Javligt Fel' says she's going to slit her throat, there are no smirks or ironic laughter, and especially within the first listen, these sections come across as profoundly disturbing.
Even for black metal fans, Shining's music is not recommended to all. They will not be fast enough for some people, and on the other hand, they may be too heavy for the atmospheric crowd. Shining have become one of my favourite black metal bands for the fact that unlike so many black metal acts out there, they have managed to find a unique sound. 'IV: The Eerie Cold' is a perfect introduction for a listener looking to find out what this band is about; a powerful combination of their progressive latter era material and more straightforward early work.
I bought this copy recently, and instead of starting normally, it begins with some douchebag cunt talking for a couple minutes (feels like an eternity). No, that’s not Kvarforth, but probably some guy from the record label or promo team or something (booklet gives the name “Mr. Bjornhagen”). He spews some garbage about how the band is so emo and how fans listen because we want to worship Shining. I don’t care about what he’s saying, but the fact that it’s on my paid copy, ruins the flow of the song, and is unexpected, is a crock of horseshit. Fucking give me my money back, and to all others wanting to own this album, do your best to NOT get the version that has this idiot speaking at the beginning of the first track. My lame version is the 2008 Peaceville Records (Super Jewel Box) one – DO NOT BUY THIS VERSION.
Now that the intro is out of the way, the real opener kicks in with acoustics, harmonic leads, and a lingering atmosphere of dilapidated gloom. Thereafter, the coarse guitar tone beckons the listener into a hypnotic trance while the band kicks in to gear rockingly. Shining at this point played catchy, rock-tinged black metal – that is, black metal that had an edge of modern rock. This doesn’t mean very straightforward or mediocre writing, though. Quite the contrary, as the songs here do all they can to express the inner complexity of Kvarforth (John Doe helped on a couple tracks). Kvarforth himself isn’t the center of attention, as he might have one believe. It’s the music that should garner all the attention. The compositions on IV - The Eerie Cold are ones tapping into themes of misery, death, and general melancholy. The guitars are the primary instruments handling this task, reverberating with a wall of woozy distortion to shroud the listener into another state of being.
Every song has hints of melody, aching pain, grotesque riffs, beefy texture, and precise, versatile drumming thanks to Hellhammer. This team, backed by rich production, capitalizes on setting the listener in a warm, tender mood. It’s a feeling of weakness for the body, but the band is fully engaged playing either haunting interludes like in “Vemodets Arkitektur” and “Eradication Of The Condition” or insanely catchy riff breaks like in “I Och Med Insikt Skall Du Förgå”. Tremolo and standard pickings are masterfully executed, but it’s the twists and turns in each song that make them experiences that go beyond musical enjoyment. Even during boasting solos, there’s a hint of otherworldliness. What helps tremendously (although not given much of the credit) is the bass contribution. Whether it’s in the air of the production or by the bass guitar, there’s a real sense of affection and comfort in this dominion of dreariness.
“Claws Of Perdition” features the last lines from the movie American Psycho placed glowingly during Hellhammer’s drum march outro. Other than that, there’s one place where the band royally fucks up, and it costs them a track. Obviously, the dickhead at the beginning of the first track messes that one up, but for all other versions, you only have to deal with the title track. On this title track, there’s some whiny bastard with a high voice damn near ready to break down and cry, and he goes on and on and on. Horrible, and it takes an otherwise leisurely intermission track full of bass harmonies and clean prodding into a test of patience.
So with all that wrapped up, this album is otherwise fantastic. It further shows Shining’s transformation from a rawer brand of black metal on the first two full-lengths to a cleaner, serrated mix of rock lining and black metal. Still go in expecting mainly black metal, as well as Kvarforth’s uninhibited shrieking, coughing, yelling, screaming, and croaking. The man’s all over the place when it comes to his vocals, but his delivery’s always convincing and adds to the anguish by lending a touch of insanity to otherwise melodic and dynamic music.
Shining are one of the pioneers of depressive black metal. Ever since the beginning they managed to make a name for themselves through their music and the ability to be able to submerge the listener in depressive sounds that will no doubt, haunt the mind. 'The Eerie Cold' was a bit of a mystery to most people, including myself when it first came out. It doesn't sound anything like the old Shining, instead we're given this new sound, which tends to be far clearer than ever before. Which I suppose can only be a good thing. Right?
Well, 'The Eerie Cold' marked the end of an era for Shining. They gave up their darker sound for what we have here on the forth offering. The Swedish outfit never fail to impress though, that's one of their undeniable qualities. Bands like Shining come under a very unique tag. Alongside bands such as Neurosis, Shining are capable of change and are able to adapt quickly. Whether their fanbase was able to adapt quite as quickly is an entirely different matter. I seem to remember 'The Eerie Cold' being met with hostility. People were used to a particular way and have already witness Shining changing over the years. From that hollow distant sound we first heard to this clean and clear styling. You'd think by now people were used to this band transforming, but they're really not. I think the latest Shining offering proved that in terms of how people greeted the vocals, the atmosphere behind the music and of course, the odd addition of black metal solos. It's by no means uncommon for black metal bands to perform solos. Shining happen to do it very well.
So, 'The Eerie Cold' represented a turn around of sorts. Largely though, Shining kept that dark feeling running through their music. It's the familiarity prospect that fans seem to be warming to. The dark intentions behind Shining's music still exist. Just in very different forms. Acoustics become far more used on 'The Eerie Cold'. They add dynamism to Shining. This is one black metal act that doesn't stick to a formulated pattern of repetition. There is a bit of that, but it's varied and doesn't tend to last long. This gives Shining a fresh appeal. Keyboards were an element of music open to Shining in the past, but Shining have grown. This full-length signals that growth in musical ability and attitude. Shining are more concentrated and are in excellent form when it comes to musicianship. As I said, keyboards are a huge element on 'The Eerie Cold'. They add strength in depth to the atmospheric styling of Shining. They give this fresh appeal a boost. They are used well and thoroughly. No mistakes are made. Professionalism is something Shining have become accustomed too.
Guitars. Well, they're different in sound to before. Cleaner, but far more effective. They no long give that echo feel that corresponded with the distant feel of Shining's music of old. Now, the guitars have the ability to draw it's audience in. Two guitarists are on offer to support each other and that is what they do. Using two guitarists gives a thick feel to the riffs. They sound impenetrable, creating an indestructible barrier for Shining to work with. Solos are used, which is fantastic. They are by no means overpowering. They showcase Shining's ability, but don't come across as egotistical. We, the audience, can sit back and admire the brilliant songwriting and musicianship Shining possess.
Solos are also very appealing. The guitars now interact with a new audience, only spurring on the appeal of this band. As well as this, we cannot forget bass. It can be heard! Which is strange for a black metal band. It gives the music it's lower and darker feel. As if we're descending into the abyss. Another change comes in the way of vocals. They aren't rasping vocals, typical to black metal. They are low growls almost, which suit Shining perfectly. They can also be more easily heard, which is positive. They depict a varying amount of emotions, which is good because then they have more chance of connecting with the audience. Everything is left open for personal interpretation. 'The Eerie Cold' is a brave attempt and a new style of depressive black metal and for the most part, it pays off.
For all the controversy surrounding Shining, you'd think they were some talentless, boring band with a need to build hype to distract their audience from the dullness of their music. Fortunately, in this case, the opposite is true - the band is so damn good people seem to feel the need to slag them off and pass them off as trendwhores and money-grubbers. While both accusations are possibly not entirely inaccurate (they've even admitted to being concerned with profit in interviews, and the promo version of this album contained an introductory speech ripping into those who wish to keep black metal as far underground as possible), but fuck it - The Eerie Cold is the fourth in a strong line of killer albums, each of which has moved from one strength to another. The debut, Within Deep Dark Chambers, was a morbid excercise in pure suicidal melancholy, a heaving mass of darkness which obliterated all in it's path, but since then they've branched out to incorporate numerous sundry influences, keeping things fresh without dissolving into a morass of boring musical masturbation. The production helps too, since they've stuck to their guns and wrapped the album in the usual stunningly strong engineering job which leaves each instrument fully audible and well-separated - this sort of thing was never meant to be muddled by a bedroom-level 4-track mush, so it's good that Shining have the balls to step out of the "necro" box and give their music the rich, polished sound it deserves.
The Eerie Cold essentially follows the same pattern Shining has stuck to on each release - 6 songs, the first being a long, slow buildup from quiet reflection to a wall of stricken angst, the fifth being an ambient instrumental, and the others being epics filled with slow, droning chord progressions, stunning basslines, alternatingly complex/simple drum work and, of course, anguished vocal howling. The prog influence which started to evolve on the last effort has fully blossomed here, infusing the songs with long, drawn out reflective sections often reminiscent of Pink Floyd and King Crimson, although never as psychedelic as either. Still, this is mostly a black metal album, so a searing tremolo lead is never far away, and the suicide them is still all-pervasive, as evidenced by the disturbing samples littered throughout - "Wrists are for girls... i'm slitting my throat" being by far the most amusing.
Overall, if you liked the last two albums, you'll like this one. They haven't strayed away from their signature sound, and although they'll never match the mordant atmosphere of the first album, there's still life in Shining yet... bad semi-pun fully intended.
Previously published at www.diabolicalconquest.com (c) 2005
IV - The Eerie Cold is the 4th album released by the Swedish BM band Shining. I had never heard of these guys before, and due to a very generic name and a few other facts, I expected this latest opus to be the usual and generic raw BM album. The thing that impressed me a bit was the fact that some of the members/ex-members had played or were also currently playing in some good bands, namely Forgotten Tomb, and of course, the appearance of Hellhammer on one of the older albums (or maybe 2 or 3, i'm not sure.). The line-up for this album, though, features individuals i've never heard of before, so I expected an average BM album. Well, i'll admit it right now: If you're thinking this is average BM played in a very generic way, you're wrong.
The first song, Och Med Insikt Skall Du Forga, got me intrigued just a bit. It starts with a sad yet haunting accoustic intro, accompanied by a great bass performance, which is shortly followed by an emotional and lead which proves that the guitarist has talent. But the guys in Shining know that accoustic don't last forever - in fact, after two minutes, an up-beat raw black metal riff comes in with some piano, to keep the haunting and dark feelings lying around. This song (the whole album, in fact) doesn't lack riffwork at all and doesn't feel repetitive at all. The riffs are dark and creepy ( add whatever adjective you can that describes well-made BM), and the vocals are hateful as fuck, all this to create very desperate emotions. I can see why a member of Forgotten Tomb already played in this band, because certain parts of this remind me of Forgotten Tomb, but not as doomy of course. Every single time an accoustic or piano break is about to get boring, the guitarist decides to shake things up by adding in another raw BM riff, riff after riff. This album didn't get boring a single time.
Production wise, Shining isn't in the whole have-shitty-production-to-be-cool camp, and that is of course admired by me. The whole thing sounds clean, but yet it always keeps its dark touch by keeping the music filled with clean piano and accoustic guitar breaks.
To sum all that up, Shining 4th effort is a raw and up-beat BM album filled with interesting piano breaks, desperate emotions, and all this without being repetitive once. A great album, and those who like BM with some clean production but still manages to instill emotions of despair and the likes in the listener will surely be pleased by this album.