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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.