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Redefining Darkness - 85%

Tomb_of_Cunt, March 5th, 2013

I must say that I’ve never really heard any album of Shining that was bad. This album is another powerful piece of art that speaks to the listener in so many ways. It starts off in a very powerful way with heavy distorted guitars and Kvarforth screaming like a raging demon. The further the album goes, the more it gets a balance between slow, melodic pieces with clean vocals and the faster, distorted pieces that are really raw blood pouring from the veins of desolation.

It is also interesting to note that Shining implemented a wide range of instruments. On “The Ghastly Silence” you can hear acoustic guitar, electric guitar, horns etc. The band made a powerful mix of depressive black metal, jazz, a bit of pop music, and also a few ambient influences. When doing this kind of mix a band can easily make a mess of things and produce an album that sounds so ridiculous that it results in the band getting a very bad image, but Shining succeed in more than one way. They didn’t decompose into some popular outfit who brings in pop and jazz just to sell more records. Instead they master all the musical elements in a brilliant way and make it part of an aesthetic whole that contains a very powerful and dark aura.

The guitar solos on this album is also great. Needless to say, the guitar solos are high-pitched with some old school rock influences. Kvarforth’s vocals in general are great and vary between frustrated screams and melodic singing. What really intrigues me is the melodic death metal kind of approach on “Hail Darkness Hail” because these melodic death metal styles are very successfully mixed into a blend of black metal, choir chanting, progressive rock, and general aggressive rhythms that really tear at your heart. I love the classical guitar playing on most of the tracks. It is very calm, but also contains a very subtle dark element. When the music breaks out into aggressive overdrive, it is almost as if a psychological element is implemented therein the calm and frustrated mind of an individual that suddenly explodes into a bloody rage of revenge.

The album ends on a high note with “For the God Below”, which is a very powerful track wherein Kvarforth takes a confessional-poet kind of approach. This song addresses so many emotional aspects – the attraction of man to darkness, the general despair and loneliness of the tortured individual, and the dualism of light and dark, good and evil.

In general. this album has a very strong existential concept and is a must-have for all fans of depressive black metal and black metal in general.

The best since Halmstad - 95%

ponyovdoom, February 24th, 2013

Wow. That is what I have to say about this release. I’ve been a fan of Shining for years but this release amazed me. Kvarforth can be considered the brain behind the music of Shining since he formed the band in 1996 at the age of 12 and have been playing most of the instruments on the records as well as being the vocalist. I must admit that the first albums have not really been much in my taste and Shinings fourth album “The Eerie Cold” that was released in year 2005 was probably their breakthrough. The band has a lot of progressive elements in their music and the band is also a part of the dsbm – depressive/suicidal – black metal wave and you can definitely hear that on the bands releases. “Halmstad” was the fifth album and considered the best that they have ever recorded. I agree that “Halmstad” is a fantastic album that I love deeply myself and I must say that “Redefining Darkness” is about as good as “Halmstad”.

I’ve heard a lot of criticism towards this release and I do not really understand why that is. “Klagopsalmer” and “Född förlorare” were released after “Halmstad” but they never really came near the great experience that “Halmstad” was. The acoustic passages, the catchy basslines and the varied drums along guitar solos and Kvarforths great vocals were something special and made “Halmstad” really unique. I think these things lacked on the previous two albums, but “Redefining Darkness” is one hell of an album that brings the Halmstad memories back and still keep a lot of the aggression from the two previous albums and as well as the clean vocals that Kvarforth introduced on “Klagopsalmer”.

What makes this album great is the anger that merges with acoustic and jazzy deep depressing parts. You can’t really call this a black metal album I suppose. The vocals of Kvarforth are not shrieky but rather a clean vocal that is just deep and aggressive, it sounds like he wants to kill someone. The clean vocals are beautiful and soft and fit the atmosphere of the album perfectly. Kvarforth also tends to do lower whispering vocals that you can hear in for instance “Han Som Hatar Människan” when you get to the acoustic part. The acoustic guitars on the album create a soft and dark atmosphere and are perfectly backed up by fantastic audible basslines and great drums. Ludwig Witt plays session drums on this album and he was also the man behind the set on “Halmstad” and you can definitely hear that on this record. Christian Larsson is the bassist on this album but he reminds me a lot of Johan Hallander who played bass on “Halmstad”. But it also makes me think; perhaps Kvarforth is the one writing some of the basslines? He plays both guitar with Peter Huss as well as keyboards. Electric guitar passages are of course also present on this album, the album kicks off with a great high note riff in “Du, Mitt Konstverk” as well as some nice guitar solos in “Han Som Hatar Människan” for instance.

I love Swedish and I can also speak it myself so I was a bit disappointed that Kvarforth wrote and sang a few songs in English on this record however it’s not a major issue for me. I just think that Swedish fits his vocals so perfectly as well as the feeling you get from the music. I can’t complain about the production on the album either. It’s clean and every instrument can be heard with no problem, nothing gets pushed away by another instrument or something like that.

If you are a Shining fan this is a must indeed, this album is amazing. If you like something in the vein of black metal but also progressive, get this. Or if you just like metal, get this. It’s worth it. I’ve been listening to this far too many times already and it must be an album of the year for 2012 for me.

A huge step backwards - 60%

psychosisholocausto, February 8th, 2013

The sounds that greet the listener when they insert a Shining CD into their chosen choice of audio device can only be described as those of a man under his own form of torture; a man who is his own worst enemy. For so long the, band lead by Niklas Kvarforth have achieved a sound akin to something that many would crave to be able to find in their music-genuine suffering. Whereas pretenders may find glimmers of torment in their life's and channel them into their music, few have ever managed to capture such a chaotic and morbid sound as Shining. However, 2011's Fodd Forlorare and 2012's EP entitled Lots Of Girls Gonna Get Hurt hinted at a slight change in direction for the band, although still being flooded by depressive lyrics such as a song title that translates to Man, O Despicable Man, the dark atmosphere that had made albums such as V:Halmstad so successful was slowly being streamlined. Come the time of their latest studio album Redefining Darkness, however, it is clear that this is not the case.

First of all Redefining Darkness is certainly not a black metal release throughout much of its forty minute running time despite the first three minutes containing some of the most brutal instrumentals that the band has ever recorded. The rest of the album is more experimental; incorporating various other influences including clean guitars and some soothing clean vocals. This is one of the most warped creations from the band to date, merging more styles than the average Opeth release to great success. The guitar work on here is as varied as it gets, with some tremolo picked lines characteristic of the black metal genre and then some incredible melodic sections. The Ghastly Silence uses acoustic guitars prominently towards the end that give off some of the most incredible feelings of loss and hopelessness the music industry has ever produced. The solos on this release are rather surprising as well, with an extended solo found on Han Som Hatar Manniskan being one of the highlights of the album instead of feeling shoehorned in as is the case with many of their previous releases solos.

Once again however it is the vocals that carry this album forward as with all of the bands previous releases. There are a huge amount of clean vocals found on this album that are beautifully sung, particularly the operatic overtones on the fourth song Hail Darkness Hail, which also features some of the most traditional black metal sounding vocals on the album. The screams across this release are overall a lot deeper in pitch than those on their past discography as the opening song will indicate to strong effect. The tones themselves all echo the real torture that Nik has gone through in his life and convey well the songs of suicide that the band writes with disturbing accuracy. This is one remarkable vocal performance and almost single-handedly pushes this album into the upper echelons of the genre.

When all is said and done this album is not perfect though, with a few flaws that need ironing out. In particular the transition with the spoken words at four minutes into Hail Darkness Hail feels half written and pointless, as though the band was clutching as straws as to how to progress their music. Also, the shock value of the album is vastly toned down compared to past releases and feels totally cheesy at times. Lyrics such as "Without you there's no light at the end of the tunnel" feel like something an angry teenager would write after a breakup and sound all the more ridiculous coming out of a heavily accented Swedish mans mouth. Moments like this completely kill off the atmosphere established by the musicianship on their respective song and make them a mere shadow of what the band used to be on their fourth and fifth albums.

This was an album that had so much potential with its clear will to ditch any rules the genre they are a member of set down and write their own style of music but is under-pared by some truly silly writing. Parts of Hail Darkness Hail and For The God Below manage to destroy anything that the band has created emotionally and drag the song quality down a lot. For The God Below took far too much time with acoustic guitars playing at the beginning to get to the point and for that reason feels overly long. This was a nice effort from the band but is unfortunately nowhere near as powerful as V:Halmstad had been but is a certain step up from their last two releases.

Originally written for SputnikMusic

Shining - always Redefining Darkness - 70%

ThrashManiacAYD, January 24th, 2013

As declarations of intent by an artist go, the wish for the new Shining record to "destroy the lives of thousands", as stated by mainman and serial headline grabber Niklas Kvarforth, is a pretty bold one even for a band rooted in 'suicidal' black metal. Finding himself/themselves as an elder statesmen to a younger crop of equally miserable and misanthropic bands, Shining have gradually moved away from the terminal disgust of their early works, through the elegant yet tragic beauty of "V: Halmstad" to a darkness that feels almost ironic in its composition here: the fluid, dancing solos in "For The God Below" make odd bed-fellows with the saxophone lead in "The Ghastly Silence" just as they do with the bounding spite of "Han Som Hatar Manniskan" or Kvarforth's all-encompassing desire for attention; none display a total spirit of blackness within but the end result is nevertheless forbidding, dark and brooding. I guess that’s what you get with a wholesomely negative band called Shining and an album titled "Redefining Darkness".

The antics of Kvarforth could have carried a band of mediocre abilities to reasonable heights in the extreme metal domain, but the Swedes' way has never been to rest on their laurels. Tomes of significant progressive abilities have always been apparent, long ago realising that darkness is not a product solely derived from blasts and dissonance, as evidenced in "Hail Darkness Hail"; how many other bands would attempt the apparently straight-faced acoustic and cleanly sung interlude through it's core? Or the drop in tone during swirling opener "Du, Mitt Konstverk" following it's crashing opening before reawakening for its conclusion? The answer to these might explain the hatred and distrust that has long met Shining; perhaps they are just too much of a middle finger for many 'extreme' listeners out there.

Through the stark piano chords of "Det Stora Grå" into the shape-shifting "For The God Below" are the very divergent structures that make Shining a love-or-hate kinda band. Is Kvarforth trying too hard to provoke with his soft vocals and plucking acoustic guitar lines? And what is that eloquent and brilliant soloing throughout the song - they don't belong in black metal (says the haters)!

In the context of an individual song these diversions can be, and are often, wonderful. Across "Redefining Darkness" they amount to too much window-dressing to be fully cohesive, too progressive for the dastardly desires of its chief practitioner, but enjoyable it still is. This is a band forging their own direction, one Kvarforth really would love you to join; it just doesn't hit the peak of their past glories.

Originally written for www.Rockfreaks.net

Not fucking bad at all - 97%

MalignantTyrant, November 21st, 2012

I am not a huge Shining fan at all. Hell, I'm not even that into depressive suicidal black metal. The only band of that nature that I listen to is Imperium Dekadenz, and they are amazing at what they do. I checked this out purely out of boredom and curiosity. I had listened to Shining's earlier albums, but I hadn't really paid much attention to them for some reason. One day, I just got curious and decided to check out Redefining Darkness, their latest album. I'm actually listening to the last track right now as I'm typing this review.

Well, first of all, Niklas has to be one of the most interesting vocalists in black metal that I've heard in a while. I always knew that he was a good vocalist, but I think that the man outdid himself on this one. His vocals go from blood curdling screams to Mortuus-like screams to clean vocals. I honestly am a bit ashamed that I hadn't paid attention to this guy earlier when I first checked out Shining's earlier works. Niklas sounds anything but typical, and he definitely makes the music all the better with the accent of having his vocals over it.

The music itself is amazing. It is quite melodic (not in the Naglfar or Lord Belial sense, either) but still black metal. Since it's depressive black metal, the music tries to create a depressive atmosphere, and it works completely. The first time I heard the opening track I was definitely taken aback at how well the music works in creating this depressing atmosphere. It puts Silencer and, unfortunately, Imperium Dekadenz to shame in this department. The songs themselves are sort of long and drawn out, so you have a lot of time to really let the depressive music engulf you and cause you to want to blow your brains out on your neighbor's new white picket fence (okay, maybe not).

Overall, I give this album a 97 percent, mainly because I really can't pick out anything specifically wrong with it. It isn't a perfect album and it is not the best thing I've ever heard really, but it is a very good album and I'd recommend it to anyone interested in black metal, depressive suicidal black metal especially.

Instrumental-clean - 87%

Verd, November 8th, 2012

Clean vocals and instrumental parts: the two main characteristics I saw on Shining's eighth full-length, Redefining Darkness. Following founder Niklas Kvarforth's personal evolution as a musician and a composer, this album is another step along the road started by Shining's fifth masterpiece, V - Halmstad, moving more and more away from their standard and, to me, quite uninspired suicidal/depressive black metal of the first releases (in which Kvarforth was only a teenager, let's keep this in mind) in order to reach a new, personal and always-changing black metal/rock sound with many influences, mainly atmospherical, melodical, slow and acoustic ones.

The best song of Redefining Darkness, "The Ghastly Silence", confirms what I have just said: it contains two truly amazing saxophone solos by Andreas Huss, the first one coming after a fast black metal part under Kvarforth's harsh vocals and giving to the song a strange, calm atmosphere. Christian Larsson's bass section is great as always, but Huss' saxophone is quite a surprising and enjoyable feature. So, we have a slow, clean, spoken part followed by another rather innovative feature in Shining's discography, that is a recurring, catchy refrain sung with clean vocals. And we are fortunately allowed to hear the second saxophone solo!

Coming to the other five songs, we have to acknowledge that Shining keep on following their own trademark choice started in 2002 even here: every album contains six songs, of which five are electric and one always acoustic. The bad thing is that, in my opinion, the acoustic one, in every Shining record, is pretty much irrelevant, something like a filler out of place. "Det stora grå" is no exception: a rather short, fully acoustic and definitely useless track played by the 63-years-old Finnish pianist Olli Ahvenlahti.

Another feature that I didn't like that much is that, unlike many previous albums which were sung entirely in Swedish, Redefining Darkness features no less than three songs in English out of five, and I prefer much more Kvarforth to sing in his native Swedish, even because in this record there are many parts sung with clean vocals. Anyways, of the two Swedish tracks the opener "Du, mitt konstverk" is the most predictable one, recalling the style Shining showed on the two previous albums: it starts with a fast black metal instrumental part, then Kvarforth's harsh vocals kick in. As always, Kvarforth manages to give an astonishing performance since his vocals change according to the various situations and tempos of the tracks, shifting from "angry" screams to "soft" vocals until the usual clean vocal part over an acoustic guitar pattern soon joined by the drums (a quite recurrent late Shining scheme!), preceded by a great guitar solo.

The other Swedish song recalls another time the heavy guitar riffs that can be heard in older songs like the 2011 single "Förtvivlan, min arvedel", although even here we have another astonishing guitar solo at the beginning and one at the end, after the usual acoustic break. Kvarforth's vocal interpretation is always great, and so is the instrumental section, even if these two Swedish songs sounds a little bit repetitious if one is accustomed to the last two Shining albums, VI - Klagopsalmer and VII: Född förlorare, in which one will find tracks quite similar to these two.

Fortunately on the sixth track, "For the God Below", which happens to be the longest of the album, we can hear some new elements in Shining's proposal. Kvarforth's vocal interpretation follows the lyrics, dealing with dark and evil themes in an imaginary dialogue with some kind of god. An acoustic intro is followed by an electric, heavy part and Kvarforth's clean vocals in a rather new "melodical" way. Shining keeps on playing with breaks between slow acoustic and electric parts, and we can also hear a long guitar solo over a double bass drum pattern, which takes us to the end of the track after another long, acoustic passage.

The only track I left behind is the fourth one, "Hail Darkness Hail", and it's another time a fast black metal track - this time featuring background keyboards that give a symphonic touch to the song - but only since the point in which it gets acoustic, also featuring a strange Spanish spoken part; the second half of the song is, in fact, a rather catchy and melodical track dominated by Kvarforth's clean vocals and a solo acoustic guitar.

The new Shining's strength is, to me, represented mainly by two things. The first one is the great importance given to the instrumental aspects of the tracks: Shining has some truly awesome musicians, above all Peter Huss, one of my favourite guitar players of the last decade (go and see him play live!), and also employs many guest musicians: guitarists (on this album we have Andy LaRocque from King Diamond and Rob Caggiano from Anthrax), pianists, saxophonists, other singers and so on, and Kvarforth, being a brilliant composer, manages to put them in the right places, letting them play in many minutes in every single song. And the second thing is, indeed, Kvarforth's astonishing evolution as a composer and a musicians, being able to incorporate in his personal style (and with the help of the other Shining musicians while writing the actual tracks) elements of many different genres, thus evolving the sound of the band album after album. And this is a characteristic that is quite difficult to find, not only when it comes to black metal. It is not, of course, always a good thing to continuously evolve your own band's sound, but in this case I could safely say that Shining is on the right way in order not to become monotonous and repetitive like hundreds of other "historical" bands. In other words, we can be sure that every new Shining album will be some kind of surprise.

The lyrics are good as ever, and on Refining Darkness we can read themes related to darkness and negativity. I saw on the first track a subtle Lifelover influence (the Shining line "allt som är vackert blir nu fult", meaning "everything which is beautiful is now becoming ugly", reminded to me Lifelover's "Stockholm" line: "är det vackert eller avskyvärt?", that is "is it beautiful or destestable?"); I see in this track some kind of praise to inspiration and creativity, in a sadistic (and Lifelovery) way. "The Ghastly Silence" deals with phobias and psychological fears, another touching and well-written lyrics. Even the other songs speak about darkness, sadism and violence, evil and, on the other hand of hatred towards humanity, hatred towards oneself - everything in a quite personal way: I truly enjoyed reading them as I listened to the related songs.

Shining's Redefining Darkness is without any doubt a complex record, greatly written and greatly played, catchy and "repetitive", soft and heavy at the same time. It's full of contrasts and variety, and it will surely make suicidal/depressive black metal purists angry and probably disappointed, but Redefining Darkness (and the whole Shining world of the latest albums) is by no means (only) suicidal/depressive black metal, since it has included many influences and many different genres, thus stepping definitely out of rigid definitions. To fully enjoy this album one will need to open his mind to musical contaminations, and I can swear that when it comes to Shining it's always the best thing to do.

Shining – Redefining Darkness - 80%

Asag_Asakku, November 7th, 2012

Yesterday, upon the stair / I met a man who was not there / He was not there again today / I wish, I wish he’d go away…

This short verse, declaimed at the beginning of V-Halmstad album, starts my passionate relationship with Swedish band Shining. So rarely an album moved me like this one, for both aesthetic and circumstantial reasons. Of course, I already knew about them. At that time, they were one of Europe’s depressive black metal most influential crew. However, their fifth album offered an important stylistic shift, confirmed since. Pushing back their sclerotic sub-genre boundaries, band led by Niklas Kvarforth (vocals and keyboards) created its own artistic universe, marked by originality and pure talent.

A little over a year after excellent VII: Född Förlorare release, group comes right back with Redefining Darkness, carelessly leaving Roman numbering started with the third full-length. Dedicated to the late Trond Bråthen’s (Urgehal, Beastcraft) memory, this new record has many distinguished guests, including Andy LaRocque (King Diamond), Hoest (Taake) and Peter Bjärgö (Arcana), each adding their personal touch to this beautiful album.

Again, Shining musicians display their skills without complex and – most importantly – without any concern about black metal traditional forms. Blasting during Du, Mitt Konstverk’s first few seconds, Halmstad’s quartet almost immediately slows the pace and starts playing this peculiar amalgam of indie rock, jazz and classical music, overwhelmed by sadness and despair. Some songs are chilling because of their intensity, especially For The God Below, clearly inspired by some Led Zeppelin masterpieces.

With audacity, the band also adds very rarely heard instruments on a “black metal” record, such as The Ghastly Silence’s poignant saxophone solo and Det Stora Grå’s piano parts, always with excellent results. Vocal work is also wholly very successful; even if the album’s only weak point is its high pitch clean vocals, which sometime sounded out of key or limited.

I know. My Shining bias is blatant and I do not care to apologize. This band never disappointed me and Redefining Darkness is a new manifest of its members’ immense talent. Anyone with some musical culture and mind openness will be immediately seduced by this record, which transcends genres and is based on a great song writing work. Just close your eyes and let Shining redefines darkness.

Originally written for Métal Obscur.

Extreme emotions and imaginative sounds - 92%

kluseba, November 5th, 2012

After the short cover EP “Lots Of Girls Gonna Get Hurt”, the controversial Swedish depressive black metal band Shining around front man, vocalist, keyboarder and guitar player Niklas Kvarforth is back for good with an eight full length record in only twelve years.

I haven’t been a big follower of the band but I wanted to try them out for quite a while and I’m very positively surprised with this release that surely motivates me enough to check out further parts of their discography. The band is in fact much more epic and especially melodic than I expected. Harsher parts with unchained and fascinatingly unique vocals, sharp riffs and heavy drumming are as present as psychedelic with atmospheric keyboard sounds, chilling acoustic guitar passages and dreamy clean vocals that give the whole thing a very progressive touch. In these passages, the band is quite close to bands such as Anathema, Katatonia or Opeth. There is only one difference: Shining happens to be better than any of the talented other three bands. The band sounds very pure in its emotions, the song writing perfectly plays with contrasts and the tracks vary enough to never get boring.

A few years ago, I would have been discouraged by the quite brutal opener “Du, Mitt Konstverk” but as time went by, I began to understand what I would call the essence of black metal and find the bleak atmosphere authentic, extreme and profound. It's definitely one of the most diversified genres in the entire metal universe but it takes some time to get into this kind of music. Even this beast of an opener has though a melodic break in its second half that calms you down, puts you in a melancholic mood and plays with contrasts. On the other side, the closing “For The God Below” is probably one of the most epic and melodic tracks the band has ever written as far as I’ve heard and should also please to fans of other genres such as gothic or progressive metal for example. The acoustic guitar harmonies, the variable vocals and the great guitar effects and solos are simply touching and also technically very well executed. This track is by far one of the best songs of the year and any open minded metal maniac should try this out at all costs.

In the end, Shining deliver one of the most emotional and varied releases of the year and have won a new fan in me. There have been many amazing records out this year but this album is clearly among the twenty best albums and I feel that it may still grow on me. Those who like extreme emotions and imaginative music filled with contrasts should try this band out despite its controversial image. Madness and genius are quite close and even though Niklas Kvarforth might be very eccentric, what he delivers here can be called a true little masterpiece despite its short length and a few less convincing passages in the tracks of the record’s middle part.