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Formulaic, derivative - 33%

rpopescu, September 14th, 2012

I really like Shining, I do. But this is a rip-off.

I own, listen to and appreciate their previous albums (III to VI) almost equally; I usually listen to all of them (in chronological order) and, if possible, in just one sitting. They seem part of an evolving journey, and I find such careful listening rewarding when the music is inherently rich, or deep enough.

Unfortunately I cannot say the same about VII: Född Förlorare. The recipe is clearly unchanged, and while this wouldn't in itself be a problem (Motörhead has been playing rock'n'roll as loud and fast as they can for more than 35 years and there's at most a handful of songs in their entire discography that I don't really enjoy), the ingredients just don't come together this time. There's the fast parts, and the slow parts; the fantastic soloing, and the crushing wall of riffing; there's the piano and the acoustics; there's the retching and the samples, the destroyer of worlds type of growling, and the desperate shrieks and cries; the absolute, pure negativity of the lyrics, contrasted with the serene beauty emerging from the softer passages - as if hope's ever present, even in the dreariest of times. It's all there, down to the odd cover song...

Yes, all the old ingredients are there, and they're all mixed up in exactly the same way as before. But it doesn't work this time. All I can hear are out-takes from the previous albums' recording sessions. Recycled structures, ideas, atmosphere and riffs. This time it's constantly coming apart at the seams. Despite excellent playing, it sounds half-hearted and the lack of change adds to the feeling of being served lukewarm left-overs.

I can't help but wonder if dropping the numeral from the title of their upcoming album is the symbol of (much needed?) change to the content. The question mark is there because I don't actually believe they should change. In fact, I've never felt that a band I like should have changed - they just did (or not) and I've followed them along for as long as the music was honest. On VII it doesn't sound like they're trying anymore; there's no journey this time, and I am left unmoved.

The rating is 33%, awarded solely for the mechanics of the music - the quality of playing and the arrangements, which is (unsurprisingly) as good as ever.
The missing two thirds are for the missing touch (or bit of soul, for lack of a better word) that turns a mix of instruments playing along into fine art, which is what I've come to expect from Shining.

Maybe next time.

Shining - Fodd Forlorare - 80%

ConorFynes, July 5th, 2011

With a troubled past and some incredibly disturbing subject matter under their belts, Swedish 'suicidal black metal' act Shining also has the distinction of having created one of my favourite dark metal albums of all time, 2007's 'V - Halmstad'. Although their sound may be given the half-baked comparison to Opeth or Enslaved in the sense that they meld extreme metal with clean dynamics and moderate hints at vintage progressive rock. What makes Shining such a different act than the other two aforementioned acts is the sheer darkness that Shining takes their music (and listeners) into. Even the most melancholic metal acts usually give some small glimmer of hope amidst the despair, but in the eyes, the only true escape of suicide. Kindly enough, Shining has composed another soundtrack to suicide for anyone that may opt to check out early, creating a black metal soundscape that is sometimes beautiful, often aggressive, but constant in its dark atmosphere. 'VII: Född Förlorare' may not reach the sort of dismal perfection that 'Halmstad' achieved, but Shining's seventh studio effort is a fitting addition to the band's saga.

Much like Opeth, Shining's sense of songwriting is geared greatly around the dynamic between anguish-ridden extreme metal, and introspective acoustic segments. For the majority of 'VII: Född Förlorare' though, the listener will be exposed to Kvarforth's abrasive growls and mid-tempo, almost bluesy guitar riffs.Much more so than alot of other black metal I have listened to, Shining's formula on 'VII: Född Förlorare' ('born loser' in English) is a highly riff-based venture, with the main guitars relying on fairly simple, yet darkly atmospheric licks that- were the distortion turned down a little- could fit in a standard rock song, albeit a fairly morose one. Shining's magic with guitars is found tough in the added textures over the rhythms, as well as the guitar solos. As for the texturing, Shining makes their roots in depressive black metal very clear, managing to sneak some beautiful harmonies and resolutions into the mix that- in most of the sections they are present- are incredibly beautiful. The guitar solos on the other hand, tend not to tug on the heartstrings nearly as much, but they are executed brilliantly, with plenty of bluesy grit flooding through.

The acoustic and other more introspective moments on 'VII: Född Förlorare' may be the best. While Shining works their malefic aggression quite well during the heaviest sections, it sometimes feels as if a little more subtlety could have been used to improve them. The quietest moments here are close to perfection however, often making use of mellotrons and a cello overtop the acoustic guitars and classical piano to add to the beauty. Even some industrial percussion can be heard briefly in the intro to the last track, 'FFF', although it seems awkward that it is never heard from again in the song.

While there are a couple of guest vocalists here, Kvarforth is the main vocalist. Both his clean singing and growls give off a feeling, and neither is a sound that is often heard in much black metal. The production here has not improved any from 'Halmstad', and that's perfectly fine; Shining has evidently maxed out the studio to their liking, and are free to explore the feelings of loss and despair that they base their music around. 'VII: Född Förlorare' is not the best thing Shining has released, but there is certainly depth here, and depth enough to keep me coming back for many listens. An excellent album from Shining, and if I did not have 'Halmstad' to compare it to, perhaps I would be more inclined to call this a masterpiece, because there are certainly moments in this album where I am very tempted to.

Swedish Shining nails it again! - 90%

dromennolamort, June 15th, 2011

Finally, after more than a goddamned year of waiting I finally get to hear Shining’s seventh album… “VII: Född Förlorare”! Yes! And you even thought that “Blackjazz” is their seventh album, huh? Very hilarious every time I think about it, actually. You, thinking that they have a new logo, new sound, new lyrical themes, new look… ha ha ha! Ignorance ain’t much bliss after all, huh? Well, before my thoughts get lost through all that reminiscence, well, I presume you know these guys already, unless you’ve been living in a faraway cave for more than ten years already. Unlike former albums, “VII: Född Förlorare” is more like an FF XIII-2 (or FF X-2, if you think FF XIII sucked, which I do not have opinions about it yet) than an FF XIV, in a sense that it continues where “VI: Klagopsalmer” left off, which “Förtvivlan, Min Arvedel” is about. More aggressive and less depressive.

To make this goddamned review short this could be considered more as a “win” unlike movies with part-twos that fail miserably, but I’m here to elaborate on the reasons why I think this album is a worthy snag, not to slack off and play my PSP for 48 hours until I die of exhaustion. Född Förlorare also features the wonderful (err, I mean disturbing) elements featured on Klagopsalmer such as an excellent performance by the band (from the vocals to the riffs and drums), an excellent (I meant disturbing again) atmosphere numerous times in the album, and a clean production, and I won’t elaborate on further because I’m too lazy.

“Come on La:morT, stop sitting around and type more!” Next!

Well, another thing here is that I’ve noticed they’ve used the acoustic guitar and clean singing extensively. Let me spell that for you, E-X-T-E-N-S-I-V-E-L-Y. Well, all songs feature both of them, especially the clean singing at the fifth track, “I Nattens Timma”, which features singing only from 00:24 to 03:32. Although not an instrumental track (a first time for the band since “II: Livets Ändhållplats”), I think that it serves its purpose, being “the calm before the storm”, (with added instruments such as piano, mellotron and additional vocals by Peter Bjärgö) the storm being “FFF”, which is more like a wolf in sheep’s clothing than anything else. The intro might deceive you, but it is never(!) a mellow song of any sort. It’s more or less a very good Shining song… only on steroids.

“Talk about something else about the album, La:morT!” Whatever…

Now, what did I really like? Hm… First would be “Tiden Läker Inga Sår”. Well, it sounds more passionate, that’s one point. It also starts as a happy, calm acoustic track from a New Age music CD, that’s another point (very deceptive). But my point here is that, it sounds downright tragic. Kvarforth’s growls brought the song up. It’s as if he’s singing (except for a few parts) with his growls. Plus, it also contains a great performance by Erik Danielsson from Watain, who does his rasps as if he’s singing too.

“Människa O'Avskyvärda Människa” sounds very disturbing, but what the other songs lacked, this one had a lot, and that one thing is… *drum roll please* the solos! The solos, courtesy of Arch Enemy’s Chris Amott, make up a little bit less than one-third of the song, so while listening to the song, you got yourself about two minutes to bang your head to the nearest cement wall and have some blood coming out of your head.

Last but definitely not the least is “Tillsammans Är Vi Allt”, which is much like Shining’s take on extreme gothic metal (read it again, extreme gothic metal), and in all fairness, it’s great, with the clean singing, courtesy of Nordman (don’t ask me who is this guy ‘cause even I don’t know him), on the chorus. Plus, the way they ended the song is a perfect transition for the next track (which I talked about earlier). The opening riff, though, made the song sound a little too disturbing for its own good. Might expect an extreme gothic album from Shining in the near future already. What, you don’t want some? Then screw you.

To close this, which I don’t know how again, what we have here is another great (still suicidal) work by Shining, although it is much like Klagopsalmer though it has less aggression than Klagopsalmer, and consequently, more depression (obviously!). Just forgive them for that since this was supposed to be released more than a year earlier. Well, this album review is considered done, so I'm out of here.

Posted on my blog, lamortisdeath.blogspot.com

Catchy, Epic Progressive Black Metal with Swagger - 100%

FullMetalAttorney, June 13th, 2011

I picked up the Swedish band Shining's seventh full-length, VII: Född Förlorare, basically because almost all references to the Norwegian band take pains to clarify which Shining we're talking about. In other words, it was sheer curiosity. But I am most definitely not disappointed.

I've probably called close to half a dozen different bands a black metal version of Opeth, whether it's Kansas City's Lo-Ruhamah or Norway's Enslaved. But here again is another black metal Opeth. There are startling similarities, beginning with the basic elements of progressive extreme metal and extending to a solo here ("Tillsammans Är Vi Allt"), an acoustic guitar lick there ("Tiden Läker Inga Sår"), and many other places. Though "I Nattens Timma" is a cover of another Swedish prog band, even it sounds Opethian. But there's a lot more to it than that.

Shining has a great many elements to their sound that seem familiar, like I know I've heard it somewhere before, but it's always at the tip of my tongue. I can't figure out what, exactly, this or that sounds like. That unfamiliar familiarity is what makes it so accessible and immediate, but there are layers and layers beyond that to keep you coming back.

The songs are epic and cover a lot of ground. You'll find black 'n' roll riffs that will stick in your head forever, like on opener "Förtvivlan, Min Arvedel". But then they'll throw in some modern, dissonant atmospheric black metal in the verses to the same song. An acoustic guitar or piano melody will haunt the passageways between alternately unnerving or catchy black metal, held together by an excellent songwriter's sense and the vocals. The clean singing is good, but the growls are great. They snarl, recalling old-school extreme metal like Venom or Celtic Frost. The Scandinavian tongues' trilled consonants only enhance that attitude, and Niklas Kvarforth projects a great deal of confidence he may not have in English.

The Verdict: This was an extremely pleasant surprise. I was only expecting a curiosity, but instead found something that may well end up on my end-of-year list.

originally written for http://fullmetalattorney.blogspot.com/

SHINING'S SEVENTH IS A STUNNER - 90%

IslanderNCS, June 10th, 2011

(This review originally appeared at http://www.nocleansinging.com/2011/06/10/shining-vii-fodd-forlorare/)

Shining's new album, VII / Född Förlorare ("born loser" in English) is one of the most musically varied, beautifully written, and superbly executed albums I've heard this year. It also may be the most surprising.
Maybe I wouldn't have been so surprised if I'd been more familiar with the band's previous releases, but I came to the album as a Shining newbie, never having heard any of the earlier music.

What I had in my head before listening were bits and pieces of things I'd heard or read over the years -- that the band played a mix of black metal and doom, that the lyrics promoted suicide and other forms of self-injury (including drug abuse), that the band's concerts have turned violent on occasion, and that frontman Niklas Kvarforth mutilates himself on stage. There was also this quote from Kvarforth that I read someplace: "Of course we support suicide, SHINING support all that is negative in this bastard world of ours. We have had a couple of cases in the past with people whom have ended their lives under the influence or partially under the influence of our work and of course this is a true blessing indeed, yet we pray for increased numbers of fatalities."

With all that, and a general sense I had that Shining really doesn't care what anyone thinks of them or their music, I'm not completely sure what I was expecting from the new album, but it wasn't what I got. What I got was something that defies easy characterization, a mixture of folk music, progressive metal, acoustic ballads, chug-heavy aggression, wonderfully varied vocals, and absolutely blistering guitar solos. The music is rich and often has the feel of something intensely personal. Yes, it's mostly dark and melancholy, but it didn't make me feel suicidal at all.

The album, recorded over a three-year period, contains six songs. All the music and lyrics (sung exclusively in Swedish) were written by Niklas Kvarforth. Whatever else you may think of him -- and I'm sure he really doesn't give a fuck -- there's no denying he's extremely talented. As you'll see, he also had some valuable help on this album, not only from the other talented musicians in Shining but also from guests.

Lyrically, the album's opening track, “Förtvivlan, Min Arvedel” (Despair, My Heritage) is about as bleak and hopeless as it could be, but the music is striking. It's almost two songs in one -- a galvanizing charge of groove-inscribed black-metal catharsis and a haunting melody carried by acoustic guitar and clean singing. Yet those two creations are twined together, the one flowing seamlessly into the other and back again in a way that makes perfect sense.

Second song, “Tiden Läker Inga Sår” (Time Heals Nothing), is another study in contrasts that complement each other. The first segment of the song and the last are slow and beautiful, driven by acoustic guitar, flute, and moving, clean vocals (along with a hacking cough). In the middle, the vocals turn harsh and anguished and the music is all metal, with howling guitars and ravaging double bass. Watain's Erik Danielsson provides guest vocals on this track. Unless you speak Swedish, you wouldn't know that, lyrically, the song is an inducement to suicide -- yours.

“Människa O’Avskyvärda Människa” (Man Despicable Man) is the track I've come back to the most, because parts of it just set my head on fire -- the parts that feature extended guitar solo's by Arch Enemy's Chris Amott and Shining guitarist Peter Huss. They jump forward in the mix and blaze like comets in a night sky; in my humble opinion, you won't find better on any metal album this year. When those guitars aren't blazing, the music is a pattern of heavy, chugging riffs and jabbing verse rhythms. But this song, too, has a double nature, with the first guitar solo preceded by a subdued instrumental performed with acoustic guitar, bass, and synthesizer.

The fourth and fifth songs are really one long song, and the most beautiful work(s) on the album. “Tillsammans Är Vi Allt” (Together We Are All) is itself more than nine minutes in length. A grand piano leads the opening of the song before driving drum-and-bass rhythms and buzzing guitars take over. In the verse, Kvarforth's anguished howls hold sway, but the remarkably memorable clean-voiced refrain is provided by a Swedish pop star named Nordman. In the middle of the song, the pounding music melts away, replaced by the shimmer of a mellotron (when's the last time you heard a mellotron on a metal album?) and a reverberating guitar.

The grand piano returns, with string accompaniment, at the end, and the piano melody flows right over without pause into the intro of “I Nattens Timma” (In The Night Hour). This turns out to be a cover of a song by a Swedish prog/art-rock band called Landberk from their 1992 album Riktigt Akta. On this song, the principal instruments are the piano and the mellotron, though there's also a masterful acoustic guitar solo. The haunting melody is sung with clean voices, including a guest vocal appearance by Peter Bjärgö of Arcana.

The last track, “FFF”, opens with an industrial-style rhythm with a rising bass line and ringing guitars, followed by an acoustic guitar melody with Kvarforth's clean vocals. But then the song fucking erupts -- harsh, agonizing vocals; double-bass hammering a mile a minute; and raucous guitars that whirr and stab. Even on this track, an acoustic guitar makes a brief appearance in the mid-section, but it's soon overwhelmed by another head-spinning guitar solo before the synthesizer and acoustic instrumental that brings the album to a close.

In this last song, true to form, Kvarforth lyrically curses his parents, himself, and the entire, defective human gene pool that has perverted the Earth. No question, human beings have done a pretty good job fucking up our home and each other (with no real end to that in sight), but as long as human beings can create music as good as what's to be found on VII / Född Förlorare, I think I'll stick around a while longer.