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My problem with a lot of depressive black metal is that it doesn't sound truly depressive to me. Within the typical approach to the genre, there are shrieking vocals, thick walls of distorted guitar noise, repetitive riffing, and mid-tempo drumming. However within those shrieking vocals, there seems to be a sense of emotional release for the means of achieving catharsis. Within those thick walls of guitar noise, there is a hidden beauty that becomes more evident with every song. The repetitive riffing and steady drumming offer no challenges to the listener, instead evoking a dreamy, meditative state that is ultimately quite relaxing, and even peaceful. I enjoy this approach at times, but the word 'depressive' seems misused. None of this is true of Halmstad. There is no catharsis, there is no hidden beauty, and there is no sense of peace anywhere to be found. This album is violent, it is angry, and it genuinely wants to make you feel terrible.
The riffing is aggressively negative at all times, often paced with the urgency of thrash metal. The atmosphere never once offers suggestions of meditation, rather it is miasmatic and constantly challenges the listener. Similarly, confrontational rhythms are provided by the drums and bass throughout. Yes, bass; a true rarity for depressive black metal, the bass is quite present in the mix, and it is as gritty and mean as everything else in this record. Even the well placed instrumental sections offer no beauty to cling to, instead evoking deep, disturbing feelings of desolation. I've never heard an acoustic guitar sound more foreboding than at the ninety second mark of Yttligare ett steg närmare total jävla utfrysning, and the acoustic intervals never improve in tone from there, echoing more and more bleakness as Halmstad continues. Moonlight Sonata, perhaps the most melancholic piece of classical music ever created, is sampled in Åttiosextusenfyrahundra, and it has never sounded more frighteningly distant.
The real standout is Kvarforth's vocals, which are completely unorthodox for this genre. Even for black metal in general, nobody else sounds quite like him. He does not shriek, he does not howl, he does not rasp; his vocals are technically clean, but there is a raw aggression to them that constantly suggests a sense of emotional turmoil. At times he roars with sheer indignation, at times he shouts with disoriented anger, and occasionally he has the resigned whisper of a man who is down and out. However, at all times he sounds as though he is struggling with his emotions, with humanity, and with the very nature of existence. Abrasive as they may be, his vocals are perfect for this genre.
There is one hint of emotional release nearing beauty, at the halfway point of "Neka morgondagen". For a brief moment, it sounds as though Kvarforth is nearing peace with himself; just before the song breaks down into a chaotic barrage of thundering drumming and raging guitars, capped off with Kvarforth's roars of anguish. And the album chooses precisely this note to end on; the listener is left feeling like catharsis was within reach, only for it to have been forcefully pried from their fingers, leaving behind a grave feeling of pure depression. For me, this album lives up to the depressive tagline better than most in the genre. A must.
This album is the production of Shining, which fancies itself as a DSBM act. There are very few similarities to the walls of noise and haunting ambiance bands like Xasthur produce; rather, Shining follows the trail blazed by other Swedish black metal acts, and its own contribution to the subgenre is excellent.
As you might guess from the title of this review, a few songs from this album reminded me of Rammstein (or at least, what I have heard of Rammstein). In particular, "Besvikelsens dystra monotoni" has a distinctly Rammstein like sound, although Kvaforth's strangled yells add a certain feel to it that no mainstream rock band can emulate. Powerful, aggressive guitar work and relatively clean production make each part of this song stand out, and the extended ballad-like midsection is of particular interest to me. It's chilling, and cold, and malicious, and mind-opening, and it takes me to a different place than black metal tends to.
An aspect of this album that I really enjoyed was how varied the songs were. Each had its own sound, and this is despite a relatively small, stable lineup of musicians. The creativity of Shining is really displayed well here, and each song is a masterpiece in its own right. I'm not sure if the album as a whole has a message or even good organization, but each song is so superb that it can stand by itself.
There were a few very minor weaknesses, and one is that there are some times in the album when there's just not enough going on. A mournful guitar, occasional growls, repeated bass work, and percussion that's almost jazz-like in nature just isn't metal enough for me. While such passages can give the listener a chance to "breathe", there's just a hair too much at some points.
Overall, this is one of the best contributions to Swedish black metal I have heard recently. The creativity, variance in the songs, how well composed each song is, and the surprising usage of cellos and other instruments made this album really stick with me for a while. It's a must-listen for anyone who likes the darker side of metal.
With a man placing the barrel of his handgun into his own mouth, the cover art hints at the dark, musical voyage the listener is about to embark upon. Dealing with themes such as depression and suicide, Shining manage to perfectly embody the spiritual essence of depressive black metal and channel it into an emotionally charged album of ferocious black metal.
Depression and emotion is hard to channel through music, if you use too much of it you’ll be grouped in with a horde of melodramatic bedroom acts, if you don’t use enough then the vision of the music becomes lost. It’s really a feeling that needs to come from deep down within the musician, it needs to be earnest and heartfelt, and most importantly needs to be translated clearly to the listener. Shining is a band who knows how to do this right, with a strong sense of emotion and depression, a pitch black atmosphere of pure existential nihilism, V:Halmstad is a depraved and twisted journey into the minds of this band.
Shining are unique within the depressive world, choosing to eschew many of the genres primary stereotypes in favor of a more progressive, organic, and perhaps even darker sound. The use of progressive elements works remarkably well, the riffs are varied and interesting, never feeling out of place at all. Transitions between them are smooth and fluid, giving the album an organic and natural feel. The melodies themselves are suitably dark and provocative, striking the perfect balance between memorability and punishing levels of emotion. Oddly, they feel energetic and lively which is what one would not typically expect within this form of music. Besvikelsens dystra monotoni has an opening riff that is unusually bouncy and energetic; I find this aspect of the music to be a bit odd but wholly effective. I find the sudden outbursts of more up tempo sections actually work in favor with the music’s core ideology, it feels as though the musicians are trying their hardest to break out of their depression. This album dear reader is the sound of a tortured soul, and it’s utterly effective in its bleak and dismal approach.
Kvarforth’s vocals were hard for me to stomach at first, forgoing the use of a standard black metal approach and favoring a technique akin to anguished shouting. Whilst it was initially off putting, I began to love the ways those hopeless vocals sat in the mix. They’re suitably depressed and agonized, and I find the somewhat amateurish delivery of them to be highly effective in establishing a strong sense of atmosphere.
Atmospherically, V:Halmstad is nothing short of astounding. The bleak, almost dirge like instrumental front works in perfect harmony with the anguished vocals of Kvarforth to create a very dismal look at the modern world. Despairing at the entire concept of life, Shining manage to effectively channel this supreme negativity and nihilism within the album. Every nook, every cranny is filled to the brim with negativity. The production is absolutely flawless, every instrument, every note can be heard clearly. Guitars sit high in the mix creating a powerful soundscape of dismal depression, bass creates devastating undercurrents beneath the emotional guitars and Kvarforth vocals float sublimely over the devastating music creating the perfect equilibrium between each and every instrument. Unlike most depressive black metal, this album isn’t draped in an ear splitting layer of static, quite the opposite in fact, the production is some of the best I’ve heard in black metal. Now normally I’m opposed to the use of high production qualities in this particular field, but Shining don’t overuse it. It never feels synthetic and mechanical, guitars still have a good level of distortion to them, ambiance remains eerie and harrowing throughout. Poor production would have no doubt hindered the effectiveness of the overall quality of the music, V:Halmstad is an album that requires each and every aspect of the music to be heard in perfect clarity and it does an astounding job of it.
Whilst depressive black metal can be accused of stagnating, what with so many bands stealing ideas from one and another. Bands such as Shining show that the genre still has ideas left, ideas that are interesting at that. V:Halmstad is a unique opus, blending destructive doomy black metal with elements spanning progressive to gothic metal. All of this comes together to create one of the purest musical endeavors of our time.
If there were ever a black metal band that deserves more attention in not only the black metal circles it originates from, but every genre of music, it is Shining. Seamlessly blending brutality with some of the most beautifully composed, extremely emotional music that effortlessly conveys feelings of hopelessness and loss, Shining make extremely powerful music that is not for the faint hearted. Each of their albums is good enough in its own way, however, it is their fifth album, Halmstad, that stands out to me the most.
Opening up with a sample of a poem, this really does kick off with some power. The poem itself pretty much sums up the lyrical content of this album with its line "i wish i wasn't there today", before diving headlong into Shining's signature brand of black metal. However, on thing immediately becomes apparent for those uninitiated to the Shining discography, and that is how clean and soft the album is compared to many of Shining's black metal comrades. The infamous black metal production is not as evident on here as, say, a Mayhem album, and the blast beats are not there. Before long, this has gone into a clean guitar section, which is exceedingly soft, and contains some absolutely tortured vocals from Niklas. Seriously, this is the one black metal vocalist who truly deserves recognition. The amount of emotion he manages to pour into his vocals is absolutely breathtaking, despite the style of vocals he adopts for much of this release. He also shifts between a number of styles at times, which makes for one interesting listen.
The album's crowning achievement is the true feeling of being without hope at all. The lyrics convey feelings of suicide, and Niklas vocals and the soft to heavy dynamics with the beautiful and yet haunting melodies found throughout ensure that even without the poorly translated versions of the lyrics, one can truly feel the exact pain the songs outline. The music on display here is one of the tightest, most powerful performances I have ever seen, being absolutely brutal whilst rarely conforming with the norm of black metal of using blast beats and tremolo picking throughout songs. These elements are in play here frequently, but not to the same degree as many of the bands out there. Shining truly are unique in the way they play their music, making the darkest most morbid adventure a listener will ever embark on.
However, this album is not without faults. The bass work on here is the most lackluster, lazy performance I have heard on a black metal album to date. The frantic bass work found on many black metal albums is still present here, but never aspiring to do anything other than mindlessly follow the guitar lines throughout the songs, never really adding anything to the album, instead taking away from it. This is truly a disappointment to hear, as this is the single most powerful album a listener is likely to hear for a long time, with its unrivaled feel to it. However, this is a reason to excuse the weakness in the bass department, as the rest of the instruments are as tight as could be asked. It just gets a little depressing in itself to think that the bass work could have been so much better than what is found on here, and yet somehow the other instruments miraculously enable the listener to completely overlook this fact, such is a testament to the talent of the band.
This is one of the most blood curdling, heart breaking tales ever told, with every riff, each drum beat and every last agonizing scream conveying absolute self hate, making this a flat out classics. The acoustic sections on Neka Morgondagen do not feel out of place, nor do the groovy riffs that open it up, making this album an entity on its own, where any style of music can be seamlessly integrated and yet still feel utterly brutal and have a tint of mourning to it. The guitar solos are both vicious and, yet again, emotional, and the sudden tempo changes are perfectly written. This is black metals finest hour, in my opinion, even toppling the greats such as Immortals better efforts and Burzums finest.
My first experience with Shining was certainly not what I expected. Those expecting a strictly black metal affair will be disappointed. No indeed, we have with ‘Halmstad’ something much better than just another black metal record.
I have to admit, at first I was put off by some of the faster, rockier aspects – at times almost appearing to be black’n’roll. But with time and intimate listens, the experiments coming from the sick mind of Kvarforth will grow on the listener. Halmstad is a mixed bag of DSBM and down-tempo rock with long acoustic passages, keyboards, and samples scattered throughout the songs. None of the tracks follow the same formula, and as such there is an unpredictability consistently present for the duration of the album.
After a recital of a poem by William Hughes Mearns, ‘Yttligare Ett Steg Närmare Total Jävla Utfrysning’ begins massively – clear, thundering guitars with pounding drums, evenly mixed to perfection. The gloomy atmosphere takes very little time to set in, with the listener hooked almost immediately. Kvarforth comes in at the right time and the build-up continues, his growls not over the top, but every ounce of pain is present in his voice. Major kudos and extra points for singing in his native Swedish, as singing in the mother tongue has in this instance, created a more natural feel to the pain and suffering Kvarforth is trying to display. Furthermore, I can imagine elements of Swenglish would have a detrimental impact on such great music, as history has shown on occasions with butchered language and vocals on depressive, down-tempo music.
There are a whole range of mellow passages in the songs that are completely distinct from one another. The opening track features a mournful and heartbreaking passage which is beautifully complemented by the smooth, warm fretless bass, to the piano-driven break in ‘Låt Oss Ta Allt Från Varandra’ with tear-jerking samples from ‘Prozac Nation’, excellent with its piano and clean vocals to complement the keys. Additionally, the entirety of ‘Åttiosextusenfyrahundra’ is just an arrangement of Beethoven’s ‘Moonlight Sonata’, another little quirk that one wouldn’t expect to hear in a typical black metal record.
Contrarily, the driving rock and metal riffs which of course feature more prominently are a throwback to the older days of black metal. Notably the first main heavy riff in ‘Besvikelsens Dystra Monotoni’, crushing and head-banging in nature along with the opening two minutes of ‘Låt Oss Ta…’ are an unusual but pleasing aspect of a genre not usually known for its lively, pumping riffs. The drum tone is huge, and although the beats themselves are nothing too out of the ordinary, the music rarely calls for anything more and as such the drums sit nicely. Pulsing double kicks with heavy energy and striking precision play amongst basic backbeats and fills, made all the more listenable by the precise and painstaking mixing process.
Kvarforth’s vocals are incredibly varied – going from tortured screams, to heavy growls and haunting whispers, to clean vocals with seemingly effortless precision. Whichever way he is singing though, it’s continuously clear the level of agony in his voice, whether the listener can speak Swedish or not. Whilst it’s clear to many in the black metal scene (and Shining’s own fans, even) that his head might not be quite screwed on correctly, nobody can deny the sheer brilliance of his creative mind. It’s a mighty effort to take what he has heard in his head, then to compose and produce with such precision. Even the bass is mixed properly, and the warmth of the fretless enhances the sound even further.
Shining is not for the faint of heart. Halmstad is one of those albums which will take a while to properly sink in, and there is no way they can ever be considered a typical black metal act. But if you’re willing to listen with an open mind and think outside of the norms, what you’ll find behind the cheery and not-so-subtle album cover is a delightfully depressing mixed bag of punishing black metal and mellow, down-tempo passages. Halmstad is thoroughly recommended for anybody wanting something a bit different in their DSBM records.
Like Bethlehem and Silencer, Shining has never been a listener-friendly outfit to whom you would listen to casually just to have something to listen to. Instead they are a highly intensive band with a dark message drenched in blood. They are not there to entertain – they are there to make you feel uneasy and question everything up to the point where a total state of nihilism rips your soul apart.
In my opinion “Halmstad” is Shining’s greatest masterpiece. All their albums have something unique, but this one is certainly a legendary fortress in the history of black metal music. A rich variety of phantasmagorical elements are implemented with this album. The first track starts off with some words from one of the poems written by W.H. Mearns. The words of this poem already create a very uneasy and uncanny atmosphere which is very nicely complemented by the music. The music is mysterious – slow guitar picking, melancholic vocals and beautiful guitar solos. And this is the irony – although they are very challenging to listen to, Shining still has a brilliant way to create analogies between the rawest, deepest darkness and the beautiful tears rolling down the cheeks of a lonely wanderer in the mist. Within the ugly side of darkness they dig out the beautiful melancholic side and that is what makes this band unique.
The music alternates from slow guitar solos and low, slow guitar riffs to much faster solos and riffs. The drums complement these sounds in such a way that every beat and blast sounds like the first and final shot that send a suicide victim to his or her grave. The psychological aspect throughout every song is immense and unforgiving. The vocals never get boring – instead, every line that is screamed feels like a needle in the heart. What makes this album even more unique is the fact that Shining is addressing the social issue of suicide on a very deep level by even inserting extracts from the movie “Prozac Nation”. Between the slow melancholic music of the second track you can hear an extract where Christina Ricci talks about the tragic aspects of suicide. The way in which the slower pieces of music are followed up by much faster pieces are very exciting. In the faster pieces the band implements a traditional black metal approach mixed with some death metal elements. There is also another extract from “Prozac Nation” where suicidal cries of help can be heard. The band once again contributes a very intense atmosphere to this extract with slow military-pace kind of drumming along with unnerving distorted guitar riffs which suddenly switches over to a complex guitar solo that alternates between slow and fast.
Don’t expect a full driven black metal album, because Shining even pays tribute to the masters of classical music with the fifth track which is the “Moonlight Sonata” by Ludwig von Beethoven played on the piano. Between the beautiful piano-playing you can sometimes hear the vocalist humming the tunes in the background – this contributes to the dark atmosphere, because it is clear that this piece of Beethoven is not just another piece that he is playing. Instead, the music devours the musician and also the listener. Although the whole album can be seen as a constant climax it ends on the ultimate black metal kind of climax as the final track kicks in. It is a typical black metal piece of music with unnerving vocals, heavy distorted guitars and drumming that sometimes sounds like gunfire.
This album is definitely a must-have for all fans of black metal. It is totally unique and with this album Shining proved that they are a band who can create anything out of nothing.
As one might first derive from the not-so-subtly disturbing album cover, Shining is not a band for the cheery-eyed. Given the label of 'suicidal black metal', the band's nihilistic and misanthropic subject matter is enough to turn off many listeners, without even getting into the music itself. But while Shining's fifth record 'Halmstad' may be anything but a feelgood record, Shining makes a unique and powerful observation on black metal with this one.
Although Shining is typically considered to be a 'black metal' act- and not without reason- one of the things that most attracts me to them is that they do not adhere to most of the conventions of the genre. Most noticeably are the vocals of frontman Kvarforth, who sidesteps the raspy snarls typical of black metal in exchange for a more aggressive growl. The riffs here on 'Halmstad' are also significantly heavier than what alot of conventional black metal. Shining is not without a sense of beauty however, as is best represented in their mellow moments. Much like Swedish metal titans Opeth, Shining is a band that juxtaposes heavy metal sections with acoustics, and the mellow parts on 'Halmstad' make the album possibly the band's best. The riffs and raging howls of Kvarforth build the listener up to a peak of anger, only to resolve with a beautiful piano interlude, a classically-styled acoustic guitar segment, or even a dark jazzy section complete with fretless bass.
'Längtar Bort Från Mitt Hjärta' and 'Låt Oss Ta Allt Från Varandra' are the two tracks that contrast these two aspects of Shining the best. These titles translate into fairly morose Swedish phrases, and the most active emotions in the sound of 'Halmstad' are anger and despair. One thing that may have been done better for the album would be to capture the beautiful melancholy of their mellow sections in the heaviness; while the riffs here do often get a feeling across, some added melodies would have helped the aggressive moments to really come alive. The production and execution of this album is very good, although the vocals of Kvarforth do seem to be overdone at times. It is clear he is influenced by the fellow Swede Nattramn from the band Silencer. His howls are filled with anguish, but it can sometimes feel like if Kvarforth had toned down his performance a little, there would have been more room for feeling to get across over time, and sometimes the vocals even feel unnecessary to begin with. This is best demonstrated with 'Åttiosextusenfyrahundra', a rendition of Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata where he quietly hums overtop. While I suppose it gives Shining something of a creative license over what would otherwise just be a cut and paste of another composer's work into their own, it doesn't seem to compliment the music. Luckily, the instrumentation here is more than strong enough to deal with the few issues that pop up in the vocal department here.
Shining's 'Halmstad' was once an album I considered a masterpiece, but upon revisiting it, I did find that some of the weaker elements of the album do stand out to me more. All the same, 'Halmstad' is an excellent piece of extreme metal, and devastating in the way it is able to wreak feelings of despair over the listener. Dark, creepy, and haunting stuff.
V - Halmstad supplements Shining's maturity into an entity mixing complexity of the soul with a rock edge and black metal at the core. The rich production helps amplify the tone with warm, heavy textures and riffs. These riffs are laced with power and rimmed with fat, much like the bass guitar's punchy dominance. The group not only had a budget to work with, but they chose the right studio once again and churned out an album that sounds thicker and superb on all levels. Everything is heavy, rocking, clear, and loud enough for nothing to be held back.
Shining’s main focus is on rhythms and tempos, since those are the indicators of changes in each song’s journey. The opener’s cryptic sampling leads off the shroud of distortion that follows, clueing in the listener on the main sound. It’s a sound that lingers with an atmosphere of hopelessness, but also solace in solidarity. There’s never a moment where enjoyment lapses, except during moments like “Låt Oss Ta Allt Från Varandra”. In that song, the kick of a catchy driving riff charges in front of the pounding rhythm. That’s the signature of the song, but it becomes bogged down during the break in the middle when the band decided to insert a movie sample – things get super lame and dramatic at this point before the song finds its way back. Still, it doesn't help that this particular sample just makes the listening experience uncomfortable while the caving atmosphere did far more to amplify the mood. Moving passed that, a little piano track softens the serious attitude away from the fast races and doomier grooves taking place on the rest of the tracks.
Now the only parts of this album that truly took me by surprise (as this was my intro to Shining) were the vocals. Black metal fans are used to the screaming and growling, but the Kvarforth here doesn’t cater to any coherent approach. He’ll scream, gasp, choke, cough, yell, growl, croak, groan, and so forth, never giving up to one method long enough to call it consistent (though scream / growl / yells are the main style). It’s an assortment of styles that listeners will get over and appreciate, not for Kvarforth’s attention-seeking, but for the insanity it lends to the precise, melancholic compositions. At first it can annoying and may turn some people off, but giving the vocals time to settle in will pay off big time in the end as it adds to the chaos in what is a very orderly album.
Every song here will test the esteem of listeners while contributing music those listeners will test themselves. The condescending climaxes of “Ytterligare Ett Steg…”, the exploding build-ups of “Besvikelsens Dystra Monotoni”, and the ominous fray between war-like drumming and dense bass support everywhere seems immense. It’s Shining being Shining, but going a step further with it. V – Halmstad really achieves what it wanted to become and, as such, has solidified its place in the community. Just more proof of competence enclosed under Kvarforth’s do-rag.
When people usually think of the whole “depressive” labeled bands of the black metal genre, they may be led to think, either these bands make some sincerely tortured music which is very appealing to them (that being the listeners), or they may think it's just another band's attempt at being cold, dark, and agonized, which has failed almost completely. Obviously people have entirely different thoughts and views on the subject matter, and is up to them to decide what they label it as. Well, at least here, Shining can be labeled as one of those band’s playing this form of black metal that shouldn’t really be criticized negatively for their attempts at bringing forth sounds of suicidal despair, and fifth album “V - Halmstad” is all that is needed to prove this.
Even though possessing a very nice and clean production, this album still manages to sound very ugly in its own way. Still remaining true to their black metal nature, Shining show their influences from other genres of music and mold them into something which can best be described as a refreshing new formula of depressive sound, the sound that only a handful of band’s are capable of pulling off. One of the most noticeable aspects of this release is Kvarforth’s vocals, which most listeners will find are very convincing, that being they sound exactly like someone would sound with an extremely tormented existence. The sounds of someone who may only have a few minutes or even hours before they decide it’s time to exterminate their presence… permanently. Kvarforth brings not only the tortured shrieks of despair, but he also sounds very angry at times, like he’s about to rip someone’s head off.
The overall emotions felt with “V - Halmstad” are the emotions one would most likely show or fill when having a loaded gun forcefully shoved into your mouth. Kind of like the album artwork Shining used for this release (which is just so fitting). With its shifting moods of loneliness and complete anguish, “V - Halmstad” is a very different approach to the “depressive” black metal genre. With musicianship that creates a disgusted and somewhat chilling atmosphere, Shining’s fifth offering is definitely a standout from the rest of the cut wrist groups. All in all there are very few drawbacks to this release, and has some potential to change the minds of those who see all depressive labeled black metal bands the same.
Sweden's Shining have evolved into a wonderful creation over the years. The improvement has come in all areas and its fantastic to witness. Kvarforth was merely a teenager when Shining released their EP 'Submit To Self-destruction', back in 1998. So, what's changed over the past decade? Well, a lot. Shining, as aforementioned, have evolved. Most importantly, each and every musician has grown. Good musicianship is key to success and over the years Shining have acquired that. Another vast improvement for me is the production. It wasn't necessarily bad when the first full-length was issued to the adoring public, but it wasn't that great either. It was dark and ... Well, just different. I've thoroughly enjoyed every single Shining album, so it wasn't that much of a problem. It was just a tad amateurish and scratchy, though that may have been due to a lack of funding? I don't know. However, this time around Shining have put all problems to bed. Atmospherically, Shining seem to have mellowed out the music. Its often quite soft, as opposed to how it used be. As I get older i tend to find that this is more appealing.
Shining's fifth full-length album, 'Halmstad' is a modern day classic. It has received a somewhat mixed reaction, but I believe given time this will adapt. As far as improvements go, well, I am thoroughly enjoying the addition of the classy and catchy leads. Despite the bands tag of 'depressive' black metal, in part, Halmstad has the ability to uplift my mood. Another positive about this particular release is its undoubted ability to be able to shift moods with tremendous acoustic sections and throaty vocals which are screamed out over the microphone with passion and emotion. The ability to make great music comes in the ability to be able to make that music powerful. This is done by stirring emotion, and being able to change that emotion into whatever you want it to be. Shining are beautiful one moment with sweeping melodies and affective whispers and then the next they're melancholic with crushing acoustics and wailing vocals which depict pain and anguish. Emotion is how you connect to your target audience and Halmstad provides a load of that. Raw emotion and natural progression. There is also a welcomed addition of both piano and cello sections, adding to the feeling of withering beauty the music conveys. Monologue sections depict this idea well and go hand in hand with Kvarforth's venomous tortured screams. Both holding connotations of various forms of pain and mental torment. However, in terms of the audience, the vocals may be seen as problematic. Kvarforth's unique style of screams may take some time to adjust to.
The only negative I can pluck out of this masterpiece is merely the fiasco that ensued before the full-length was released, and by that I mean the faked suicide by Kvarforth. I'm not sure what that was meant to achieve in terms of boosting this albums appeal. Shining should stick to letting the music talk for them instead. Notable highlights include; Yttligare Ett Steg Närmare Total Jävla Utfrysning, Besvikelsens Dystra Monotoni and Neka Morgondagen. Shining are back, and with a new lease of life. Such energy and creative flair is hard to dismiss and even harder to hold down.
Metal bands which get better with each successive release have always been rare. Often a band will shoot its entire creative wad on the debut and expend the remainder on the followup , then struggle to surpass the freshness and energy of that initial release. Shining, to the contrary, just keeps getting better. While the early material was fairly straightforward Burzum-ish atmospheric "suicide" black metal, the last 3 albums have all taken crab-like sidesteps into a far more inspired "black death rock" approach. Halmstad is simply an amazing continuation of this pattern.
While the basic sound remains rooted in the Swedish black metal sound, there's also a liberal amount of extremely emotive lead guitar work (something often very lacking in this style), with various dalliances into classical music (hell, "Åttiosextusenfyrahundra" is simply a ripoff of "Moonlight Sonata" with a different title), and plenty of contemplative acoustic moments. Over all this, the increasingly deranged Niklas Kvarforth spews all sorts of angst and hatred, wallowing in abject misery as a visceral means of self-expression. The music retains a complexity and scope more in line with 70's prog-rock than the majority of black metal, branching out in all sorts of odd directions while always remainingly firmly anchored in the atmosphere of life-hatred and selfdestruction that this band has always made their own.
Shining will always be a controversial band, mostly because they refuse to adhere to a strict "Black" formula, and aren't content to wallow in the sub-underground recording albums which sound like articulated radio static. Anyone who enjoyed the last two albums would do very well to pick this one up too. Bonus points for the artwork too, which is easily the most viscerally graphic interpretation of the band's concept to date. An essential purchase.
Being a big fan of Shining's gloomy brand of soul-crushing depressive black metal, my expectations for this release were quite high when it was announced as "darker than anything the band had ever done". That was last spring, but after several delays and a rather silly affair which included frontman Kvarforth's simulated suicide, my respect for the band sunk significantly, and as well as the aforementioned expectations. Still, when I first got my hands on the album, I have to admit that I was giddy like a schoolgirl. Well, maybe not quite like a schoolgirl, but I was still excited to see if they could surpass 2005's dark masterpiece The Eerie Cold.
My initial thoughts on V - Halmstad are very positive, and it undoubtedly contains some of Shining's best work yet. The album shows a natural progression from the experimental IV - The Eerie Cold, and implements even more solos and quiet interludes than its predecessor. The album mix is the best I've heard from any depressive black metal band to date, and unlike the never-ending stream of inaudible Darkthrone-clones, every instrument on Halmstad can be heard distinctively and clear. It also helps that the musicianship here is far better than anything previously heard from Shining, sporting even the odd piano-piece to bring it all together nicely.
My only real complaint about the album is that the vocals sometimes transcends into what can only be described as angry shouting, which in my opinion doesn't go well with the otherwise mellow music. It's not a prominent enough feature to really ruin the atmosphere though, and it'll probably grow on the listener in time.
Album highlights include the fantastic 'Låt Oss Ta Allt Från Varandra' and the album closer 'Neka Morgondagen', which both fits in nicely alongside previous masterpieces like 'The Claws of Perdition' and 'Ett Liv Utan Mening'. Shining are one of the few black metal bands who manage to create innovating and original music while still refraining from making any compromises, which is what makes them stand out from the host of Burzum-clones and radio-friendly black metal bands out there. With V - Halmstad, they raise the standard of depressive black metal, which is a quickly growing scene they have proven to be the pioneers of.