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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