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Evil... - 94%

Gothic_Metalhead, July 11th, 2019
Written based on this version: 2007, CD, Osmose Productions (Digipak)

That is the only word to describe Sweden's Shining. If you thought that black metal was evil enough with supporting satanic themes and burning churches, you clearly don't know what evil is unless you start listening to "Halmstad." Shining is one of the more notorious bands I've listened to and had set them aside just because of their motives being sinister. Their views have mainly been about advocating suicide and self-harm and encourages listeners and fans to kill themselves because of their music. This is not fantasy like what other black metal bands have been doing, these are real life issues. Talk about pure evil. The egos of which Shining (more particularly Niklas Kvarforth) supports are disturbing and twisted elements and was thought to be a gimmick throughout the band's career, but in truth that matured and came together with their opus "Halmstad." Shining is one of a kind for DSBM just because they live up to the views that they show in this album, but aside from that it's also a musically smart, unique, and convincing DSBM album.

The album cover for "Halmstad" gives you an extremely obvious idea of what you are truly in for when you're really going to pop that CD in that tray. This is an extremely unsettling cover and has phenomenal shock value, but more about disturbing value. Although reminiscent of Forgotten Tomb's "Songs to Leave" this album is far more disturbing and doesn't need blood to make it disturbing. It's all about the emotional traumatic images that makes an album cover disturbing not through the actions of what was overdone and already done. Shining succeeds with having a disturbing image for not just what is about to happen in this image, but with the contrast and tint shadows that make it more disturbing.

"Halmstad" is musically different and offers something new to DSBM. This album is adding more doom metal, and progressive metal elements that this album shows that they are one of a kind. It has little to no blast beats unlike most DSBM bands and has better production which makes it stand out even more. Shining's incorporation of doom metal adds extra melancholy. Some of the softer and slower parts in the album make for a satisfying and extremely depressing atmosphere. Shockingly enough it has acoustic guitars, pianos, string instruments that is taboo for black metal. However, these added instruments are mainly there for its lighter parts which helps make it depressing and leave the feeling of "kill yourself." Track five is mainly a piano part which is something I would expect from gothic metal, but this track to me represent the aftermath of suicide only to hear the last breath of the person heard on the track. The 5th track is actually an arrangement from Beethoven which gives this album bigger range in terms of musical diversity.

The samples heard in the album add to its disturbing music too with samples heard from the movie "Prozac Nation" with lines uttered by Christina Ricci. Even the first sample on the album sets the tone for the entire album, which is also good. It's guitars are still brutal, but also has some really cool moments like in track four of the album. The dynamics of the guitar also help with setting the tone for each individual Song on the album. It's either an explosion of angry inspired black metal, or a melancholic chorus/acoustic guitars to hit people to their most depressing downturn. Also, how about that moment midway tthrough track five where the drums and bass guitar go into it's most progressive in the album? I never thought I would get hyped up about progressive elements, but it was well structured with a lot of space. I also enjoyed the drums in the first track as well because of how progressively inspired they are. From front to back, "Halmstad" is one of the most musically unique albums in black metal, let alone DSBM.

For Niklas Kvarforth, he is also doing something unique compared to other DSBM bands. In "Halmstad" he's not doing the typical black metal shrieks, he's doing gritty, raspy grieving. These vocals are the epitome of sheer pain. I feel with other DSBM bands they try so hard to show pain by screaming/shrieking as hard as they can to show how much pain they are. Kvarforth's vocals is not only doing this unique kind of extreme vocals, he's muttering as well. I have to give him a lot of credit for sounding so incredibly disturbing because it's something that the vocals show more than just depression. His voice even cracks on purpose, to show the emotional pain that Niklas is in as if he is crying and showing angry pain. Kvarforth may advocate suicide, but he definitely shows it in his delivery with clearness, disturbing elements, and unique personality. This is still the same guy that started Shining at the age of 12.

The lyrics for "Halmstad" was pretty difficult to find for me. I am sure as hell that I can't read Swedish, so I ended up using translator to understand what each of the Songs lyrics mean. The lyrics were really good. While it doesn't contain obvious signs of self-harm and suicide, it does have good enough lyrics to hide behind the idea that this album really is about killing yourself. It's also talking about the dissatisfaction of human life, homicide, and above all depression. It touches a lot of sensitive topics that make the album extreme and disturbing and shows a lot of smartly written coherence and maturity.

I don't really support Shining and their twisted ideas of suicide and self-harm, but "Halmstad" stands as an achievement in DSBM for its unique musical direction and its authenticity of its themes. This album is a serious contender for one of the most disturbing/sinister albums I've ever listened to in my life. I personally enjoyed the album and loved its doom elements, but its main element of black metal is still great. This album is incredibly evil and succeeds with being disturbing and I do love music that is disturbing. I would say it's so disturbing it makes the rest of the DSBM bands sound like fringe bands. It's also one of those rare albums that are one of a kind in its own genre. Seriously, so far from digging into DSBM so far "Halmstad" has prog/doom elements with instruments you'd never thought you hear in black metal, and has melody in its sadder, slower parts with tight production. If I can consider Disembowelment as the most disturbing band in death metal, then Shining is the most disturbing band in black metal and "Halmstad" will most likely not be topped in terms of authenticity. Listen at your own risk.