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And I Died in December 2017 - 90%

Twisted_Psychology, December 6th, 2018
Written based on this version: 2017, CD, Chaos Reigns (Japan)

For the most part, Shining’s tenth full-length album isn’t too different from what the Swedes have peddled since 2007’s Halmstad. In fact, Varg Utan Flock seemingly serves as a direct parallel to that specific opus. In addition to featuring the group’s signature abrasive yet multifaceted take on depressive black metal, both efforts feature similar track lengths and song flow. Just about every Shining album has a six-song total, but these two are the only ones that include a classical piano cover just before the last track.

However, this album sets itself apart as one of the band’s more melodic outings. Shining has always incorporated softer segments into their often-elaborate song structures and just about every song on Varg Utan Flock spends a lot of time exploring that territory. The closing “Mot Aokigahara” stands in this regard for its scaled-back presentation and surprisingly haunting spoken segment. Of course, there’s still plenty of time for harshness with “Han Som Lurar Inom” having an almost industrial bent to its extended blasting.

The musicianship is on point and utilizes the hyper-polished production without losing its edge. The guitars cover an excellent mix of overwhelming barrages and somber textures, the drums hit hard, and the bass is heard throughout, driving the rhythm on several occasions. I also appreciate how the vocals seamlessly flow between low rasps and baritone cleans with plenty of rolled r’s in between. It’s hard to remember the last time a man ever sounded this sexy while telling me to kill myself.

Overall, Shining’s tenth full-length album is admittedly formulaic but presents that formula quite well. There is enough melodic influence to keep the parallels to Halmstad from getting too uniform and the strong writing and musicianship prevent it from feeling lazy. I doubt it’ll be a letdown for longtime listeners, and it may even be accessible enough for previously unacquainted listeners to check it out, especially if they don’t mind a cleaner approach to black metal.

“Gyllene Portarnas”
“Han Som Lurar Inom”
“Mot Aokigahara”

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