ALBUM REVIEW: Shining's 'X - Varg Utan Flock'
From brilliant, psychologically precarious scribes to ingenious compositional minds plagued by mental illness and addiction, it’s long been acknowledged that human suffering frequently breeds rare and exquisite works of art. And with its disquieting bouts of bludgeoning ultra-violence, coldly immersive atmospheres and rasping maniacal verses that audibly ooze raving lunacy, few albums originate from a more authentic place of raw and expansive emotion than Shining’s ‘X - Varg Utan Flock’.
Yet there’s unmistakable and indeed highly meticulous method in the madness, with the viciously energised likes of ‘Svart Ostoppbar Eld’ and ‘Jag Är Din Fiende’ illustrating calculated precision and taut circularity in the arrangement of these many and varied dynamics. Propelled by a livid expulsion of bloodcurdling, semi-garbled screams, ‘Jag Är…’ sees bracing stints of hyperblasting battery and Mayhem-flavoured groove engulfed in a turbulent hail of tremolo before flooding the senses with endlessly lacerating strains of guitar. Richly illustrating all the exhilarating range and complexity for which the Swedes have long been admired, these sleekly unfurling accents ebb seamlessly away beneath a dusky undertow of distortion that concludes in a jarring implosion of blastbeats.
With its dizzyingly gratuitous extremes of aggression, it’s unsurprising that this malicious horror show of a standout was the first to be unveiled in the run-up to ‘X’s’ anticipated release. But it’s the hauntingly affecting ‘Gyllene Portarnas Bro’ that plunges the listener headlong into untold depths of harrowing darkness, with richly textured swathes of guitars whose howling, eerily expressive accents abound with crippling grief and agony. Together with exquisitely delicate, ink-black spirals of heartsick fretwork, ‘Gyllene…’ finds Kvarforth at a crowning pinnacle of melancholic brilliance that’s finally consumed in a blinding frenzy of demented blastbeats. From here, frenetic lashings of wintry tremolo showcase ripping precision as this gloriously blackened onslaught gathers utterly bewildering, brimstone-scorched momentum.
And yet further evidence of ‘X’s’ limitlessly expansive spectrum of feeling and influences still awaits in the form of a warmly nostalgic cover of Gerard Mcmann’s ‘Cry Little Sister’. But despite all the numerous, exhilarating developments and disquieting shocks witnessed here in rich abundance, nothing can quite equip the listener for Kvarforth’s crushingly melancholic rendition of Placebo’s ‘In The Cold Light of Morning.’ Through an echoing, tangibly chilling web of glimmering acoustics that recall the progressive rock classics of a bygone age, the vocalist’s audibly careworn verses are heartbreakingly raw and rife with pain. It is here, in inky and indelible shades of suffering, that this “most destructive” chapter of the notorious composer’s life has translated into art of the darkest and most limitlessly diverse character.
'X - Varg Utan Flock' is out now on Season of Mist For more on the making of the album, check out our interview with Niklas at https://tinyurl.com/y9dh68zw