“Feeling good, London?” enquires Shining main man Niklas Kvarforth, brandishing a rapidly depleting bottle of Jack Daniel’s somewhere in the vague vicinity of the audience. “Don’t worry,” he assures with a devilishly disquieting grin. “That’s all about to change now.”
And yet, despite the frontman formerly known as ‘Ghoul’s’ best concerted efforts to leave us all suitably shocked and appalled, there’s no hedging around the blatantly obvious fact that Shining are one hell of an entertaining and flawlessly cohesive unit. Indeed, were we to parallel tonight’s performance with one taking place say, ten, fifteen years prior, we might even go so far as to describe Kvarforth as being in strikingly good, perhaps even cheerful, spirits as he playfully jests and banters his way through the Swedes’ hugely anticipated set. And in the absence of the former blood-soaked, violence-inciting spectacle of bygone days is the unmistakable sound of razor-sharp, undivided focus; of an artist operating at fresh heights of fierce, stirringly evocative intensity. And it’s truly a joy to witness in the flesh.
Hurling listeners headlong into dense, frantically energised layerings of ink-black tremolo whose craggy accents seethe and bristle like a nest of agitated vipers, the less-than-tidily-pronounceable ‘Yttligare ett steg närmare total jävla utfrysning’ makes for a deliciously eerie and energised opener. From here, whirling spirals of intricately-woven, notey acoustics unfurl like the reeking petals of a slowly blossoming corpse flower, its deathly, putrefying essence luring us in with terrible, inexorable magnetism. Proceeding with decisive and immediate action into the violently churning throes of ‘Jag är din fiende’, Kvarforth and co.’s explosive melding of pulverising, thrash-tinged aggression and coldly majestic atmospherics is a breathlessly exhilarating wonder to behold for the very first time. It’s regrettably the only track to be debuted from stunning new opus ‘X - Varg Utan Flock’, but within their relatively short allocated slot, there’s hardly time to factor in every essential feature of their famously expansive back catalogue.
That said, for a festival set, there’s as broad and relevant a range of coverage as the band can possibly pull off, including ‘Framtidsutsikter’s’ riff-laden feast of lacerating licks and sultry, distortion-drenched fretwork that audibly oozes perverse, black-hearted beauty. Careening and accelerating violently through ragged lines of intensely visceral, knife-edged guitars, the tortured, instantly recognisable strains of ‘Låt Oss Ta Allt Från Varandra’ see the Electric Ballroom instantly transformed into a seething mass of violently euphoric motion. Then, from the moment these frantically barrelling throes ebb away beneath lush, exquisitely melancholic layers of darkly expansive strings, a scattered assortment of lighter flames and iPhones can be seen glimmering rather eerily in the otherwise murkily impenetrable darkness. And with its stirring, coldly majestic atmospherics accelerating into a bewildering climax of scalding, ceaselessly energised riffage, established favourite ‘For the God Below’ is as fittingly epic and diabolical a grand finale as any long-time fan or freshly-converted follower could wish for.