REVIEWED: Shining - 'Shining'
As the bloodily glistening brushstrokes adorning its latest, wondrously sinister album cover more than abundantly illustrate, Shining is a band that’s long been liberally drenched in darkness. And from howling, audibly anguished glimpses into the abyss to notorious stage shows quite literally steeped in self-inflicted bloodshed, such intense and unrelenting extremes of suffering are nothing short of instrumental in fostering the dark art vividly brought to bear by its famously tortured creator Niklas Kvarforth. But while sonic extremity of a decidedly harrowing, pitch-black flavour may have figured prominently in the mix from the moment this unique entity first coalesced into being back in 1997, 11th landmark opus ‘Shining’ showcases a marked amplification of the more subtly understated and melodic trappings we’ve seen infiltrate their sound since these distant beginnings.
That said, this aforementioned, teeth-gnashing hostility, together with a suffocating, all-pervasive aura of dread, has a more than sizeable part to play from the get-go, with bloodcurdling opener ‘Avsändare Okänd’ plunging us headlong into a coldly enveloping cacophony of nightmarish ambient noise. And from the ominous scratch and scrape of various, lethal-sounding metallic instruments to ragged, hyperventilating breaths reminiscent of a torture-porn horror flick, it’s a thoroughly magnetic inroad into the turbulent, intricately wrought arrangements that follow. Splicing brutally propulsive blasts in amongst humongous slabs of weightily churning groove whose endlessly contorting, ink-black throes abound with tangibly pronounced unease, this is familiar yet thoroughly pleasing territory for long-time admirers of Kvarforth’s inimitably bleak and brutalising craft. With its sinewy, densely coiled lines of darkly reverberating riffage and larynx-scalding screams recalling the blackly oozing malevolence of masterful 2018 predecessor ‘X - Varg Utan Flock’, ‘Allt För Döden’ manifests the most lethal and unforgivingly abrasive dynamics of Shining’s sound with effortless ease and proficiency.
From scarcely perceptible wisps of deeply disquieting ambient echoes to thickly entangled strains of low-slung fretwork that seethe and bristle like a nest of agitated vipers, each and every composition showcased here illustrates masterful handling of its opposing component parts. Be they deafening or subtly muted, sumptuous or raggedly scabrous and brimming over with bloodlust, these many and varied musical dynamics are handled with impeccably poised control and harmonious balance throughout. With its fluid yet tantalisingly unpredictable stylistic shifts across exquisitely gilded, spiralling acoustics and sleekly elongated, Pink Floyd-esque guitar leads through to frantic episodes of ceaselessly battering ultra-violence, ‘Snart Är Dom Alla Borta’, is as staggering in compositional range as it is teeming with black-hearted misanthropy.
While the album’s more subtly understated and atmospheric moments may prove a tad too leisurely paced in places to sustain the interest of those favouring black metal of a more orthodox and predominantly aggressive bent, ‘Shining’ comprises a nonetheless striking feat of genre-shattering compositional prowess. And from the synapse-scorching multitude of intensely visceral, frostbitten textures that reside in the wintry throes of ‘Allt För Döden’ to 'Den Permanenta Sömnen Kallar's' intoxicating fusion of gnarly extremity and morbidly ornate instrumentation that envelops the senses like a heavily mouldering death-shroud, Kvarforth and co. have delivered a wealth of darkly absorbing material in which to lose oneself entirely.
'Shining' is out now via Napalm