- Interview by Faye Coulman
Shining frontman Niklas Kvarforth talks three-part horror guidebook series 'Cinematic Nightmares'
From the wintry, deliciously visceral throes of 2007 classic ‘Halmstad’ through to the harrowing hostility of 2018’s career-defining ‘X - Varg Utan Flock’, it’s fair to say that Shining mastermind Niklas Kvarforth is a man well-acquainted with the darker facets of the human condition. Having spent the past two and a half decades forging a towering reputation as one of the most controversial and morbidly engrossing figures in extreme metal, more recent years have also seen the frontman delving headlong into his avid passion for the horror genre with a special series of self-penned guidebooks covering some of his best loved titles of the past three decades. With Volume III of ‘Cinematic Nightmares’ set for an April 2021 release, Dark Matter was eager to check in with its creator on exactly what this intriguing title has to offer.
From Alice Cooper’s classic, Hammer Horror-esque stage antics and Marilyn Manson’s heavily fetishised brand of leather-laden shock rock to the brimstone-scorched satanic rites of Norway’s most iconic black metal musicians, heavy metal has long borrowed generously from the horror genre’s rich plethora of sinister aesthetics. Admittedly for many, theirs is little more than an idle flirtation exercised, all too frequently, in the interests of merely stirring up publicity or, worse still, glossing over an otherwise glaring deficit of musical talent. But for Shining frontman and author, Niklas Kvarforth - a man intimately acquainted with his personal demons and notorious for subjecting himself to violent, psychologically debilitating acts of self-torture in the name of artistic expression - it’s clear his love of horror is rather more than just a passing fancy. Having long been interchangeable with his own dark and deeply troubled personal history of mental illness, addiction and other highly damaging self-destructive behaviours, it’s a genre he’s long been ardently and profoundly attached to, but only recently begun to explore in any significant level of detail.
“I have been working with music for nearly three decades now and the only other real interest of mine is film,” Niklas remarks of the early origins of the Cinematic Nightmares series. “To cut a long story short, after having done thousands of interviews over the years, I have noticed a recurring interest from fans to know what type of movies I watch and if there are specific films that I would recommend to be worthwhile. Then a few years back, when I more or less stopped giving interviews for personal reasons, I began writing on the subject instead, which eventually started to turn into a guidebook of sorts, on what I would recommend to those who seek the darker aspects of the genre. There is just so much beautiful darkness out there and for one reason or the other it never reaches its potential audience. Given my fanatical interest in seeking out all these hidden jewels, I kind of felt it was my responsibility as well.”
With each rigorously detailed and comprehensive volume covering a full decade’s worth of big-budget shockers and deliciously twisted cult favourites alike, Volume III offers up a razor-keen critical dissection of noteworthy cinematic features spanning the years 2010 to 2019. But beyond this seemingly orderly and tidily chronological sequencing of titles lies a hidden, infinitely more inventive writerly agenda, with every meticulously assembled chapter being intimately entrenched in its author’s own deeply personal real-life narratives of mental illness, drug use and associated trauma.
Niklas elaborates: “Initially I was dividing the chapters into chronological order, but quite early on I began to realise that a certain film that I had decided to include in the book also shares obvious thematical similarities to a few other films on my list as well. Therefore, the chapters are all themed and structuring my work as such also allows me to go a bit bolder in certain aspects, where I not only review the movies I want you to see, but also share many personal experiences, revealing things I probably shouldn’t, however, ultimately making it a more interesting read.”
“Basically, the one and only criteria that I have is whether there is a real darkness to the film or not. I do review a bunch of obscure titles for example, which all have passed under the radar since it has become even harder these days to find something of value, due to the absurd amount of crap being released and distributed for whatever unknown reason. But I also include a variety of commercial releases as well, some of which have also been overlooked due to whatever gimmick the studios have used when promoting them, resulting in low interest in general. Funny thing is that there are a few films that I urge the reader/viewer to stop at a certain point instead of seeing the movie in full, so that the darkness will linger instead of being completely ruined because of any particular reason. I have tried this on several people I know who all agree those notes are invaluable and made them love a film that they otherwise would loathe.”
Adorned with the gorgeously macabre, ink-steeped illustrations of acclaimed horror illustrator Daniele Serra, the visual dimension of this painstakingly produced volume comprises a perfect intersecting of Kvarforth’s own uniquely distinctive artistic persona and a genre to which he’s long been passionately and profoundly attached. It seems only fitting, then, that the musician’s choice of artist should be one with whom he shares an equally deep-seated affiliation and friendship.
“Daniele made the cover artwork for Shining’s ninth album, 'Everyone, Everything, Everywhere, Ends', and has since then advanced enormously, working on a regular basis with brilliant authors such as Stephen King and Clive Barker,” the musician enthuses. “We have remained friends since back then and he was the obvious choice for me to handle the cover artwork. I also work with another brilliant artist named M.P. Soszynski who contributes with a visualisation for each title that I review in the book, as well as being a brilliant guy to work with as well.”
And speaking of the musician’s most widely-known and all-consuming creative passion, the avid Shining fanatics among us can’t help but wonder what exciting new developments the year 2021 might hold. Of the Swedish extreme metal act’s forthcoming plans, Niklas teases, “There is something going on, but I have decided to remain silent on the matter for now. For now, make sure to pre-order your copy of the first edition of Cinematic Nightmares from: www.shininglegions.com.”