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The Shining: "This is the first time we've combined anger with real sadness"

Niklas Kvarforth’s ongoing battle with mental health issues has fuelled one of the most turbulent yet entrancing journeys in the extreme metal scene. Has his 10th album seen him turn a corner?

In fairness to the large numbers of inquisitive hacks who have probed Shining’s Niklas Kvarforth over the years, the Swede really has brought this problem upon himself. For the last 21 years, his band have administered the metal underground with regular, jolting doses of much-needed danger, volatility and fury, as Niklas’s own struggles with schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and a self-destructive streak a mile wide have provided an often disturbing but always believable backdrop of chaos and cliff’s-edge tension.

In essence, the story of Shining has always been the story of one man’s internal and external conflicts. But despite that constant bearing of his soul, the recent release of filmmaker Claudio Marino’s Cold Void documentary has shone a light into Niklas’s psyche like never before. An artful but insightful one- man conversation about dealing with long-term mental illness and its impact on the creative process, it seems a remarkably personal and, dare it be said, socially helpful thing for someone so notoriously scornful of the human race to do. Coinciding with the release of the new Shining album, X: Varg Utan Flock, which is manifestly their strongest album in many years, the documentary suggests that a more thoughtful Niklas Kvarforth is steadily emerging from the mayhem of the past.

“Well, I was extremely fucking sceptical about doing this in the beginning, because we’ve been working on our own Shining documentary for the last seven or eight years, so to have someone else make a documentary right now would be like throwing away years of work,” he states. “But that wasn’t Claudio’s intention. He was more interested in how it is to be an artist and work with these mental conditions, how that forms you and the complications you have to undergo to be able to survive in a world where you have to socialise with people and do things that demand a lot, maybe too much, from people with my diagnosis.”

If it was anyone else saying this, polite applause would traditionally follow. But Niklas has often proclaimed that Shining exists “as a weapon” against mankind, whereby the listener is assailed with a blizzard of suicidal thoughts and feelings: the end result being that that desire to leave this mortal realm will be transferred to the audience. Somehow a poignant documentary about surviving a mental health condition seems slightly at odds with his trademark misanthropy. Not entirely surprisingly, Niklas has thought the whole thing through.

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