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Shining: Redefining Darkness

Album Review

Niklas Kvarforth reaches new heights of despair

Whatever 
one
thinks

 of
 Niklas 
Kvarforth
–
 and 
he
 does continue
 to
 split 
the 
seas
 of
 popular
 opinion 
like 
some
 sort 
of
 depressive 
metal
 Moses 
– 
it’s
 hard
 not
 to 
be 
impressed
 by
 the
 high
 standards
 Shining
 continue
 to
 maintain,
 despite
 an
 increasingly
 prolific
 output. 
Indeed,
 Redefining Darkness
–
interestingly
 the
 first
 of
 the
 band’s
 albums 
not
 to 
be
 prefixed
 by
 a 
number
 –
 marks
 their
 eighth
 full-length 
album 
and
 comes 
hot

 on 
the 
heels
 of
l ast
 year’s
 extremely
 well-received VII: Född Förlorare,
 not
 to
 mention
 this
 year’s
 Lots Of Girls Gonna Get Hurt,
 a
 covers
 EP 
that
 showcased 
the
 band 
at
 their
 most
 commercially
 accessible 
yet.

Redefining Darkness
 continues 
to
 expand 
the
 band’s
 emotional
 and
 stylistic
 spectrum,
 making
 use
 of
 contrast
 with
 creeping
 moments 
of
 outright
 aggression 
sitting
 alongside
 calmer
 and
 more 
introspective
 passages.
 Blending
 obvious 
black
 metal
 traits
 with
 doom,
 depressive
 rock
 and
 progressive 
overtones, 
the
 dynamics 
that 
have 
been 
displayed
 by 
the 
band 
for
 much 
of 
their 
career
 remain 
alive
 and
 well, 
the
 clean
 guitars 
and 
gentle 
vocal 
refrain 
on
 songs 
such
 as
 Hail Darkness Hail
 – ‘Without you there’s no light at the end of the tunnel’ –
 only 
serving
 to
 make
 the 
more
 vitriolic
 moments

 hit
 that
 much
 harder.

There’s
 also 
no
 questioning 
the
 songwriting 
here,
 nor
 is
 there 
any
 denying
 the
 ambition
 within
 the
 songs.
 Niklas
 has 
long 
made
 it
 clear
 that
 he
 would
 like 
to
 take 
the
 band
 to a 
much 
bigger
 audience
 and
 with
 Redefining Darkness
 that 
seems
 a
 less 
far-fetched
 proposition.


Yes,
 the
 group’s
 unrelenting 
negativity
 and
 suicidal
 overtones 
mark
 them
 as 
a
 more 
extreme
 proposition
 than 
acts
 such 
as
 Opeth 
and
 Katatonia,
 but
 it’s
 not
 exactly
 an
aesthetic
 that 
is
 scaring
 off
 fans,
 and
 the 
fact
 that
 this 
uncompromising
 attitude 
is
 balanced
 by
 richly
 emotional,
 expansive
 and
 memorable
 songs
 suggests 
they 
have 
the
 potential

 to 
be
 just 
as
 accessible 
as
 their

 more
 cuddly
 countrymen. Like 
those
 groups,
 Shining 
also
 offer 
a
 real 
journey 
in
 their
 music,
 each
 song
 being immaculately
 constructed, 
making
 use
 of
 light
 and 
shade 
to
 paint
 an 
immersive 
if
 occasionally 
sprawling
 experience.


That
 said,
 the
 band 
have
 retained
 the
 furious
 drive 
and
 venom
 of
 old
 and 
it’s 
unlikely 
that
 anyone
 who
 enjoyed
 the
 last
 few
 albums
 will
 be
 disappointed
 by 
the
 material
 here

 in
 terms
 of
 outright
 heaviness. Niklas 
remains
 very 
much
 the
 focal
 point,
 and
 with 
new 
Shining
 girlie 
shirts 
now
 proclaiming,
 ‘I
 have
 a
 boyfriend
 at 
home
 but
 I
 think
 of
 Niklas
 Kvarforth
 when
 he
 fucks
 me’,
 that
 would 
definitely
 appear
 to
 be
 an 
intentional
 strategy.
 

Nevertheless,
 his
 presence 
never
 swamps 
the
 songs
 and
 though 
they
 do
 continue
 to
 showcase
 the
 singer’s
 versatility 
–
 and
 unlike
 many
 of
 his
 extreme
 metal
 contemporaries 
his
 voice
 is 
a 
three-dimensional
 beast,
 always
 saturated
 in
 emotion,
 whether 
that
 be 
incensed
 rage

 or
 apathetic
 disillusionment
 –
 there’s
 also 
plenty 
of
 space 
for

 the 
instruments to
 breathe,
 the
 musicianship 
on
 Redefining Darkness
 remaining
 faultless 
throughout.
 Shining 
have
 once 
again
 delivered 
a
 considered
 and
 stellar
 entry.

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