Review Summary: Progressive black metal that doesn't suck in every possible way? Heresy, I must be wrong!
As I sit upon the culling block of life, questioning both my sanity and my reason for being, I think about all the good things in life. Chicken, boobs, liquor, books, tight female clothing, the black metal band Shining, the- wait, black metal? What the hell, am I turning into some horrible caricature of myself that enjoys horribly generic and tepid, badly produced metal?
I discovered Shining due to the fact they were tagged as “suicidal black metal” on last.fm and rateyourmusic. Out of pure morbid curiosity I checked them out, as their newest record V: Halmstad
was getting some pretty high praise. Contained within was something that was much better than the ridiculous tags they get would assume you to believe.
Throwing out most black metal conventions, Shining pull an Opeth (or maudlin, whichever you prefer) and focus instead on incorporating clean and faux-classical passages into their music. What does this mean for those folks who have somehow missed the Opeth crazy train? Well, often to break up the obvious monotony that would occur if Shining just plowed through all of their songs like a bad early Satyricon impersonator, they will bring in a loose translation of a classical piece (although this does only occur once) or smoothly transition into an acoustic passage, occasionally accompanied by a piano. Perhaps because this is only one album, but Shining accomplish this goal ever so slightly better than their counterparts in Opeth, as the lighter passages always seem to be perfectly placed.
“Besvikelsens Dystra Monotoni” begins with two cello’s furiously playing against each other, and the sound of broken glass being shuffled around as the song then quickly generates into the two guitarists riffing in a similar pattern to what the players were doing just before. Moments like these are what makes Halmstad
special in the grand scheme of things. While the interlude track “Åttiosextusenfyrahundra” is fairly lame and doesn’t add much to the feel or mood of the album (being the previously mentioned classic interpretation), elsewhere all of the clean passages build into the sense that whatever the hell “Kvarforth” (the singers kvlt BM name) is singing about, he is probably a little bit insane.
The black metal elements are pretty minimal if your going to compare it to a normal album in the genre, but they are well executed all the same. Kvarforth’s vocals are guttural and when he doesn’t sound like he’s gurgling on blood, they are actually surprisingly engaging. The riffs are pretty damn good, and both the riffs and solos both very similar to thing Entombed would have written in their heavier days. The bass work while rarely present isn’t awful, as it complements the melodic aspects of what the guitarists are doing well. So that I don’t leave it out, the drumming isn’t anything special, but at least it doesn’t sound like tin cans being banged against each other.
Shining shines (yeah, I said it) in the general construction of their songs, as the spectacular “Låt Oss Ta Allt Från Varandra” demonstrates perfectly. It starts with some distorted guitar riffs, which proceed to go full blast into the main “black metal” segment of the song. Just as you get settled into the routine, the whole song drops out and one of the few voice samples of Christina Ricci from Prozac Nation
chimes in. Combined with a piano, a steady marching drum pattern, and a cello, it could end up incredibly cheesy but rather is poignant and incredibly hard hitting. The song then transitions into Kvarforth singing, which is quite a sound, and then with the soft chimes of what sounds like a cowbell we go into a glam metal solo which just kicks as
s. Not sounding that impressive? Listen to the song, and then think about the fact its not even the best on here.
is only a black metal record by the loosest stretch. Progressive black metal may be the best tag for this, and purists are going to absolutely hate it. Shining actively combat stereotypes and standards within the genre, and whether or not they should be applauded for it depends on your idea about the black metal scene. What they deliver with V- Halmstad
is a black metal album for people who don’t really like black metal, but have always sort of wished they would. It’s heavy, it’s vaguely intelligent (musically- lyrically the translations I’ve been able to find are hilariously bad), and its got the ability to make you rethink your hate for an entire genre. Then again, Shining probably would want you to say “Fuc
k black metal” anyways.