Review Summary: The sounds of a band torn between what they have been doing and what they aspire to be
In many respects, Kvarforth has toned himself down on VII: Född Förlorare
. In relation to what he’s released in the past, even so recent as 2009’s VI – Klagopsalmer
, his latest offering is very hesitant in what it delivers and where it chooses to go. Then again, I can’t fault Shining for taking things as they come; any attempts to deliver another V – Halmstad
may have proven to be catastrophically disastrous. For that, Kvarforth took the correct route: to naturally progress down the ladder towards what we have here with VII: Född Förlorare
. There’s no question that the music is distinctly Shining – their sound is practically unmistakable – it’s just that priorities have shifted toward different ends than before. It is no accident that Kvarforth’s clean voice is here in copious amounts, and alternatively his growl has diminished in its role. It may not be a trend here to stay, but it is variance that keeps Shining’s sound still alive and enjoyable, and VII: Född Förlorare
is just the type of album Shining needed to release to retain their sense of individuality.
It’s hard to believe that the Shining playing on VII: Född Förlorare
is the same Shining that was so over-the-top in regards to their persona (lest we forget that in 2006 Kvarforth allegedly disappeared off the face of the earth, had his band write on Shining’s webpage that he was, in fact, long gone, announce that they have a new vocalist named “Ghoul”, and have it revealed that Ghoul was actually Kvarforth. Whatever was the motivation behind this will forever elude me) but I can assure you that something about the album is less radical than in the past. Sure, the wailing guitar solos that Shining have incorporated into their music over the past few albums are back in their fine out-of-place form, but the attitude of the album is a curveball. It’s depressed and downtrodden in a way that isn’t quite so contrived and wholly mockable as past songs that, upon departure from a mournful cello piece leap unexpectedly into a guitar solo that wouldn’t be out of place on an 80’s hair metal record. I realize that this may be what constitutes the allure of Shining for some, but I for one welcome a sense of true seriousness to many aspects of Född Förlorare
Take, for example, the song “Tillsammans Är Vi Allt”. If one was to judge the book by its cover when it became apparent that the track featured a guest spot by Håkan Hemlin of Nordman fame on clean vocals, eyebrows would be raised and insults hurled. Listen further, though, to the song’s contents: Kvarforth’s biting screams (probably the best on the album), Hemlin’s airy vocals, the flashy guitar solo that actually fits, the strumming acoustics lingering in the background, the wandering and strangely appealing ambiance in the middle. This is Shining really taking things up a notch to points that may not be as lofty as the reverence of Halmstad
, but are close; there are moments within Född Förlorare
that are truly eye-opening. To get there, however, one must wade through a few pools of mud. The album’s more intense numbers are also its least varied and most stifling; songs that could be seen as remnants of a sound that Kvarforth really doesn’t aspire to produce any longer but slapped on for the sake of keeping things kosher with the black metal community. “Förtvivlan, Min Arvedel” and large portions of “Människa O'Avskyvärda Människa” become tiresome and a chore amidst their sandwiched riffing and dry screams.
To take these songs and compare them to the serenity of the piano-driven “I Nattens Timma” (that is to this album what “Attiosextusenfyrahundra” was to Halmstad
) is to compare one world to another. The taming of Shining’s sound that I had mentioned earlier rears its head in full more often that the ferocity can wrangle it in, and that’s what I like most about Född Förlorare
. It’s not until the closer “FFF” that the heavy and the light seem to work in unison like they have in the past, and it’s in “FFF” that confused Shining fans will find the band that they remember playing as they recall. Don’t go into Född Förlorare
expecting an album that bears no resemblance to Shining whatsoever, but expect a Shining that has morphed into a more benign existence. The guitar tone and clean production are all immediately noticeable as Shining’s, but the songwriting flips between their roots and their ambitions in a way that will leave those who relish in the heavier world of the band’s first three albums suddenly confused by this rush of acoustic guitars and clean vocals juxtaposed between the wailing guitar solos and rolling riffs they hold dear.
At the end of the day, I can appreciate the direction Shining took on Född Förlorare
, but I can’t honestly say I enjoy it more than the perfect balance between old and new laid down on Halmstad
(or even Klagopsalmer
, for that matter). While this album is tipped heavily in favor of the new face of Shining, it isn’t bereft of merit. Instead, it is another well-crafted piece of music by a band that refuses to stay in one place, musically speaking, for more than an album or two. Shining’s evolution to this point has been fluid, and I see no reason why things will change abruptly from here. Despite its missteps in seamlessly blending sounds here (a feat that is, fortunately, corrected by the time “FFF” rolls around), Född Förlorare
is another album from this Swedish band that I will surely find myself listening to years down the road. Its moods change hands enough times to keep the perilously short attention span of the metal fan fixated for its entire length, and its replay value will assure that they will be coming back for another go.