Review Summary: Close, but no cigar for Shining in an album that is slowly ironing out the creases that were created by their last two full length releases
The sounds that greet the listener when they insert a Shining CD into their chosen choice of audio device can only be described as those of a man under his own form of torture; a man who is his own worst enemy. For so long the, band lead by Niklas Kvarforth have achieved a sound akin to something that many would crave to be able to find in their music-genuine suffering. Whereas pretenders may find glimmers of torment in their life's and channel them into their music, few have ever managed to capture such a chaotic and morbid sound as Shining. However, 2011's Fodd Forlorare and 2012's EP entitled Lots Of Girls Gonna Get Hurt hinted at a slight change in direction for the band, although still being flooded by depressive lyrics such as a song title that translates to Man, O Despicable Man, the dark atmosphere that had made albums such as V:Halmstad so successful was slowly being streamlined. Come the time of their latest studio album Redefining Darkness, however, it is clear that this is not the case.
First of all Redefining Darkness is certainly not a black metal release throughout much of its forty minute running time despite the first three minutes containing some of the most brutal instrumentals that the band has ever recorded. The rest of the album is more experimental; incorporating various other influences including clean guitars and some soothing clean vocals. This is one of the most warped creations from the band to date, merging more styles than the average Opeth release to great success. The guitar work on here is as varied as it gets, with some tremolo picked lines characteristic of the black metal genre and then some incredible melodic sections. The Ghastly Silence uses acoustic guitars prominently towards the end that give off some of the most incredible feelings of loss and hopelessness the music industry has ever produced. The solos on this release are rather surprising as well, with an extended solo found on Han Som Hatar Manniskan being one of the highlights of the album instead of feeling shoehorned in as is the case with many of their previous releases solos.
Once again however it is the vocals that carry this album forward as with all of the bands previous releases. There are a huge amount of clean vocals found on this album that are beautifully sung, particularly the operatic overtones on the fourth song Hail Darkness Hail, which also features some of the most traditional black metal sounding vocals on the album. The screams across this release are overall a lot deeper in pitch than those on their past discography as the opening song will indicate to strong effect. The tones themselves all echo the real torture that Nik has gone through in his life and convey well the songs of suicide that the band writes with disturbing accuracy. This is one remarkable vocal performance and almost single-handedly pushes this album into the upper echelons of the genre.
When all is said and done this album is not perfect though, with a few flaws that need ironing out. In particular the transition with the spoken words at four minutes into Hail Darkness Hail feels half written and pointless, as though the band was clutching as straws as to how to progress their music. Also, the shock value of the album is vastly toned down compared to past releases and feels totally cheesy at times. Lyrics such as "Without you there's no light at the end of the tunnel"
feel like something an angry teenager would write after a breakup and sound all the more ridiculous coming out of a heavily accented Swedish mans mouth. Moments like this completely kill off the atmosphere established by the musicianship on their respective song and make them a mere shadow of what the band used to be on their fourth and fifth albums.
This was an album that had so much potential with its clear will to ditch any rules the genre they are a member of set down and write their own style of music but is under-pared by some truly silly writing. Parts of Hail Darkness Hail and For The God Below manage to destroy anything that the band has created emotionally and drag the song quality down a lot. For The God Below took far too much time with acoustic guitars playing at the beginning to get to the point and for that reason feels overly long. This was a nice effort from the band but is unfortunately nowhere near as powerful as V:Halmstad had been but is a certain step up from their last two releases.