Shining – X – Varg Utan Flock Review

Band: Shining
Album: X – Varg Utan Flock
Label: Season of Mist
Genre: Suicidal Black Metal
Country: Sweden
Release Date: January 5th, 2018

Shining is a band that has been around for a very long time and have never been short on controversy, almost all of it stemming from Niklas Kvarforth, the heart and soul of the band. The man has a history of mental instability and outrageous behavior, from carving himself with razorblades to starting fights at shows. Kvarforth has always channeled his pain and anguish through his lyrics and music and this tenth offering by Shining is no different. I don’t understand one word he’s singing and speaking, but the agony comes through loud and clear, and the music not only supports and underpins this, it propels it forward, using melody, crushing riffs, piano passages, and languid and angry moments to create an impressive whole. In short, if you are a fan of Shining, you’re going to find a lot more to love with this new release.

Opener “Svart Ostoppbar Eld” starts with a short, spoken word intro by Kvarforth, followed by a picking little riff that builds and then explodes into a riff-machine. This is both blackened and industrial and metal all at once. It’s heavy, to say the least. The rest of the band kicks in and the song just goes from there, rushing forward with massive intensity. It leads to some Black Metal before falling into a languorous portion of melancholic beauty. Kvarforth growls a little here, his voice gruff and brittle all at once. He really pours his emotions out and man, the guitars are sweet and impassioned. This carries on for a bit before the riffs are ushered back in by a rumbling bass and cowbell. But just as quickly as the power returns, the dark serenity follows once again, allowing the song to bleed out until its end. Really, really good stuff here and indicative of what’s to come as the album progresses.

A couple other highlights:

“Han Som Lurar Inom” is an epic number, clocking in at eight minutes, starting with some nice, textural Black Metal before raging in with some machine-like riffs and drumming. It’s pretty unrelenting for a good chunk, a fist smashing you in the face like a record skipping, relentless and perfectly repeated. A little over three minutes in the song takes a step back and unveils a sick, heavy riff, slowing things down considerably. It’s almost like a drunken swerve, swaggering but not quite out of control, stumbling and staggering and heavy, so very heavy. It’s a terrific moment that dissolves into a lone bass line and Kvarforth’s ranting. Damned good. Two minutes after that abusive riff is dropped on our heads, the song goes off a cliff, falling into melodic, acoustic guitar and then accelerating back to the original opening. This song moves and breathes, allowing space for brutality, depth, and beauty. All of it dark, of course.

Closer “Mot Aokigahara” is an amazing number. Ushered in on a lush, acoustic guitar arrangement, it feels like a flower blossoming to life. Kvarforth’s vocals snake into the song, twisting and winding amongst the music, deep and dark, creaky and pained, lightened by a gorgeous backing vocal that lifts the song into an even more dream-like state. It’s comforting, in its own way, but there’s always the electric guitar there, stabbing and prodding, reminding the listener of the darkness lurking at the edges. Almost four minutes in the song drops down into a black hole and soon we are left with lone guitar picking that leads to another lush segment, this one much darker in feel. It’s like walking in out of the warm rain and descending into a cave, one that gets colder with each step. Kvarforth intones in English during this part, repeating “I was born December, 1983, and I died, December 2017” twice before letting out a long, sad breath. Six minutes into the song and this momentary peace is lost, as the band crashes in, riffs, drums, and screams replacing the serenity that came before. Kvarforth is letting it all out in one last rush of power. This is a remarkable way to end an album, bringing to close another dark chapter in a story that has gone on much longer than most would have expected.

Shining have delivered maybe their best record with this release. Heavy, melodic, full of brittle anger and anguished pain, this is an album that can and should appeal to fans of metal in general, and fans of gothic blackness and depression in specific. It’s not a particularly “fun” ride, but it is one of depth, power, diversity, and ultimately, release.

Rating: 8/10

1. Svart Ostoppbar Eld
2. Gyllene Portarnas Bro
3. Jag Är Din Fiende
4. Han Som Lurar Inom
5. Tolvtusenfyrtioett
6. Mot Aokigahara

Total Playing Time: 41:24

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