There are those forces in metal that grate, divide us, force us to call each other no-nothing assholes on social media. And then there are uniters, the ones who have universal acclaim and appeal and seem to be on the list of everyone’s favorite artists. Today, we will discuss something that’s definitely the former.
Many opinions exists on Niklas Kvarforth, the man who has long helmed the Swedish black metal band Shining and who people other vehemently hate or wholeheartedly embrace. There seems to be no in-between, and a provoker like Kvarforth probably would not have it any other way. His project explores many dark territories of human personalities and psyches, and the word “suicidal” often has been labeled to his dark art. As for me, I’ve always been an ardent fan of Shining, even through the band’s many twisted and artistic turns, and each new record I’ve anticipated greatly to see just where he would go next and what new wounds he’d open. His latest “IX: Everyone, Everything, Everywhere, Ends” is another scathing, challenging document that’s bound to be polarizing.
While Kvarforth is the driving force behind Shining (no one can deny his oceans of charisma and total recognizable vocal delivery) and has been ever since the band’s arrival nearly two decades ago, he’s not alone in this mission. Along with him on this ninth helping are guitarists Peter Huss and Euge Valovirta; bassist Christian Latrsson; and drummer Rainer Tuomikanto, and on “IX,” they turn in a record that shows the Shining borders still are expanding, even if raw, striking black metal remains the capitol city. Kvarforth keeps pushing his voice and hasn’t been merely a growler for a long time. The band’s sounds range from black metal to death to prog to folk in spots, and this six-track, nearly 40-minute mauler is one that’ll damage your senses and also leave you with a dank feeling when it’s over.
Opener “Den Påtvingade Tvåsamheten” is an interesting instrumental piece that starts with eerie noises and scraping static, before a doom-infested riff kicks and a prog-fueled path begins to get carved. Some calm sets in before the drama ramps up again, and then we’re right into “Vilja & Dröm” that rips right out of a corner. Kvarforth grunts and howls his way through this cut, with dark melodies washing over and enhancing his characteristically rolled R’s. The pace gets gritty and dirty as it goes on, with wild shrieks erupting, rustic acoustic passages adding texture to the horror, and guitars piercing and drawing blood. “Framtidsutsikter” changes the pace a bit and also sets the stage for the second half of the record. Acoustic riffs roll out, with Kvarforth crooning thornily instead of growling, and the overall mood can be described, quite simply, as stormy. The guitars hit a reflective high, letting you think the band is giving you a moment to stretch your mind, but the ugliness returns before all is said and done. The music gets cataclysmic, and the fierce vocals match the musical intensity.
“Människotankens Vägglösa Rum” has a crunchy, thrashy start, with the vocals throaty as hell and the tempo taking a straight-forward black metal direction. Kvarforth goes off the rails at one point, delivering hammering shrieks and droned warbling, often within the same minute, and all of that chaos settles down and lets folk waters take over. The band then lights back up, taking on a vibe that reminds of middle-era Opeth, with the final minute blistering before it fades. “Inga Broar Kvar Att Bränna” opens clean and dreary, like a foggy morning rain shower, and even when some of the edges get rough, the spine of this thing stays contemplative and dreamy for the most part. The band even sets up a portion that’s dashed with some European-style folk, with the singing sounding strange and on edge, almost like Kvarforth is having a meltdown. Closer “Besök Från I(ho)nom” has a trickling first few minutes, continuing the mesmerizing sections of the record that preceded it, but it’s not long until crushing growling, furious playing, and oddly jazzy bass playing take over. From this point until the end, things go up and down hills, blazing with a fury one moment, heading into pockets of warmth the next, and finally fading out into the night.
Shining always has been a favorite in these parts, and “IX: Everyone, Everything, Everywhere, Ends” is bound to be another that topples some people’s worlds while irritating others. Kvarforth always has been a unique, uncompromising musician who isn’t afraid to push buttons and cause distaste in people’s mouths. It’s that and his blunt style that endear him to as many (if not more) as those who reject him, and as long as Shining remain this sharp and daring, their music always is going to be worth experiencing for all its dark glory.
For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/shiningofficial
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