Shining - Shining

Angry Metal Guy 60

Shining have a carefully calibrated reputation as one of the saddest bands in history. A single spin of the renowned V: Halmstad is enough to know that it’s a reputation well earned. Oppressive, dark and full of despair— it’s rightfully considered a seminal depressive suicidal black metal record. The band’s record since then has been spotty, however. Incorporating more acoustics and clean vocals brought variety but did not increase the gut punch the band was known for. Attempts at re-aligning the band’s direction were made and unmade, naming traditions were dropped and picked up again, and the misanthropic flame started to sputter. Self-titling the 12th album (and dropping the Roman enumeration for the second time) is a bold move, one that signals an attempt at re-establishing the band’s identity. Is Shining the shining example of Shining?

It is, in the sense that it has both the strengths and weaknesses of the band, particularly the later part of its career. Not to mention its exact adherence to having 6 tracks including one instrumental, in this case a piano cover of French composer Erik Satie. Sound-wise, we still have mostly mid-paced black metal mixed with atmospheric acoustic-oriented passages that include subdued clean vocals and, in the case of “Fidelis Ad Mortem,” Gregorian-style chanting. The more aggressive material is where the record shines, though, and the four main tracks each have some excellently dense and oppressive riffs, particularly closer “Den Permanenta Sömnen Kallar” which opens with nothing but a full minute of unrelenting six-string assaults. “Snart Är Dom Alla Borta” includes a great transition where a creepy soundscape is made destructive by a sudden rapid-fire drum assault, and “Avsändere Okänd” is a strong opener with a great balance of rage and despair.

That balance is hard to get right, and it hampers the impact of a significant portion of Shining. Though it’s possible to inject some deep despair into acoustic music, it’s not Shining’s strong suit, the clean vocals unable to carry as much emotion as the ragged screams. As such, the calmer sections tend to feel like breathers rather than a different way to convey a despondent mood. But they’re too frequent and too long to be breathers, taking up about a third of the album by length. These passages are fitting and have their place, but in this volume, they take away from the emotional turmoil instead of adding to it. Add to that a few instances of over-repetition (the hissed ‘SA SA SA’ in “Allt For Döden” and its accompanying riff overstay their welcome three minutes early) and it makes for an album like a sine wave, of which the virtues and vices take up roughly the same amount of space.

I can still recommend the overall experience though, because the peaks are higher than the valleys deep, and even when the record is less moving or exciting, it’s never unpleasant or a turnoff. The secret ingredient is the solos, which often display an almost Gilmour-esque level of emotional acuity and raise the investment anytime they pop up, with the one gracing “Snart” a particular highlight. The production is fairly slick, especially for bleak black metal, with warm undertones in the acoustics and bass, and while I rarely advocate for the KVLT frostbitten sketchy uncle’s basement trashcan production, I do get the sense that a bit more treble would have underlined the intended desolation of the record. Nonetheless, it gives the very able musicians a chance to shine, and I won’t complain about the spot-on mixing.

Overall, Shining’s Shining is just a good album. Considering their legacy, one might have hoped for better. Considering their inconsistency in recent years, one could have feared worse. As it stands, it’s not the saddest, most devastating thing you’ll listen to this year, but it does convey the misanthropic desperation associated with the band, has a nice catalog of cold-hearted riffs and a few dark twists, and is never less than solid across 50 minutes of music. For a dozenth album, that’s not a bad place to be.

Rating: 3.0/5.0
DR: N/A | Format Reviewed: Stream
Label: Napalm Records
Websites: | |
Releases Worldwide: September 15th, 2023

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Thu Sep 14 15:29:09 GMT 2023