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Shining - Redefining Darkness CD (album) cover

REDEFINING DARKNESS

Shining

Tech/Extreme Prog Metal


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UMUR
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars "Redefining Darkness" is the 8th full-length studio album by Swedish extreme metal act Shining. The album was released through Spinefarm Records in October 2012. "Redefining Darkness" was produced by Andy LaRocque (King Diamond), who also plays some leads. Other notable guests are Anthrax guitarist Rob Caggiano, who also contribute with lead guitar work and Hoest (Taake) who contributes additional vocals.

The album features six tracks. Two with Swedish language lyrics, three with English language lyrics and one instrumental. The band haven´t used English language lyrics on any album since "IV - The Eerie Cold (2005)", so in that respect Shining return to the roots. That´s certainly not the case with the instrumental part of the music or the songwriting in general though. "Redefining Darkness" is in the more mature semi-progressive extreme metal style that the band have more or less followed since they reformed in 2004. Misantrophy, depression, self-loathing and suicide are still central themes in the band´s lyrics like they have been from day one. The words are delivered with a malevolent kind of gleam in the eye and therefore it´s hard to know how much to put into them. They are certainly deranged and will probably also be perceived as imoral by some.

Niklas Kvarforth´s twisted schizophrenic vocal delivery, which ranges from extremely aggressive raspy/growling (completely intelligible) to clean singing and whispering, is a real treat and create intriguing contrasts, that not many extreme metal vocalists are able to do. Personally I think he is best when he delivers lyrics in his native tongue. One of the most striking examples of that is the line: "Snällä, snällä, snällä, snällä, snällä, snällä Låt mig få skada dig" (which translates into: "Please, please, please, please, please, please Let me hurt you") from the opening track "Du, Mitt Konstverk" ("You, My Artwork"), which is delivered in a clean emotional and mellow tone, that greatly contrasts the lyrics, which are about a murderer and his obsession with mutilating his victims. In his mind he is an artist. "Genom att förstöra skall jag nu skapa" ("By destroying I shall now create"), "Så skapar jag nu ännu ett mästerverk", "Allt som är vackert blir nu fult" ("This is how I create another masterpiece". "Everything that's beautiful now becomes ugly"). Twisted and unpleasant to say the least.

The intrumental part of the music is varied. The album features both faster parts, crushingly heavy yet groove oriented parts (the main riff in "Han Som Hatar Människan" ("He Who Hates Humans"), is a classic example of the stomping groove that Shining are able to produce) and mellower acoustic sections, which usually feature a haunting or melancholic atmosphere. The guitar solos on the album are a real treat. It´s not that the guitar solos on previous releases have been bad. Actually far from it. But the solos on "Redefining Darkness" are a step up for the band. Of course I would have expected no less from especially Andy LaRocque.

Out of the six tracks on the album, it´s only the instrumental piano dominated "Det Stora Grå" ("The Great Grey"), which isn´t that great. On the other hand it does work as an atmospheric intro to the closing track "For the God Below", so it does serve a purpose on the album. "Redefining Darkness" is overall a very strong release by Shining. This could make a great entry for new fans but it´s certainly a worthy addition to the collection of the existing fans too. It´s not that "Redefining Darkness" is vastly different from the rest of the post-2004 material by the band, but the band incorporate enough new ideas to the music to keep it fresh sounding and exiting. A good example are the saxophone parts in "The Ghastly Silence". A 4 - 4.5 star (85%) rating is well deserved.

Report this review (#894310)
Posted Wednesday, January 16, 2013 | Review Permalink
4 stars After the short cover EP "Lots Of Girls Gonna Get Hurt", the controversial Swedish depressive black metal band Shining around front man, vocalist, keyboarder and guitar player Niklas Kvarforth is back for good with an eight full length record in only twelve years.

I haven't been a big follower of the band but I wanted to try them out for quite a while and I'm very positively surprised with this release that surely motivates me enough to check out further parts of their discography. The band is in fact much more epic and especially melodic than I expected. Harsher parts with unchained and fascinatingly unique vocals, sharp riffs and heavy drumming are as present as psychedelic with atmospheric keyboard sounds, chilling acoustic guitar passages and dreamy clean vocals that give the whole thing a very progressive touch. In these passages, the band is quite close to bands such as Anathema, Katatonia or Opeth. There is only one difference: Shining happens to be better than any of the talented other three bands. The band sounds very pure in its emotions, the song writing perfectly plays with contrasts and the tracks vary enough to never get boring.

A few years ago, I would have been discouraged by the quite brutal opener "Du, Mitt Konstverk" but as time went by, I began to understand what I would call the essence of black metal and find the bleak atmosphere authentic, extreme and profound. It's definitely one of the most diversified genres in the entire metal universe but it takes some time to get into this kind of music. Even this beast of an opener has though a melodic break in its second half that calms you down, puts you in a melancholic mood and plays with contrasts. On the other side, the closing "For The God Below" is probably one of the most epic and melodic tracks the band has ever written as far as I've heard and should also please to fans of other genres such as gothic or progressive metal for example. The acoustic guitar harmonies, the variable vocals and the great guitar effects and solos are simply touching and also technically very well executed. This track is by far one of the best songs of the year and any open minded metal maniac should try this out at all costs.

In the end, Shining deliver one of the most emotional and varied releases of the year and have won a new fan in me. There have been many amazing records out this year but this album is clearly among the twenty best albums and I feel that it may still grow on me. Those who like extreme emotions and imaginative music filled with contrasts should try this band out despite its controversial image. Madness and genius are quite close and even though Niklas Kvarforth might be very eccentric, what he delivers here can be called a true little masterpiece despite its short length and a few less convincing passages in the tracks of the record's middle part.

Originally published on the Metal Archives on November 5th of the year 2012

Report this review (#896727)
Posted Sunday, January 20, 2013 | Review Permalink
Warthur
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars I first heard of Shining and Niklas Kvarforth by reading accounts of the ludicrous "Ghoul" stunt perpetrated by the band a while back, but at least they seem to have decent music backing up these stunts. Aside from an obligatory black metal denunciation of Christianity in the final track, For the God Below, the album finds Niklas singing (screaming, roaring, growling, ranting) about depression, suicide, and murder in disturbingly frank terms, backed by dark and dirty black metal thunder from his bandmates. None other than Andy LaRoque - yes, King Diamond's Andy LaRoque - steps in to provide a guest performance, along with a range of other guests, and if the performances occasionally seem to lean in surprisingly commercial directions for a band with Shining's forbidding reputation, this is never so blatant as to disrupt the aesthetic they're going for. An interesting effort which makes me want to plumb the depths of Shining further.
Report this review (#1590068)
Posted Saturday, July 23, 2016 | Review Permalink

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