SHINING - X - Varg utan flock
Season of Mist
I must admit that I stopped listening to SHINING a long time ago. The last release of their's I have is 2011's VII: Född förlorare. A decent release for sure but it was at that point the band or moreover mainman Niklas Kvarforth was moving on in life. The music lost some of the bite of his early work. Which is kind of a twist coming from a guy who started his career in black metal promoting suicide and the depressive side of the genre.
I got into SHINING by mere chance years ago. I was in a local music store thumbing through the used CD section when I spotted a CD with a black & white cover photo of a woman holding a gun in her mouth. I didn't bother looking at the dink any further. I just put it in the stack to buy. It wasn't until I got home, looked at it and was introduced to SHINING by way of their fifth full length, Halmstad. I became a fan instantly and picked up some older releases and new ones as they came out.
What made SHINING such a compelling act to listen to was their redefining of the depressive black metal sub-genre. Musically it's more theatrical in sound structures and obviously in production values. Niklas Kvarforth doesn't write songs. He sculptures diverse and intricate compositions. Now although black metal is the basic canvas he uses, the masterpiece is made with a variety of music styles. Now like I said earlier I haven't listened to any newer SHINING releases over the past few years. But I have read about em from people in the music media I trust. So it seems I haven't missed out. (Yeah that's right, while I wasn't writing I did read other people's work.)
So on this SHINING's tenth full length after just one listen I was happy. Varg utan flock is not a return to the past but it's definitely a return to form which I talked about earlier and made the music unique. First off Kvarforth's vocals on here are close to being the best he's ever done. He really does sound like some depressive Swedish blues crooner especially on the intertwined acoustic guitar passages. At other moments he adds the violent screams and painful shrieks letting you know this ain't the blues.
Aside from all of that, musically there's plenty of traditional black metal with some added thrash parts and dare I say industrial influence that creeps in on a cut or two. Also plenty of acoustic folk pieces accompanying most of the cuts, six as always, on here. There's one piano instrumental which to me is a throwaway track. But overall like past works this is something you listen to late at night and allow the musical vibe to overtake you.
The final cut "Mot Aokigahara" is probably my favorite track on here. It starts out tranquil then kicks into blackened thrash mode for a bit only to end in a majestic power metal melody. Much of this release reminded me of years ago when I first played Halmstad. Chalk it up to not listening to their last few albums.