[21 March 2010]
PopMatters Contributing Editor
Niklas “Kvarforth” Olsson might be a miserable sod (after all, his last album featured a cover photo of a man with a gun in his mouth), but for all the doom and gloom that hangs over Shining, they’ve turned into one of the more adventurous bands to come out of the Swedish black metal scene. In fact, you’d be hard-pressed to call these guys black metal at all these days. Like Norway’s Enslaved and Satyricon, Shining (not to be confused with the Norwegian band of the same name) has taken to streamlining their sound as of late, displaying a strong predilection towards progressive rock, and although cultists might cringe at the notion, by separating themselves from all the other formulaic bands in that grim genre they’ve turned into something a lot more exciting, an extreme metal band completely unafraid to try interesting new ideas.
Instead of continuing right where 2007’s excellent V: Halmstad left off, VI: Klagopsalmer is a distinct change of pace. Traces of Shining’s black metal foundation remain, mostly in the atmospheric fog of the rhythm guitars from time to time, but it’s more about clarity this time around, the straightforward riffs often traditional heavy metal and even (gasp!) rock-oriented, the guitar solos by Fredric Gråby and Peter Huss restrained and expressive, Olsson’s keyboards so tastefully composed you’d swear the late Richard Wright was sitting in. Of course, those depressive elements are as prominent as ever (standout track “Fullständigt Jävla Död Inuti” translates as, “completely fucking dead inside”) and the charismatic Olsson turns in his usual tormented vocal performance, but it’s not long until raw anguish is supplanted by reserved melancholy, building up to the gorgeous 16-minute epic “Total Utfrysning”.