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Album Reviews : Shining – X: Varg Utan Flock

By on December 22, 2017

Music for many artists/bands can often be seen as an extension of their emotions and with the music that Sweden’s Shining play that has always been the case since their formation in 1996. This is the tenth studio album in the band’s history and shows no signs of letting go of their brand of suicidal black metal. However, like many of the band’s previous releases, it goes into areas where many DSBM bands would not dare proceed (i.e. classical and jazz).

The album is opened with some mid-paced thrash orientated riffing thanks to the twin guitar work of Euge Valovirta and Peter Huss. The eerie sounding guitar tone is what Shining have moulded into their sound over the years and with the angst, in Niklas Kvarforth’s vocals, it creates an atmosphere few bands can match. The second track on the album Gyllene Portanas Bro enters with a sequence which could easily be seen in a multitude of today’s post-black metal bands while slowed down into an acoustic section. These are those moments on Shining records which bring fourth’s Niklas Kvarforth’s whispering vocals in his native Swedish tongue before it unleashes itself again into a realm of never-ending rage.

Jag Ar Din Fiende the third track on the album has a collection of those atmospheric mid-paced riffs so often used in black metal bands and normally great in the live setting when getting the audience going. This track also features a guest solo by King Diamond shredder, Andy La Rocque who is a part owner of the studio where ‘Varg Utan Flock’ was recorded. He also assisted in the mixing and mastering process which can only be a good thing given his experience in metal for over 30 years. The subtlety of Jarle Byberg’s drumming definitely comes to play on the album, but in this track, it works perfectly and complements the guitar playing superbly. Har Som Lurar Inom the next track builds itself up before speeding up frantically and incorporates a splice of dissonance which always works well in the realm of extreme metal. This is the track where bassist Marcus Hammarstorm really gets to showcase his abilities. At the midway point of the song, the tempo drops right down where the bass plays. It’s prominent role and Niklas Kvarforth steps in yet again with his trademark spoken word. The fifth track on the record is a solo piece of music written by guest pianist Olli Ahvenlahti and may seem out of place on a lot of records by extreme metal bands, but with this band, it fits in so well and adds to the charm of the album.

The last track on the album is Mot Aokigahara and proceeds with a soothing passage of acoustic guitar coupled with the throaty cleans of Niklas Kvarforth. This gives way to a truly emotional and tasteful guitar solo in which the band’s discography is littered with. The sombre mood continues until all hell is unleashed and finally finishes with some epic lead guitar on the conclusion of the album.

‘Varg Utan Flock’ is 6 tracks and has a length of about 40 minutes. Numerous fine guitar solos, exquisite tempo changes and the emotional angst of vocalist Niklas Kvarforth are this record summed up. Quite often the best art can be found from the most troubled of sources and this no exception with Niklas Kvarforth creating another fine record. The incorporation of outside influences into the band’s music has only aided them in gaining a larger fan base and thus will be the case with this album.

Band: Shining
Album: Varg Utan Flock
Year: 2017
Genre: Black Metal
Label:  Season Of Mist
Origin: Sweden