Those familiar with the Black Metal scene have most likely heard of the band Shining, in addition the name Niklas Kvarforth will definitely turn a head or two. For well over a decade Kvarforth has set out to deliver his messages of depravity, depression, and everything else that could be associated with feelings of sadness, and anger. Shining has quite the discography under their belt and with the release of their tenth album Varg Utan Flock (Wolf Without a Pack) Niklas has proven once again that pain in it’s various forms can be beautiful when paired with the melodic and haunting atmospheres of Black Metal.
What set’s Shining apart from other Extreme Metal acts is the sheer emotion that is channeled within every song, every vocal line, and every wail of the melancholic guitar work. Varg Utan Flock sees Shining’s return to a more classic sound one that is reminiscent of their fifth album Halmstad. Not to make comparisons but there are a lot of similar qualities and this is not a negative at all on fact it is a fresh encounter with an old friend in a familiar environment. The past two albums saw Shining shift into somewhat of a different direction than previous works so the stakes were set high for album ten.
Varg Utan Flock does not disappoint and with each listen it becomes even more enjoyable than the last. The opening track Svart Ostappbar Eld (Black Unstable Fire) is straight in your face riffage mingled with the unstable wails of Kvarforth. Upon first listen this was sure to be one hell of a ride, and only an intro to the struggle of the next track and one of the strongest Gyllene Portarnas Bro (Golden Gate Bridge). Layered with melodic passages on top of pained vocal lines and a fast paced Black Metal hook. Touching upon the vocals, Niklas has a way of weaving a story even if Swedish is not the native language. Everything from raspy cleans to the sheer evil sounding shrieks that will send chills down the spine and evoke the very demons that are so prominent in the lyrics and music. The track Mok Aokigahara is an epic journey and being the longest song is all encompassing as it combines every aspect of the band’s sound.
All in all Varg Utan Flock is a great album and one that will resignate within. New fans and old will find something special here. I know for myself Shining has once again lit that spark within me and made me remember why I fell in love with this band in the first place. Well done Shining well done. And thank you Season of Mist for continuing to be a powerhouse of a label!