Shining‘s new album, VII / Född Förlorare (“born loser” in English) is one of the most musically varied, beautifully written, and superbly executed albums I’ve heard this year. It also may be the most surprising.
Maybe I wouldn’t have been so surprised if I’d been more familiar with the band’s previous releases, but I came to the album as a Shining newbie, never having heard any of the earlier music. What I had in my head before listening were bits and pieces of things I’d heard or read over the years — that the band played a mix of black metal and doom, that the lyrics promoted suicide and other forms of self-injury (including drug abuse), that the band’s concerts have turned violent on occasion, and that frontman Niklas Kvarforth mutilates himself on stage. There was also this quote from Kvarforth that I read someplace (the original source is here):
“Of course we support suicide, SHINING support all that is negative in this bastard world of ours. We have had a couple of cases in the past with people whom have ended their lives under the influence or partially under the influence of our work and of course this is a true blessing indeed, yet we pray for increased numbers of fatalities.”
With all that, and a general sense I had that Shining really doesn’t care what anyone thinks of them or their music, I’m not completely sure what I was expecting from the new album, but it wasn’t what I got. What I got was something that defies easy characterization, a mixture of folk music, progressive metal, acoustic ballads, chug-heavy aggression, wonderfully varied vocals, and absolutely blistering guitar solos. The music is rich and often has the feel of something intensely personal. Yes, it’s mostly dark and melancholy, but it didn’t make me feel suicidal at all. (more after the jump . . .)