29 October 2012
by David Keevill
Redefining Darkness is an incredibly misleading album title. It screams of try-hard impotence and angsty but flaccid cock-surety. Even from a band who are on the dawn of releasing their eighth studio album, as Shining are, there is something unconvincing in a name that boasts its obscurity, especially against the increasingly toothless backdrop of a genre like black metal can sometimes seem like in these over-saturated times.
But then again, Shining have always toyed with their audiences’ expectations. Niklas Kvarforth’s creative output has been a vehicle for his undulating emotional state since day one, and Shining’s music has constantly resembled an outpouring of apparent self-loathing that has seethed with its master’s desperation. With a name that’s hardly on the subtle side, is Redefining Darkness an indication that Kvarforth has lost the conviction that has previously driven Shining to unfathomable depths?
Shining’s eighth full-length is a ragged and festering gem of a record that once again puts the band into a class of their own. Shining might retain blackened roots, but Redefining Darkness is a beast of many, many backs; for every blast beat and grinding riff, there is an atmospheric passage that nods to the likes of Katatonia or Opeth and solos so sharp and unexpected that they slice tracks apart.
Songs like ‘Hail Darkness Hail’ sparkle with flamenco guitar flourishes and yet are burdened with Kvarforth’s wretched lyrics as he laments “without you, there’s no light at the end of the tunnel”. Lyrically, Redefining Darkness may stick closely to Kvarforth’s feelings of detachment from everything temporal, but the music leaves the listener in a constant thrall; the swirling plucked opener of ‘The Ghastly Silence’ evokes John Murphy’s magnificent score on 28 Days Later, creating an almost ethereal quality before the emotional growls of Kvarforth smashes the track back down to earth. The ensuing chorus sees clean vocals leaping out of a mesmerising miasma and showcase how far this band wandered from the likes of their contemporaneous black metal ilk.
Niklas Kvarforth on a toilet. Just because:
Redefining Darkness sees Shining once again turning unimaginable desperation into something that you may not be able to feel, but is so close that you almost suffocate on it. This isn’t achieved through abject malevolence or smothering, dense musicianship, but instead through painting the emotions of a man veering to either end of the emotional spectrum. It’s an album that is occasionally sickening, and always challenging, but truly the work of a band who understand the best music is grown out of the most volatile of emotions.
Sounds Like: the hush of the crowd before the stool is kicked away.
Standout Tracks: The Ghastly Silence, For the Gods Below.