Saturday, 17 October 2009

Shining - Klagopsalmer. 86/100.

And so begins a new long running debate about the latest Shining effort, ‘Klagopsalmer’. During my review for the third Shining record, I mentioned the fact that Shining were a different band before they broke-up in 2004. Although this is only a reported split, and that nothing has been officially confirmed, it does seem to make sense given the fact that the bands style drastically altered on the fourth record, entitled ‘The Eerie Cold’. The band some how managed to become darker, but in a more subtle sinister way, as opposed to the early stages of their career when Kvarforth and the gang were up-front-and-honest about the way they felt. A lot of the previous material, especially in regards to the third opus, is a bit too one-dimensional for my liking. So when ‘The Eerie Cold’ strode in on its stylish black stallion, the band had a similar message, but a new way of telling the story that glorified depression and a maniacal sense of the self. In relation to the debate I briefly spoke of at the beginning of this review, the Swedes have already managed to draw out the doubters despite the fact that the new record has only been out for a short period of time.

The complaint is that Shining has focused solely on the same sound that ‘Halmstad’ explored with a bright and vivid imagination. As I understand, it wouldn’t be as much of a problem if the material present here didn’t sound as it if had been directly recycled from the bin that the material Shining themselves didn’t consider good enough to be present on the innovative ‘Halmstad’ on here. That’s right - Shining haven’t offered us much new material to speak of. A lot of it sounds like it could have competed for a place on the sublime ‘Halmstad’. There are, of course, a few minor changes that offer us more questions than answers as to what the future of this epic black metal band holds. For example, the briefly introduced clean vocals on songs like the pleasant ‘Plågoande O'Helga Plågoande’, which is most certainly the pinnacle moment of this oddity. The debate ensues as to whether these minor changes are positive or negative. Undoubtedly, the minor alterations in the production and negative, almost so much so that my own personal opinion of this piece is damaged significantly by the lacklustre production that surrounds the experimental instrumentation.

Don’t expect the clean as a whistle approach on ‘Halmstad’, the production has altered in a subtle way, giving the sound a dirtier and grimier feel to it than previously entertained on the delightful ‘Halmstad’, which has definitely set the bar as high as humanly possible. Whether Shining will be able to conquer those heights in the future is uncertain. I feel the band is capable of it, but if they do not achieve this goal that has been set upon them by the possibly irrational fans, myself included, then the future will look bleak like an English summer which consists of overcast skies and rain, plenty of rain. ‘Halmstad’ is currently viewed as the epitome of Shining records, the shining light, if you’ll excuse the unintended pun, in the dark corner of that is the Shining discography. Its themes, which were old favourites, were explored with a brighter touch, a mature eye and a gentle caress, rather than the heavy handed approach the band might have taken in previous years, with the first three records. Since the band split-up in 2004, they have taken more time at creating records, generally two years of rest and thought goes into the making of a new Shining record and previously, with ‘The Eerie Cold’ and ‘Halmstad’, the band benefited drastically from the longer intermission.

However, the debate over whether the band has run its course will now be ignited due to the fact that they have struggled on ‘Klagopsalmer’ to bring any new, outstanding ideas to the table. Or, at least, one’s that won’t be rejected by a confused listener - dare I mention the guitar shredding at this stage? Sometimes, a little too much experimentation can cause unpopular irritations amongst certain sections of fans. Personally, I don’t mind the shredding, as its referred to. I’m not used to it, what with being a fan of simplistic techniques and methods, but Shining are definitely a band with a number of capable musicians, as songs like the surreal ‘Fullständigt Jävla Död Inuti’ prove with its inspiring clean vocals from Kvarforth and the exceptional bass play. The guitars, as usual on this record, are impacting, but not always in a positive fashion. The confusing mesh of old and new styles doesn’t comfort me as much as it did on the iconic ‘Halmstad’, but I can’t help feeling as if the band are trying too hard to revisit the heights of previous days by simply substituting good sense for a serious of haphazard instrumental mistakes in the form of over-complications and experimental nuisances.

Of course, it isn’t all doom and gloom on the new front. Kvarforth’s emotional vocals actually work well, on occasions, with the bass and guitars, allowing the guitars to add a rather over-sentimental value to his emotional offerings with progressive solos, as shown on ‘Fullständigt Jävla Död Inuti’. Where I stand in the debate over whether this is merely recycled material or not is unclear as of yet. I have listened to this record a number of times now, it has digested, but I still cannot grasp my emotional take on the instrumentation. Whilst the acoustic instrumental song shows a wonderfully dark, dreary and depressed side of the bands musicians, the over-complications don’t suit the production style. Having said all this, I do consider ‘Klagopsalmer’ my second, perhaps third favourite offering. Mixed messages and a lot of odd additions make up most of this confusing record, but it generally is enjoyable for what its worth, though the production does hamper my opinion and the mood of the content.

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