I came across Shining for the first time while reading Angry Metal Guy’s Best Heavy Metal Songs of All Time back in 2011. Since then Kvarforth and his menagerie of Scandinavian black metal projects and collaborations (Shining, Skitliv, Diabolicum, Den Saakaldte and Bethlehem) have been a constant on my playlist. I’d go so far as to say that, were I to have some kind of guarantee that it would arrive on my sunny shores, I would absolutely order a copy of When Prozac No Longer Helps – hand numbered in Kvarforth’s blood of course!
But I digress, Shining‘s ninth studio release – 8 ½ – Feberdrömmar I Vaket Tillstånd hit the shelves this month via Dark Essence/Karisma Records. And as is becoming their signature off-beat way, Shining have imagined this album as a journey back in time though their II: Livets Ändhållplats and III: Angst eras, but instead of just tossing out a regurgitated re-issue, Shining went to the other extreme and completely re-recorded the album, added some rather eye-catching but somber album art (created by Polish fine artist Michal Pawlowski) finishing off with a few stygian twists.
Each of the six re-imagined, hand-picked tracks is kicked out in their original pre-production form, but includes the vocal brilliancy of big names like Famine (Peste Noire), Attila Csihar (Mayhem and Tormentor), Gaahl (God Seed, Wardruna and ex-Gorgoroth), Maniac (Skitliv and ex-Mayhem) and lesser known to myself, Pehr Larsson (Alfahanne). And of course, wrapping up this vocal debauchery, there’s Kvarforth himself balanced atop a backbone of newly recorded bass and guitars, with the added evil-minded keyboard genius of Lars Fredrik Fröislie (his work previously only seeing the light from VI: Klagopsalmer onward).
Your dark journey kicks off with “Terres Des Anonymes.” The track weaves along melodically, slowly engulfing you in distinctly modernized, yet still pleasantly low-fi, hypnotic black metal with the high-point being the inclusion of Famine’s maniacal, quirky vocal style. While I love his vocals on Peste Noire, I’m sad to say they fall just short of oozing mischievousness from every orifice [That’s a good thing, I think — Steel Druhm]. This same trudging pace and hypnotism continues on though “Szabadulj Meg Önmagatól” and it’s only Attila Csihar’s hefty croak reminiscent of his brief stint on De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas that staves off the sleepy sense of having been though this before.
“Ett Liv Utan Mening” and “Selvdestruktivitetens Emissarie” kick things up a notch and both tracks feature Shining‘s signature aggressively honest, almost-ballad-like guitar pickings and Fröislie’s keys that combine to aggressively channel oppression and angst. The pinnacle of suffering is reached with Maniac and Kvarforth’s respective deliveries on “Black Industrial Misery” and “Through Corridors Of Oppression.” While Kvarforth’s vocals are given plenty of room to be at their most dispiriting, Maniac’s vocals are too pulled back and only featured for brief instances. Despite these sins, expect to be battered, beaten and bruised by each and every overbearing scream torn from the back of his throat.
Outside of the vocal highlights I mentioned earlier and despite all the effort Shining put into improving the production on 8 ½ – Feberdrömmar I Vaket Tillstånd, bringing it in line with V: Halmstad, VI: Klagopsalmer and VII: Född Förlorare, this album doesn’t have the same impact as these aforementioned releases. It’s too much wishy-washy, atmospheric meander and not enough cutting and slicing.