Shining // Redefining Darkness
Rating: 2.5/5.0 — Besvikelsens dystra monotoni…
Label: Spinefarm
Release Dates: EU: 2012.10.29 | NA: No announced date (?)

Shining - Redefining DarknessShining has been a consistent favorite of mine since I discovered the band. Since V:/Halmstad: Niklas angående Niklas I have reviewed every one of their records and have witnessed a change in the band that I think is hard to ignore. Starting with V, the band has continued an Opethian evolution away from the raw, gut-wrenching emotional black metal into something less raw, more catchy and proggy (Marillion prog not Dream Theater prog). Having now dropped the numbers and donned instead an English title, (what would have been VIII) Redefining Darkness continues the band’s evolution away from its gut-wrenching roots. Were we looking for a redefinition? After the mighty VII: Född förlorare I sure wasn’t.

Redefining Darkness, similar to volumes III: Angst and IV: The Eerie Cold, is made up of three songs in English and 2.5 songs in Swedish and clocks in at a paltry 41 minutes. Having relegated all the band’s recent covers (including Katatonia and Swedish pop stars Kent) to the ridiculously ESL named Lots of Girls Gonna Get Hurt, the record consists of all originals for the first time since Halmstad. From an audial perspective Redefining Darkness isn’t much of a redefinition at all. The same chunky riffs and acoustic work that have peppered Shining‘s modern work are still here; the feeling is largely the same, the songwriting doesn’t differ seriously much, except that the record is consistently less heavy across the board – launching further and further into Opeth territory with the acoustic work, there’s even a part at about 1:10 in “Hail Darkness Hail” that sounds just like Mikael Åkerfeldt singing backup vocals. It’s uncanny.

Shining - 2012Still, it’s hard to argue with Shining when Kvarforth is doing what he does best and “Du, mitt konstverk” starts off Redefining Darkness with a blast and a tortured scream. A minute and a half later, starts the trademark mid-paced riff, picking up right where Född förlorare left off, really. This track tops off with one of Kvarforth’s less impressive acoustic parts, but a vocal part that has been stuck in my head since I first heard it (“Snälla, snälla, snälla, snälla…”) and bassist Christian Larsson’s standout melodic bass is totally perfect. “Han som hatar människan” starts off with another chunky Halmstad riff and Kvarforth’s “Huah!” (think “Förtvivlan, min arvedel”) that he likes to throw in at the beginning of tracks for emphasis. The song has some nasty, sticky riffs but also plenty of acoustic work and a saxophone solo which evoked Ulver‘s Perdition City. 

What’s weird about this record is how much of it is spent in acoustic or alternative rock territory, though. Surprisingly large swaths of it are acoustic and/or extraordinarily melodic, pushing what once was black metal further away from the center. “The Ghastly Silence,” for example, has more in common with Kent than anything Shining has really recorded before, and “Det stora grå” is just a piano interlude. This creates a very calm atmosphere on the record, where pain and self-hatred seem to have taken a backseat to evil – almost reaching back to the themes of traditional black metal instead of focusing on the modern, disgusting and soul crushing nature of post-modernity, as has been the pattern up to now. It’s a little jarring; particularly given that Kvarforth’s English is not nearly as skilled at wandering the melodramatic line without crossing into the silly as his Swedish is.

While all the pieces are in place and there are a couple of standout tracks, this is probably my least favorite Shining record to date. While VI was marred with Van Halen guitar solos over depressive black metal – there was still something raw and bestial about it. Redefining Darkness, on the other hand, continues Född förlorare‘s less extreme feel without the songwriting that made that record one of my favorites of 2011. If good art moves you, regardless of the feeling it evokes, then Shining‘s currency has been hitting that emotional sore spot that so few metal bands ever get anywhere near. Redefining Darkness sets that back and I just fail to be moved by this record. It is the emotional weight and power that Shining brought to the table that made the band so consistently good, but don’t look for that here.

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  • Juular

    I thoroughly enjoyed this record, for the most part. I’m not a fan of the opethian feel of some of the tracks — I knew the exact vocal line you were talking about when you mentioned akerfeldt — but as a whole I think its a really sophisticated take on his music. The acoustic parts aren’t that phenomenal but I think they carry enough emotional weight to make them enjoyable.

    I will point out that I too love all of Shining’s records. First heard halmstad a few years ago and I’ve just been eating this music up ever since, but I disagree with your last point. I still believe that the music at hand has a shit ton of emotional weight, its just not the same kind of emotion as before. While this album is a bit cheesy, I think every song has enough power in its execution to warrant a high score.

    Nice review though. Wasn’t aware that you reviewed any of the previous albums. Reading through them now.

  • KingKuranes

    “While VI was marred with Van Halen guitar solos over depressive black metal”… I happened to think that was awesome :)

  • Shining is one of my favourite bands – im really glad i heard the album before i read this because it would have crushed all my hopes, and i had many, i had been waiting for this for months. i really enjoyed it myself, shining have evolved but their sound is still easily recognizable. i adore their production. Opeth is another band i love so its hardly a surprise.

    • Me too; it can be that I’m just not feeling this record and others will (see: Facebook discussion). But they’ve pretty much lost me at this point. Not sure what more can be done to fix it.

      • There is the risk that maybe they strayed way too far from where they started off and their next album will be too bold a move. So far I still enjoy every album, but it will be interesting to see where they go for the next one, especially considering the fact that they hyped this up as the blackest of their recent releases before it actually came out. I bet nobody agrees with that now, I still dig it though.

  • “Opethian” is officially my new favorite word!!

  • 2.5/5.0? i´m not agree with you

  • cathedralavenue

    This was a thoughtful review, and I like it for that fact. And I wish I had something substantive to say in disagreement, but all I can muster is that I enjoy it from start to finish, and I think it’s their best to date. I don’t feel that it’s any less emotional, and viva Peter Huss solos!

  • AugustHolderlin

    A great album although in my opinion not as good as Halmstad. Still, it’s so much better than so many releases out there under the black metal tag nowadays. But the title is a little misleading.

  • Aziz Harrington

    I hear more of an Ihsahn influence. Could be the fretless bass & sax though…