I’d start like I knew who this band was 3 days ago, but that would be a lie. You’d think that a band like these guys, i.e., “suicide black metal” with all the lyrics in Swedish wouldn’t have passed under my radar. Unfortunately, my radar is all muddled with other things these days and I never really pay as much attention as I should. So, forgive me my surprise when I discovered this band which is on their 5th album and apparently commands some respect among the “avant garde black metal” guys. With most of Scandinavian black metal pretty much pushed underground, made a joke of or, worse, now techno, it’s terribly refreshing to hear a band with interesting ideas, raw sound and some serious misanthropy that permeates every chord on this excellently written album.
V / Halmstad is a dirgey amalgamation of plenty of different aspects of black metal, ranging from the near doom feel of Xasthur-like passages, to the acoustic work that is reminiscent of Bergtatt/Nattens Madrigal era Ulver. The vocals are harsh but not your traditional high-pitched Emperor or Darkthrone style black metal vocals. Ranging between gut-wrenching screams and some almost thrash-like clean vocals (that make few appearances) Shining manages to get across the deepest of emotional angst, stress and depression using dynamics to their advantage unlike many black metal bands who are so obsessed with kvlt extremity that they forget that black metal is about being evil and anti-human, not necessarily a satanic noise-fest.
V / Halmstad is also a very well produced record for the sound. While not polished to an overpriced shine like so many modern metal records (of which Dimmu Borgir may well be the biggest offenders in the scene), it’s obvious that they spent enough time to get the correct ambiance. This means well-recorded acoustics, great guitar tone and vocals that aren’t overdone with ridiculous amounts of reverb so that the vocalist doesn’t sound like he should be yelling “Briiiiing meeee the tooooooilet paaaaaaaaaaperrrrr!” from the bathroom down the hall. In fact, in terms of production and ambiance, it’s actually quite similar to My Arms, Your Hearse by Opeth; which suits the album perfectly.
All told Shining have put together a record that, in my book, will definitely compete for one of the best albums of the year. It’s well-written, cohesive and nearly seamless. You zone into it and before you know it the whole thing is over and you want another listen. The dynamics of the record and the excellent song writing really pull the whole thing together and definitely will put it up for contention against such powerhouse records of the year like Hävitetty by Moonsorrow and Finntroll‘s excellent new record Ur Jordens Djup.