Shining is perhaps one of the most outrageous black metal bands out there. Mostly due to the Shining front-man Niklas Kvaforth’s out-there persona and his notion that everyone should kill themselves. Needless to say, Niklas is a figure that truly stands out among the crowd of endless corpse-paint worshippers, not only for his bizarre on-stage antics (mainly involving self-harm) but also because of his charisma despite coming of as a complete lunatic. Nevertheless, Niklas has shown his genius through Shining, with such depressive black metal masterpieces like Halmstad and Född förlorare. Varg Utan Flock is not quite up to the level of those works of art, but it’s definitely a triumphant return to the signature Shining sound.
The album begins ‘Svart Ostoppbar Eld’, a roaring introduction that proves Shining still has the capability to produce genuinely pain-fuelled music. The fast-pace drumming and agonizing vocal work present here provide a threatening and haunting atmosphere. Halfway through the song, acoustics kick in and the vocals are reduced to a groaning whisper, before a return to the heavy guitar and screams of agony. This track really sets the tone for the rest of the album. It is an unforgiving, beautiful mess that only Niklas Kvaforth is capable of producing.
‘Gyllene Portarnas Bro’ is perhaps one of the more catchy songs on the album. The winding riff at the beginning of the album is absolutely hypnotizing and definitely makes the song very memorable. It’s more sorrowful than angry this time around. The rough vocals aren’t really present here, until they burst your ear drums near the end of the song. They’re incredibly destructive and are a constant reminder that you’re never safe from their wrath.
‘Jag är din fiende’ is perhaps the most traditional black metal sounding song on the album. It’s a mid-paced affair that doesn’t really add anything super special to the mix. It’s one of the songs where Niklas shows off his almost black metal crooner-like vocals. The howling guitar solo in the middle of the song is pretty spectacular, adding some spice to an otherwise overall bleak, depressive album. I have to say that the spoken vocals near the end of the song are a nice touch. They start soft, but get increasingly more and more depraved as the song goes on. It’s always great when a vocalist can perform soft and rough vocals incredibly well.
‘Han som lurar inom’ is a song that is absolutely ridden with anxiety and tortuous vocals. The fast-paced, urgent drumming and threatening background guitar riff has an air of anxiety and uneasiness that is present throughout the whole song. The bass really makes itself known on this track, it’s incredibly chunky and adds a sort of depth to the music. The ghostly acoustic section at the end of Han som lurar Inom reminds me of a misty forest where the wind never stop blowing and you can almost hear the restless spirits that are never at peace, before it ravages you again with the anxious guitar riffing again.
‘Tolvtusenfyrtioett’ really minds me of ‘Åttiosextusenfyrahundra’ from Halmstad. It’s a piano piece that serves as an intermission of sorts. It serves as a calm respite from the chaos you have just endured, but then it throws you back in with ‘Mot aokigahara’. The majority of this track is actually quite tame compared to the rest of the album, until you hit the 6 and half minute mark that it is. While I must say the acoustic parts of this song are quite mellow and beautiful in a certain way, Niklas ferocity and unmatched anger on the latter parts of Mot aokigahara serve as an awesome finisher to a ripper of an album.
While Varg Utan Flock isn’t quite Halmstad, it’s definitely good enough that it stands out from the crowd. Some comparisons can be made to Halmstad, but it overall it is not as good. Nevertheless, Shining prove that they are still in the game, providing misery to all who wish to seek it. Come all ye that seek depression and depravity, for you will find it here.