Sunday, 24 May 2015

Documenting The Desert Sound - An Interview with Joerg Steineck - Director of LO SOUND DESERT

Sometimes realizing or finishing your dream project can take a lifetime to complete. Or at least a huge part of your life. Take the forthcoming documentary – Lo Sound Desert – as an example. We've seen the amazing trailers over the last four years or so. It's a documentary that promises to tell the story of the legendary Desert Rock/Stoner Rock scene that we all love and admire.


The hugely talented individual behind this project – Joerg Steineck – is finally ready to unleash Lo Sound Desert upon to the world. However he needs one final push to give this project the impact that it truly deserves. Joerg has launched a Crowd-Funding Project to raise €9500 to put the finishing touches to this movie that all Stoner Rock fans should see.

Joerg is no stranger to Stoner Rock Documentaries or Fuzzomentary should I say. As he also directed the brilliant Truckfighters Fuzzomentary – which is one of my fave music documentaries sorry Fuzzomentary of recent years.

I've was given the chance to interview Joerg recently and here's what went down. So put some of your favourite Stoner Rock tunes on. Light a bong and drop out.

1. Hi Joerg. Thanks for doing this interview. How are things with you today?

Sure, I'm fine- thanks for having me!

2. We are here to talk about your latest film and your potential labour of love – Lo Sound Desert. Can you tell our readers what the film is about?

This labor of love (and the opposite) tells the story of two generations of the original desert punk and rock scene in California, more specifically of the Coachella Valley.

It's about punk rock kids who were forced by the narrow-minded authorities of their communities to retreat to the wastelands to be able to do what kids are supposed to - make loud music and have parties. Eventually the fast punk rock music changed due to intense jamming and became more laid back and extended. This led to what people nowadays call desert rock.

3. When did you get the idea to make the movie? What influenced you to do a film on the Desert/Stoner Rock scene?

I was studying film in San Diego and while searching for projects, hooked up with some desert guys, Arthur and Mike from Unida. They were looking for someone to shoot a music video for their new band House Of Broken Promises.

A few years earlier I had discovered a band named Kyuss that had stimulated my visual imagination on how this region may look like… just by the way they sounded. When I came there I was surprised that this picture actually didn't change. It was just more beautiful and colorful than expected. - Speaking of nature and music: the diversity of music styles was the actual element of surprise. But I guess the natural beauty of the desert got me from there on as well, and this whole idea about a feature documentary began to evolve.


4. Did you expect that when you started doing this movie back in 2006 you would be doing this 9 years later?

Of course not. And I'm not sure if I would do it again, because sometimes it felt like running against walls.

5. Why has the film taken so long to be released as I saw a trailer for the movie back in 2010 or so?

In the beginning it was pretty tough to find the right people with the most original stories and their most original footage, which is important for documenting such a unique scene. That may have changed a bit now, after that … call it "desert rock boom" that evolved over the last years, and people became more open minded to being exposed. But I think maybe there was a tendency for people from the desert to keep good stuff tucked away, because it was just a big part of the music culture: they had to hide their goods from the authorities - their music. And a perfect place to hide things is in the desert itself. So as an outsider it took me a while to get a look behind the facades. I needed a few years for that. But I think it was worth to dig that deep.

Another problem was the financing - I had two little rendezvous with media/film companies which wanted to make the film more commercial than I had in mind, so I kept funding it myself with some exceptions (the funding campaign in 2011 - which allowed me to finish shootings in California, and the campaign running at the moment).

Also- if there's only a minimum budget involved then it is a slow and painful process to deal with major companies: this can take a while, and it obviously did.

6. Has the film been a struggle to complete at times? Did you ever feel like abandoning it? Or was the desire to get if finished as it’s a story worth telling?

Exactly that. There were a lot of setbacks, and sometimes I really was ready to abandon the whole project, but then again - I always felt this - this is a story that needs to be and finally WILL be told. So it's either me or someone else, and after having devoted that much time to it already, it simply wasn't possible for me to give up. And now I'm pretty stoked that I didn't and something like this came out of it.


7. Who were your favourite people to interview? You must have interviewed your musical heroes whilst doing this project.

I don't like stress (-who does?), so even though a guy like Josh Homme was surprisingly laid back and mellow, that interview was a stressful situation for me because everything had to work properly and according to plan (not because he said so but because of the circumstances during his tour and the many people involved).

A more relaxed, private interview atmosphere - with only few people involved and that doesn't feel like a scheduled process is what I prefer. You can dig deeper into the personality of someone when everyone feels comfortable. So I'd say I didn't have favorite people but favorite interview situations. Sitting alone with someone in Joshua Tree National Park and discussing musical backgrounds would be one of the highlights.

8. You have started a crowd-funding project to finish the project. With a set standard of €9500. Been very successful so far. Almost half way there. Was it hard decision to start a crowd funding project?

Unfortunately it wasn't a hard decision as it is the only path to releasing the film - there's no plan B. And I'm not aiming at friends and relatives - I did that already in order to finish the film, so this NEEDS to be realized by the people who want to see it.

9500 might sound like a lot to people not familiar with clearing music rights and everything else important in order to release a film, but it's actually a small sum. I really hope for a surplus to additionally pay for festival fees for example. I didn't know before either, that's probably why I started in the first place...

9. When can people expect to see the film if the crowd-funding project is successful?

Right after a successful campaign and paying the music rights we will send the film out to festivals. We might initiate theater screenings as well, but this also depends on a surplus of the campaign. The general commercial release will take place after this but most likely in winter 2015.


10. You made a film about Truckfighters back in 2011/12. What a fantastic film that was. How did that idea came about.

Thank you, I'm glad you like it. The "Fuzzomentary", as we sillies termed it, is actually a by-product of Lo Sound Desert.

At that point I was completely fed up with the film (having to re-edit it entirely because a main character didn't want to be on board anymore ...luckily (…) later he changed his mind again), and there was this band I had been listening to, and I kind of liked them. So we met at this very small German festival to make an interview for Lo Sound Desert (I was pretty sure I'd never need it for the film, but I told them I would - sorry guys!) and I saw them playing live and for free on a tiny stage in a wooden, fully packed barrack. It was hot, the floor in front of the stage was filled with sand, so after a while the whole room completely filled with dust. I probably had a little desert flashback - and the guys actually killed it!

This was one of the most energetic shows I ever witnessed. You can find parts of it in the film as well. And things went from there.

11. What was that overall experience like filming one of the best Stoner/Fuzz Rock bands on the planet?

See above ;)

12. Did it surprise you how well received the film actually was. As it’s highly thought of within the Stoner Rock/Fuzz community?

I don't really know if it was well received by the majority of people. It's not a typical band documentary. Some people asked me why there isn't more live-stuff in it for example, and I can't really respond satisfyingly to that, because I think there's still too much serious stuff and too little nonsense in it. It certainly has a specific kind of humor that some people may not like, but then again there are a few who really dig this. For these people it is actually made. I can say that for Lo Sound, too- it definitely has its own approach.


13. Once the film is finally finished and released upon to the world. Will you be taking a break or will you be starting on other projects?

Lo Sound Desert has been finished for almost a year now, and I've already dipped into a few other things, like my own music project or a fictional film story I'm working on. Besides that I'm trying to invest more time into illustrating and animating. We'll see. For sure I will not start another documentary on bands anytime soon.

14. Well Joerg, Thanks for doing this interview. I wish you all the best with the film and the rest of the crowd-funding campaign. Before you go – do you have any words of wisdom or advice for someone who is thinking about starting to make a movie on their favourite musical genre or band? Since you’ve done both.

No, this always depends on the situation. Maybe be aware that creative people are not always easy, and if you're trying to make something creative with other people's creativity - that might lead to delicate situations. And if you start something like this, do it the best way you can and FINISH IT.

I want to thank Joerg for doing this interview with ourselves at Sludgelord HQ. You can still donate to the Crowd-Funding Project to see this project finally released.

Words by Steve Howe and Joerg Steineck

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Prehistoric Pigs - Everything Is Good (Album Review)

Everything is Good cover art

Album Type: Album
Date Released: April 26th 2015
Label: The Smoking Goat Records

Everything Is Good - Track Listing:

1.Everything is Good I 08:30
2.Universally Droning 06:52
3.Red Fields 05:13
4.Shut Up, It's Raining Yolks 06:06
5.When The Trip Ends 10:02
6.Hypnodope 09:08
7.Zug 04:03
8.Everything is Good II 07:36

Members

Juri Tirelli – guitar
Jacopo Tirelli – bass
Mattia Piani – drums

Bio:

Prehistoric Pigs are a trio formed by brothers Juri (guitar) and Jacopo Tirelli (bass), and by their cousin Mattia Piani (drums). The band was formed in 2012 as a direct prosecution of the jam sessions that the 3 guys used to have for a lot of years. Prehistoric Pigs play an instrumental stoner rock, with doom, space and psychedelic influences. Their heavy, rough and distorted sound merge with Hendrixian solos, Kyuss style riffs and krautrock melodies. The lysergic and ipnotic atmospheres evoked by their music lead straight to the Californian desert, and then float to the obscurity of Uranus skies and collapse to the deepest bowels of the Earth. Prehistoric Pigs published their first album “Wormhole Generator” in the end of 2012, with Moonlight Records. After a lot of concerts in North Italy, they exported their music abroad playing in festivals and clubs in Slovenia, Germany, Austria and Ireland. In the summer of 2014, a “Split” with the irish band Electric Taurus has been released by Go Down Records. After a series of gigs all over Italy, and subsequently to the deal with The Smoking Goat Records, Prehistoric Pigs are now getting ready for the release of their second full length, expected for the spring of 2015.

Review:

Instrumental rock, be it stoner like the Prehistoric Pigs or proggy like The Bakerton Group, is a tough nut to crack but I have to admit the boys pull it off well with their new disc “Everything is Good.”

Everything is Good I” opens the record. It’s heavy enough to get your attention but not enough to overwhelm. The vibe begins to change mid-song slowing down, moving into classic Pigs trippy soundscapes picking back up again, dropping the axe and turning up the volume. Great way to start the record.

Track two, “Universally Droning,” opens with a Fu Manchu like fuzz chord that leads into a full out wall of heavy sound, the kind of thing you swear you can reach out and touch, it’s that solid, that fierce. There’s a brief interlude of spaced out weirdness that leads you into the storm, churning out a power chord maelstrom guaranteed to knock you out of your chair. And when you think you just can’t take it any longer the Pigs take it down a notch, offering mercy in the form of a Sabbathy, doomy outro to the song.

Red Fields” begins acoustic, quiet, almost reserved leading into another wall of fuzzed out sound that seemingly drops right on your head, going back acoustic as if to prove that there is such a thing as “quiet heaviness,” something I discovered a long time ago with Blue Cheer and Saint Vitus. And then I hear old echoes of Kyuss coming through near the end of the track against an outro of muffled distortion.

Shut up it’s Raining Yolks” immediately becomes the most experimental song of the record. I think it’s safe to say I enjoyed this track the most since it screamed psychedelia to me, evoking images of Paisley prints and Patchouli incense sticks in a style only the Pigs could pull off, somewhere between pre supernova and post lunar landscape.

When the Trip Ends” slows the tempo of the record down, moving back into “quiet heaviness” I mentioned earlier. And it’s a song like this that really makes me appreciate how well how the Prehistoric Pigs have this amazing grasp of what the concept and definition of “heavy” truly means. They get it. They have it figured out. They understand how to create sonic textures, how to create moods and atmospheres and get that across to the listener without the aid of vocals, through music alone. That’s talent, that’s a gift.

Hypnodope” begins with down tuned chords so rich and thick it’ll hurt your brain trying to understand how the Pigs can do it and not trigger massive earthquakes and tsunamis in the process. Throughout the tune are strange hushed whispers that permeate the background of “Hypnodope,” disembodied voices that float back and forth, swept up in the ebb and flow of the music, caught in the undertow, appearing then disappearing, all without warning. Of all the songs on this record this one probably has the most ominous, unsettling feel to it.

The second to last song, “Zug,” goes straight groovy with a quasi-Trouble / Sabbath boogie tilt to it, worshipping at the altar of Iommi, Wagner and Chandler leading into the final track of the record, “Everything is Good II” taking that same approach that track one had properly ending the record as it started.

If you dig solid, heavy, fuzzed out instrumental rock you’ll really appreciate what the Prehistoric Pigs have accomplished with “Everything is Good” but getting past a band without vocals can be a hard one. My advice to you: Give it a shot. After a while you won’t even notice what you think you might be missing. Buy this record.

Words by Theron Moore

Thanks To Marco at Metaversus PR for the promo. Everything Is Good is now available to buy on CD/DD now.

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OBESE - KALI YUGA (Album Review)

























Album Type: Album
Date Released: June 01st 2015
Label: Argonauta Records

Kali Yuga - Track Listing:

01 - Enion
02 - Rite Of Fire
03 - Kali Yuga
04 - The Bitter Blast
05 - Red As The Sun
06 - Steamroller
07 - Down The Gauntlet
08 - Bow
09 - Begetter Dead Letter

Bio:

OBESE hail from Holland, they are authors of a crunchy, catchy, powerful and above all heavy as hell sound! Bringing the groove back into stoner and feeding your appetite with fat tunes that will leave you hungry for more. The weight and thickness of sound is being explored one track at a time: corpulency never felt that good. The immense riffage in a vast landscape of bulldozing euphony will leave nobody unsatisfied.

Review:

Sometimes a band gets locked into a certain sound or feel for an album. Obese is not this band. This four-piece from The Netherlands has released a heavy sonic maze that weaves and wanders through tones, tempos, and vocals. Trying to guess the feel of the next song is not worth the time. This album, Kali Yuga, has break-apart fuzz for the sludge heads and driving blues riffs for the fans of classic stoner jams.

The first track “Enion” starts with a punch to the chest from what may be the heaviest vocals I have heard from modern heavy bands. Combined with heavy toms and blasts of fuzz from the guitars, you get a feel of what this band is offering up. The riffs that develop at the end of this track show that Obese has some chops and can use them.

Rite Of Fire” throws the first of many change-ups on this album. For fans of more modern stoner vibes, this track has a bit more of a modern feel. The track has a quicker tempo with all the heavy guitar tones you would expect from the opening track. I began to see some a glimpse of influence from some of the classic desert bands (Kyuss, early Fu Manchu). The title track, “Kali Yuga” and “The Bitter Blast” gave proof that the early stoner/desert bands played a part in Obese’s sound. “Red As The Sun” is one of the tracks on this album that stood out. It has all the parts of a song that got me excited to hear new bands. The riff on track opens with is as heavy and fuzzed-out groove as I have heard in a long time. The song transforms with some heavy drums in the middle and comes right back to that sweet riff.

The final tracks on the album, “Steamroller”, “Down The Gauntlet”, and “Bow”, have a heavier and more classic sludge vibe but stills show a bit more of a swampy blues feel with some touches of prog-rock. The final track, “Begetter Dead Letter,” threw the final change-up with a sludge jam that wrapped this album up the way it began by leaving you guessing. The track is unapologetic and dark in its guitar tone and rhythm section with a nod to some Pink Floyd and Black Sabbath.

Kali Yuga showcases Obese’s ability to take multiple influences and use it to create a flowing, calculated record. Some bands tend to try this but usually end up with weaker tracks taking a back seat to the stronger ones. Kali Yuga delivers on each track and still maintains strength in each song’s individualism. I am definitely looking forward to seeing them live and hope they can capture the album’s strength on stage.

Words by Rick Fogarty

Thanks To Barbara at NeeCee Agency and Gero at Argonauta Records for promo. Kali Yuga will be available to buy from June 1st 2015.

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HYENA - I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream (EP Review)

I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream cover art

Album Type: EP
Date Released: June 09th 2015
Label: Self Released

I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream - Track Listing:

1.False Sense of Nourishment
2.Growth
3.The Barnhouse Effect
4. In the Name of Progress
5.Old Drawings Depict Memories of Trees

Members:

Kevin Tuite - Vocals
Jimmy Howell - Guitar
Andrew Gentle - Bass
Zac Dranko - Drums

Review:

The new EP by Hyena (formerly New Vegas) is akin to being suddenly attacked in a bar fight. Violent, fast. over as quickly as it starts and leaves you feeling uneasy and wondering what the fuck just happened.

The first track "False Sense Of Nourishment" starts with protracted feedback (a fixture of this record) over a sample telling us "We know things are bad, they're supposed to be bad" before developing into some frenetic time changes almost like a grindcore EyeHateGod.

2nd track "Growth" sees this theme continue, but the band also show they aren't afraid of dynamics with an eerie slow section complete with almost Black Metal style vocals over the top.

"The Barnhouse Effect" and "In The Name Of Progress" deliver more of the same. Massive riifs, lightning quick time changes and some seriously pissed off vocals. For me though the last track "Old Drawings Depict Memories" is the standout track and the perfect way to sign off the ep.

Dropping the tempo and again introducing some clean guitars with haunting clean vocals which slowly builds to a massive climax that sees Hyena almost toy with the listener leaving you wondering when the onslaught will end as the final refrain fades in and out and gives way to the last squeals of feedback.

A short and violently concise EP and one that I would urge you to check out when the record is available next month.

Words by Simon Ross Williams

Thanks To Hyena for the promo. I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream will be available to buy from June 9th 2015.

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Saturday, 23 May 2015

Abiotic - 'Casuitry' (Album Review)


Album Type: Full Length
Date Released: 21/04/2015
Label: Metal Blade Records

‘Casuistry’ CD//DD track listing:

01. Believe the Unseen
02. Reanimated Destruction
03. Cast into the Depths
04. Violent Scriptures
05. Nightmares of Your Conception
06. The Absence of Purity
07. Falling into Obscurity
08. Molecular Rematerialization
09. Drain. Deface. Abolish.

Abiotic is:

Travis Bartosek | Vocals
Johnathan Matos | Guitar
Matt Mendez | Guitar
Alex Vazquez | Bass
Brent Phillips | Drums

Review:

The sophomore release from this impressive tech-death outfit kicks off with a churning, chugging blast and a brutal scream, appropriate, considering the ride the album continues on after.  There are enough riffs on this record to satiate probably even a Necrophagist fan.

The production of the album is superb for the genre. Punchy, articulate, and clear without the instruments sounding so far apart sonically that it’s completely sterile. There are some sterile sounding moments but, it’s because the band decided to make it sound that way instead of being dictated by the production.

Spoiler Alert: There are SO many “OH SHIT” moments throughout this record.

The arrangements vary from brutal, chaotic, and dissonant to beautiful, and even a little catchy. The drumming accents the guitars (or vice versa in some of the cool beat division changes during a few riffs), with a lot of interesting approaches to maintaining a groove across odd measures and stylistically-contrasting riffs. Vocals are quite varied in tone from part to part and are pretty intelligible but well produced with some high/low layering used to good effect. It's pretty impressive when a metal vocalist manages convincingly several different voices.
           
And guitars and bass....holy shit, there is a density sonically to even the atonal-sounding single-note riffs and dissonant parts that can only be achieved when players have reached a hive mind. Rhythmically there is so many creative little turn-arounds and fills. Harmonically there is, of course, a lot of dissonance throughout the record, with some of my favorite moments being the riff beginning at 0:42 of ‘Cast Into the Depths’, whatever the weird little “whir” sound is during the opening of the first track, ‘Believe the Unseen’ (its literally like one 8th note and it sounds like a machine malfunctioning), and the sweet harmonized sixteenth note riff that kicks in at 1:04 of ‘Violent Scriptures’. There is some really beautiful lead guitar played over some pretty proggy chord progression in multiple places. I really like it when lead guitar is utilized equally for riffing and as a counterpoint as well as vocal-like melodies.  There is a fantastic combination of that here.

Overall, I think what really grabbed me sonically about his album though, and this is no detraction from the abilities of anyone else in the band, is the bass. The tone on the record is ridiculous and the performance is almost perfect. There is a section at 2:07 of ‘Nightmares of Your Perception’ that I had to back up and start over three times the first time I got to it, which I then had to do again for the solo about 38 seconds later in the same song. These guys don't JUST shred either, there is a plethora of down-tempo grooves perfect for moshing as well as lots of djently-placed headbanger sections.

This is a 5/5 record for Me! I think even my friends, who hate everything will like this record, A lot.  No sophomore record slump for these guys.

Words by: Ian Smedbron

‘Casuitry’ is available now

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Bell Witch - 'Four Phantoms' (Album Review)


Album Type: Full-Length
Date Released: 28/04/2015
Label: Profound Lore

‘Four Phantoms’ CD//DD track listing:

1. Suffocation, A Burial: I - Awoken (Breathing Teeth)
2. Judgement, In Fire: I – Garden (Of Blooming Ash)
3. Suffocation, A Drowning: II - Somniloquy (The Distance Of Forever)
4. Judgement, In Air: II – Felled (In Howling Wind)

Bell Witch is:

Bass/Vocals | Dylan Desmond,
Drums/Vocals | Adrian Guerra

Review:

Funeral doom is a genre that is oft rooted in mourning. Archetypally doom can do a My Dying Bride and sit in a plush leather chair with a glass of red wine, its furrowed brow barely visible in the gloom as the candlelight flickers off the nearby shelves of Edgar Allan Poe books. Funeral doom takes the vital sentiment of this histrionic opera and strips off heaps of the fat, leaving a core of filthy weight, immoveable in its mass yet fundamentally raw and vulnerable.

That's right; this genre, with its glacial tempos and crusted tones, sounds like one of the hardest and most impenetrable forms of extreme music out there. Truthfully, however, beneath its superficial exoskeleton lies some of the most emotionally affective music being written today.

Here lies the strength of Bell Witch. The band is comprised of Adrian Guerra and Dylan Desmond of the great Samothrace, who make their brilliance with only bass, drums and vocals. Their last LP, 'Longing', stands to me as one of the greatest doom releases ever, where they proved that silence and space can be equally as heavy as noise and extremity. Everything from the tone to the pacing to the aesthetic of the album was near perfect for me, creating an atmosphere so heavy you could breath it. But this is not a review of 'Longing', it is about their new release titled 'Four Phantoms'. And this is not an album not about mourning, but about suffering.

As has been covered ad nauseum in articles preceding the albums's release, the four tracks here each tell a story of a different spirit trapped and tormented by one of the four elements. The unified theme between the songs suits the feel of the genre, and the concept itself combines with this to present the album as a complete whole, neither needing extra material nor burdened by it's near 67 minute running time.

Bell Witch are a creature that press through their songs at speeds akin to those of a starved prisoner on a death march. While each beat may seem like it takes heaving effort to move to the next, the songs are woven through with melody that pierces through the oppression using both bass and vocals. And it's truly great to hear the interplay between the crushing lower register notes and melancholic notes emanating from the same instrument. Indeed Bell Witch are perhaps the only metal band in history ever to have used a six-string bass well (challenges to this are appreciated).

Vocally 'Four Phantoms' possesses the fury of impotent misery, full of the despair that drives a creature to action that it knows is futile; or, worse yet, cannot even attempt. Lyrics are sparse, vague, unclear to the mind even when the shroud of growling is removed to clarify them to the ears. Yet who really cares to hear the words when you can simply feel the weight through their delivery.

But it's the end result that is really worth the listener's attention. Standout writing, production, tone, delivery and aesthetics all combine to create the miserable wounded beat that is 'Four Phantoms'. With it's hip Paulo Girardi artwork, Profound Lore-based credibility and evident media backing, 'Four Phantoms' is primed to be the first funeral doom album many will give their time to. And what an album it is to be introduced to the genre with too. Far from being baby's first extreme doom album to be grown out of when he discovers Khanate, this presents a high watermark in modern atmospheric metal that will remain in hearts and minds for years. Bell Witch are one of the best doom bands active today, and with 'Four Phantoms' have released one of the best doom albums of recent times. Guess that means I should be glad I don't think we've even seen the best from them yet.

Words by: Jake Mazlum

‘Four Phantoms’ is available here

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Shining (SWE) - ‘IX - Everyone, Everything, Everywhere, Ends’ (Album Review)



Album Type: Full Length
Date Released: 20/04/2015
Label: Season of Mist

‘IX - Everyone, Everything, Everywhere, Ends’ CD//LP//DD track listing:

1. Den Påtvingade Tvåsamheten
2. Vilja & Dröm
3. Framtidsutsikter
4. Människotankens Vägglösa Rum
5. Inga Broar Kvar Att Bränna
6. Besök Från I(ho)nom

Shining (SWE)  is:

Niklas Kvarforth | Vocals
Peter Huss | Guitars
Christian Larsson | Bass
Euge Valovirta | Guitars
Rainer Tuomikanto | Drums

Review:

Sweden’s Shining largely revolves around one man: Niklas Kvarforth. He’s not the band’s sole member, though he’s the only founding member. The band is certainly subject to his flights of fancy and his eccentricities, which can make each Shining album semi-unpredictable. The way in which those eccentricities manifest can also greatly impact the quality of the album. Sometimes it helps (‘Redefining Darkness’) and sometimes it falls flat (‘VII: Född förlorare’). Sadly, ‘IX - Everyone, Everything, Everywhere, Ends’ is the most extreme example of the latter.

While Kvarforth may not write every riff or every song, he certainly creates the vast majority of the personality on the album. Here too, this can be a hit-or-miss quality. I’ve heard actors and movie buffs on podcasts use the phrase “chewing the scenery” a lot when talking about over-the-top acting performances. I’ve heard it used to describe a great performance, like Anthony Hopkins in ‘Silence of the Lambs’. I’ve also heard it used to describe performances that aren’t usually thought of as “great”, but are just loud and bizarre like Jim Carrey as The Riddler in Batman Forever. On ‘IX - Everyone, Everything, Everywhere, Ends’, Niklas Kvarforth vocally chews the scenery, and it’s usually more Carrey than Hopkins. From the moment he first opens his mouth, he’s shouting maniacally and excessively rolling his R's like a human cartoon. His performance is even more rabid and unhinged than it was on ‘Redefining Darkness’, which is saying something.

Kvarforth’s vocal freak-outs are often the most exciting parts of each song, but it can also suck the life out of everything else. The lion’s share of the actual music on the album is pretty subdued, finding something of a listless middle ground between the plodding, depressive black metal of the band’s early albums and a less overtly prog take on Opeth’s softer material. It makes for an uneven listening experience most of the time, with Kvarforth’s insanity feeling incongruous with the comparatively lax musical style.

On the plus side of the album’s ledger, there are some wonderful lead guitar moments, such as in the latter half of “Framtidsutsikter”. It’s a radiant moment that nearly saves a song otherwise characterized by long quiet stretches with Kvarforth’s ludicrously over-emoted whisper-singing hogging all of the musical oxygen. The song is also hurt by the decision to not release the tension that solitary tremolo guitar riff seems to build towards in the first half of the song. When that same riff appears later, the climax is pretty underwhelming, despite the excellent soloing that follows it.

That one example speaks to the album in a macro sense as well. The music rarely ever gets out of second gear, while Kvarforth never truly shifts himself down, even when he’s trying to be quieter. The next great Shining album will come when Kvarforth channels the inexhaustible energy he puts into his vocals back into the instrumental part of music. Even with the album’s larger shortcomings, I can’t call this a truly bad album. It just kind of “exists”.

Words by: Daniel Jackson

You can pick up a digital copy here and a CD /LP copy here.


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