Saturday, 23 May 2015

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


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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