Shining - VII: Född Förlorare
Spinefarm Records
Progressive Black Metal
6 songs (41:47)
Release year: 2011
Shining, Spinefarm Records
Reviewed by Goat

A lot of the aura of mystery and danger that surrounds Sweden’s Shining depends on how willing you are to believe the tall tales that frontman Kvarforth likes to spin. That I even have to type a sentence like that about a band who are already well-known for self-harming at live shows sums up how desensitised the extreme metal scene is to damaged personalities. Few mainstream music journals could write about this band without a sense of delicious horror... violence! Drugs! Satanism! Faked death! I’d be amazed if some noble scribe isn’t currently writing an article about how amazing it is that genuine heroin is cooked on a spoon and injected in the music video for Förtvivlan, Min Arvedel – it sure beats Lady Gaga’s meat dress. The mainstream are used to dealing with empty, soulless music, so they have to look to the artists themselves for entertainment. Hence the big Pop news of the moment that Amy Winehouse is cancelling parts of her European tour after being too drunk to perform in Belgrade.

Compare this with the deep dark underground, however, and things are different. We are used to, if not actually bored of, Kvarforth’s antics. Shining are praised for their music, not their frontman, who is tolerated at best. I do think that the news, revealed in recent interviews, that this album has been recorded for three years, lying dormant from a combination of Kvarforth not wanting it to be released on a ‘shitty label’ and his being committed multiple times to multiple mental institutions, should ruffle a few feathers, however. From the disrespect given to a label of vital importance in the history of Black Metal (Osmose, if you weren’t aware) to the fact that Kvarforth is a genuinely disturbed individual, I can’t help but darken my perception of Shining accordingly. From silliness to seriousness, is it right that we listen to a band that openly promotes suicide with the same blasé attitude that we give the likes of Slayer?

Not a question that requires an immediate answer, or even one at all, although it’s been preying on my mind whilst listening to and writing about Född Förlorare. On a practical level, the revelations that the album is three years old actually explains the differences between it and 2009’s rather more riff-fuelled VI: Klagopsalmer, apparently written and recorded in just two days. Född Förlorare focuses more on clean vocals and acoustic guitar, proggy in sound and nature to the point where previously mild Opeth comparisons are now unavoidable. The gentle melodies of I Nattens Timma and the post-Death Metal riffing of FFF are impossible to mistake for anyone else than Åkerfeldt and co. Of course, this being Shining we still get the harrowing nihilism and misery, the aforementioned Förtvivlan, Min Arvedel opening the album with a groovy bang after a traumatised child hesitantly stumbles over You Are My Sunshine. Kvarforth at first sounds enraged, his voice moving between triumphant snarl and reflective clean singing completely naturally, the gradual realisation of his true feelings coming but slowly.

This dual nature to the album, bleak misery hidden beneath a deceptive surface, is only enhanced by knowing that Michael Amott of Arch Enemy contributed two solos. That beneath the serene pastoral prog that opens Tiden Läker Inga Sår are pained gasps and yells (apparently Erik from Watain being tortured), darkness hidden behind calm before coming into the open, pursued by blastbeats, before vanishing again. That, most significantly, Swedish Pop star Håkan Hemlin provides guest vocals on Tillsammans Är Vi Allt, something like recent Enslaved in ominous technical groove with disturbingly plaintive chorus – the song is a ballad to heroin, something the former addict Hemlin was apparently unaware of when he agreed to appear.

These dark jokes help in the perception that this album is more subtle in its gloomy atmosphere, less of the balls-out misery of yesteryear that urged you to recreate the album art of Halmstad in your own home. Instead, Född Förlorare (‘born loser’) is a matter-of-fact statement, depicting misery from a distance and distracting the listener from moral judgement by offering competent, solid, catchy songs. It is what it is, the band seem to be telling you with the dark swing of Människa O'Avskyvärda Människa, scowling vocals and acoustic strum utilised to much the same effect. From cover art to songs, this depiction of depression is all the more striking for the band’s slow, steady movement towards mainstream metal acceptance despite little to no compromise on message. The bleak truth about Shining is that the quality of their music is constant, whether Kvarforth’s stories are true ultimately not mattering one bit. That’s simultaneously the most disturbing and most praiseworthy thing about Shining, and the wider Metal underground, for me – the health of the artists comes a distant second to the quality of their music, every time.

Killing Songs :
Förtvivlan, Min Arvedel, Tiden Läker Inga Sår, Människa O'Avskyvärda Människa, I Nattens Timma
Goat quoted 85 / 100
Other albums by Shining that we have reviewed:
Shining - IX – Everyone, Everything, Everywhere, Ends reviewed by Goat and quoted 80 / 100
Shining - Redefining Darkness reviewed by Goat and quoted 70 / 100
Shining - VI - Klagopsalmer reviewed by Goat and quoted 88 / 100
Shining - Halmstad reviewed by Alex and quoted 90 / 100
Shining - IV: The Eerie Cold reviewed by Daniel and quoted 65 / 100
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