With a man placing the barrel of his handgun into his own mouth, the cover art hints at the dark, musical voyage the listener is about to embark upon. Dealing with themes such as depression and suicide, Shining
manage to perfectly embody the spiritual essence of depressive black metal and channel it into an emotionally charged album of ferocious black metal.
and emotion is hard to channel through music, if you use too much of it you’ll be grouped in with a horde of melodramatic bedroom acts, if you don’t use enough then the vision of the music becomes lost. It’s really a feeling that needs to come from deep down within the musician, it needs to be earnest and heartfelt, and most importantly needs to be translated clearly to the listener. Shining
is a band who knows how to do this right, with a strong sense of emotion and depression, a pitch black atmosphere of pure existential nihilism, V:Halmstad is a depraved and twisted journey into the minds of this band.
are unique within the depressive world, choosing to eschew many of the genres primary stereotypes in favor of a more progressive, organic, and perhaps even darker sound. The use of progressive elements works remarkably well, the riffs are varied and interesting, never feeling out of place at all. Transitions between them are smooth and fluid, giving the album an organic and natural feel. The melodies themselves are suitably dark and provocative, striking the perfect balance between memorability and punishing levels of emotion. Oddly, they feel energetic and lively which is what one would not typically expect within this form of music. Besvikelsens dystra monotoni has an opening riff that is unusually bouncy and energetic; I find this aspect of the music to be a bit odd but wholly effective. I find the sudden outbursts of more up tempo sections actually work in favor with the music’s core ideology, it feels as though the musicians are trying their hardest to break out of their depression. This album dear reader is the sound of a tortured soul, and it’s utterly effective in its bleak and dismal approach.
Kvarforth’s vocals were hard for me to stomach at first, forgoing the use of a standard black metal approach and favoring a technique akin to anguished shouting. Whilst it was initially off putting, I began to love the ways those hopeless vocals sat in the mix. They’re suitably depressed and agonized, and I find the somewhat amateurish delivery of them to be highly effective in establishing a strong sense of atmosphere.
Atmospherically, V:Halmstad is nothing short of astounding. The bleak, almost dirge like instrumental front works in perfect harmony with the anguished vocals of Kvarforth to create a very dismal look at the modern world. Despairing at the entire concept of life, Shining
manage to effectively channel this supreme negativity and nihilism within the album. Every nook, every cranny is filled to the brim with negativity. The production is absolutely flawless, every instrument, every note can be heard clearly. Guitars sit high in the mix creating a powerful soundscape of dismal depression, bass creates devastating undercurrents beneath the emotional guitars and Kvarforth vocals float sublimely over the devastating music creating the perfect equilibrium between each and every instrument. Unlike most depressive black metal, this album isn’t draped in an ear splitting layer of static, quite the opposite in fact, the production is some of the best I’ve heard in black metal. Now normally I’m opposed to the use of high production qualities in this particular field, but Shining
don’t overuse it. It never feels synthetic and mechanical, guitars still have a good level of distortion to them, ambiance remains eerie and harrowing throughout. Poor production would have no doubt hindered the effectiveness of the overall quality of the music, V:Halmstad is an album that requires each and every aspect of the music to be heard in perfect clarity and it does an astounding job of it.
Whilst depressive black metal can be accused of stagnating, what with so many bands stealing ideas from one and another. Bands such as Shining
show that the genre still has ideas left, ideas that are interesting at that. V:Halmstad is a unique opus, blending destructive doomy black metal with elements spanning progressive to gothic metal. All of this comes together to create one of the purest musical endeavors of our time.