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Shining - Redefining Darkness (Spinefarm Records)

By: Matthew Bowling

[8.5/10] A confession likely to draw a great deal of ire is that before coming into this release I was completely unfamiliar with Shining (this Swedish variation, anyway, I’m well-versed in the Norwegian Shining which was so unfairly lambasted on this very site in 2010! – and rightfully so. -.ed). Naming woes aside, the shame is ultimately mine as Redefining Darkness is a fuckin’ stellar release from start to finish, the harsh/soft dynamics permeated with a sinister tone and a taste for the melodic that is impossible to shake.

As far as dynamics are concerned the album alternates heavily between snarling and furious passages and very pretty and often acoustic-grounded soft breaks. Lyrics are present in the usual Swedish and surprising amounts of English, used almost exclusively for clean vocals. “Du, Mitt Konstverk” embodies this marriage of extremes with exhilarating results, blast beats and some of the most ridiculously accentuated vocals giving way to gorgeous acoustic guitar and (gasp!) what appears to be fretless bass. “Hail Darkness Hail” sees a similar use of said dynamics with similarly fantastic results.

Things take a trip to the experimental on “The Ghastly Silence,” which features saxophone consistently throughout and one of the most haunting melodies to ever fill out the body of a song- a suffocating sense of darkness seethes from this track and it makes it an exhilarating listen time and time again. Classic rock flourishes make their way into closer “For The God Below,” its eight minutes seeing soaring highs, Old God-like depths for lows, and showcasing the absolutely killer guitar prowess of Shining mainman Niklas Kvarforth, ending the song with a searing and lengthy set of solos.

Surprise lurks behind every crevice and corner of Redefining Darkness. Coming in blind to this release (and indeed, the band) proved to be quite the treat, for everything on display here is the work of a band performing in top form. The standard six-song set applies as in all previous releases so the album never wears out its welcome or seems bloated, even with the lengthier nature of the songs on hand. Instead there is a lovingly progressive heart to this black metal album, something that isn’t explored nearly enough, but until it takes root Shining will lovingly do.

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