Shining - Redefining Darkness
Spinefarm Records
Progressive Black Metal
6 songs (40:54)
Release year: 2012
Shining, Spinefarm Records
Reviewed by Goat

It's always a fascinating moment when bands seek to reinvent themselves, take a particular swerve away from their current direction and head for pastures new. It's even more fascinating when bands outwardly change but continue to make much the same sort of music - and it's the latter path that Swedish miserablists Sweden have undertaken. Redefining Darkness, the band's eighth full-length, at first seems to be a step sideways, from the straightforward album artwork to the title. That title is especially interesting, being the band's first in English since 2005's IV - The Eerie Cold, and dropping the number at the start. Instead of something along the lines of VIII: Dricka Bensin och Cigarrer Rökning (cheers, Google Translate!) we get what appears to be a statement of intent...

Yet after listening to Redefining Darkness, it's clear the band are continuing in the Född Förlorare mode - catchy, almost rocking blackened metal with progressive meanders and soulful acoustic interludes. It's somewhat like Opeth if their families all died in a car crash and then the police covered it up - they're both angry and miserable. And to give Shining their due, they are certainly good at being miserable, as you'd expect after sixteen years of self-harm. The album kicks off right away with the blackened temper tantrum that is Du, Mitt Konstverk, following a similar formula to Förtvivlan, Min Arvedel from the previous album - angry introduction, melancholic acoustic chorus that builds in tension before going metal again. It's familiar but expert, in some ways a better song, that repeated 'snällä, snällä, snällä' chorus and extended instrumental sections working very effectively.

You can say the same for the following The Ghastly Silence, although you can't credit Shining with it - that central, ominous melody seems very familiar to In A House, In A Heartbeat from the 28 Days Later soundtrack by John Murphy... Used here, alongside a mournful saxophone, it fits the general dark atmosphere well, although Kvarforth's English lyrics veer on the edge of the melodramatic, rather than the graceful - My Dying Bride this band is not. Han Som Hatar Människan hints back to Klagopsalmer with some wild soloing and crunchy riffage, the track otherwise using melody well in a way that reminded me of mid-period Enslaved. A personal album highlight was Hail Darkness Hail, opening with interesting, angry groove, interspaced with ghostly clean vocals and almost folky ominous acoustic meanding, some spoken word and an extremely Akerfeldt-ian chorus adding to the spooky effect, before a crushing breakdown heads back for metal territory.

One piano interlude later, eight-minute closer For The God Below begins with lush acoustic strums and switches between plaintive clean-sung melodic rock and raging metal - something like modern Pain Of Salvation meets older Opeth in formula, although Shining have clearly put their own spin on things. It's decent but somehow lacking at once, as is most of the album. Where Redefining Darkness ultimately fails to convince is that it does what it needs, but no more - there are no tracks that stick in your mind, no standout songs. Solid yet uninspiring, this album suggests that Shining have toned it down a bit, making music to listen to while alone and grumpy rather than alone and self-harming. This moment was inevitable, when Shining's musical path took them away from their image, but I suppose even the most self-hating of black metal filthmongers has to have a moment of introspection from time to time. It's also interesting that I've made reference to Opeth in every paragraph of this review but the first - that band definitely comes to mind here. Darkness not so much redefined, then, as refined - processed, with the most compelling impurities and raw emotions of the past stripped out, to make an end product quite different from what you would have expected. Are the cuts starting to heal?

Killing Songs :
Han Som Hatar Människan, Hail Darkness Hail, For The God Below
Goat quoted 70 / 100
Koeppe quoted 65 / 100
Other albums by Shining that we have reviewed:
Shining - IX – Everyone, Everything, Everywhere, Ends reviewed by Goat and quoted 80 / 100
Shining - VII: Född Förlorare reviewed by Goat and quoted 85 / 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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