"X: Varg Utan Flock" By Shining-Album Review
Progressive Black Metal/Released Jan 5, 2018
It's interesting how black metal, which began with the simple rules of speed and extremity, has evolved to be one of metal's most diverse and expressive sub genres. Sweden's Shining is a prime example of this growth. The band's sound evades any one genre tag. While their style uses black metal as a foundation their style can go in any direction. From blast-beat driven ferocity to piano ballad beauty. The band's tenth release titled Varg Utan Flock, which translates to "Wolf Without A Pack" in English, shows this diversity in only six beautifully composed tracks. Given, these six tracks span over 40 minutes and are layered with several movements within each.
"Svart Ostoppbar Eld" or "Black Unstoppable Fire" lives up to its title with a fast driving rhythm powering the first half of the song. "Han Som Lurar Inom" or "He Who Lurks In" is definitely the most intense song of the album. It's first half prominently features blast beats at a pummeling speed and hauntingly dissonant guitar work that feels like needles on the nape of your neck. But even this song allows a break for more accessible rock instrumentation and atmospheric melody. "Jag Ar Din Fiende" or "I Am Your Enemy" may be the album favorite. It's one of the more straightforward tracks with a mid-tempo, swinging, guitar groove that leans more towards rock. And the bridge has some impressive percussion work that gets highlighted with the other instruments dropping out. The piano instrumental "Tolvtusenfyrtioett" leads into the closing track "Mot Aokigahara" which is likely referencing the famous forest in Japan which is a popular location for suicide. The track stays mostly acoustic and melodic until its final three minutes. Closing the album with a frantic burst of sound.
Shining is able to take black metal to places hauntingly somber just as well as they can overload your senses with the abrasiveness the genre prides itself on. The band's sound wears a lot of hats and this diversity drawn from a variety of influences is what makes the band stand out. X: Varg Utan Flock is a deeply entertaining record with little drawback if any at all. A shining example, pardon the pun, of why the band has managed to stick around for so long.