• "Even an end can be a great start": A review of Shining's "IX - Everyone, Everything, Everywhere, Ends"

    Ladies and gentlemen!

    Even an end can be a great start. Shining's ninth regular full length record is by far the most epic, melodic and progressive record of this eccentric Swedish extreme metal quintet. Despite the band's rather depressive and rousing image, this album also includes hopeful and spiritual tones that add a lot of depth and dynamics to this unique listening experience. This record unfolds and inspires me both when I'm feeling balanced and joyous and when I'm feeling exhausted and nervous. "IX: Everyone, Everything, Everywhere, Ends" is one of my favourite releases so far this year along with Moonspell's "Extinct" and Pantommind's "Searching for Eternity". If you are looking for atmospheric, coherent and creative music with depth and don't mind a darkly flowing mood with sparks of liberating lightness, please put your prejudices aside and enjoy this piece of art. I hope you will enjoy both my review and this record.

    Shining - IX: Everyone, everything, everywhere, ends (2015)

    Shining’s “IX – Everyone, Everything, Everywhere, Ends” is by far the most epic, melodic and progressive album of the controversial Swedish quintet around guitarist and vocalist Niklas Kvarforth. The band is not going back to its roots but continues the style of the previous record “Redefining Darkness” instead.

     

    The album focuses on epic and slow song writing structures that may sound depressive and oppressive at some points but also strangely hopeful and liberating at other moments. While some of the band’s past records sounded really suicidal, nihilistic and depressive, this album is an emotional rollercoaster ride that strangely increases your lust for life because of its imperfect perfection that shows us our existence in all its facets. The record has a beautiful soul and clear guiding line from the beginning until the end. Not one single second is wasted and each song an instant success even though the album gets better and better towards the end. This may be the band’s shortest full length record to date but since it’s probably also the best, the short running time is easily forgiven. Rather than coming around with one or two outstanding tracks like “For the God Below” on the last effort, this album requires to be listened to in one shot as the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. The album is also a grower that gets better with each spin due to its hypnotizing and memorable melodies that inspire you to dream yourself far away.

     

    Obviously, there are still a few faster and meaner outbursts with fast guitar riffs, pumping bass guitar sounds and chaotic blast beats which are quite rarely but more efficiently used than ever before. Shining has always had its very own style and labelling this record as a black metal album wouldn’t do this masterpiece justice as it’s far more than this. This record’s emotional balance is supported by the use of riffs that are almost inspired by doom metal and psychedelic rock that one might rather expect from a band like Opeth. On the other side, several tracks include perfectly executed emotional guitar solos that should even impressive traditional metal fans. The guitar solo in “Människotankens Vägglösa Rum” could be considered one of the best melodic heavy metal guitar solos in over a decade if it had been written by Iron Maiden. Mysterious acoustic guitar sounds are taking more space than ever and always fit in. On the other side, the band contrasts these laid back folk sounds with a few gloomy industrial effects here and there. The rhythm section is mostly venturing into dark and low tuned territories. This being said, the outstanding production of this release is crystal clear and dynamical as each instrument really stands out without harming the atmospheric soul of this record. The vocals are better and more variable than ever before. Raw and guttural clean vocals meet almost narrative whispers and unchained harsh vocals. The quintet somehow keeps a perfect balance between traditional and contemporary sounds in all aspects.

     

    I would highly recommend purchasing the limited edition of this album with two additional bonus tracks. Even though the first six songs form a great unity as the opening tune and the last track perfectly close the circle, the two bonus tracks share the same atmosphere and extend the great listening experience. The decision to cover Rammstein’s laid back and emotional ballad “Ohne dich” is a courageous choice that fits this genre-breaking record. The track keeps the epic melancholy of the original, including decent symphonic arrangements, and adds a slightly noisier tone and low creaking vocals that might even increase the atmosphere. The vocalist’s raw accent when performing German vocals even adds to the track as it sounds majestically authentic and not weirdly amusing. The second bonus track “Black Industrial Eleven” is a reinterpretation of an instrumental song which Shining recorded a decade earlier. It was in fact a reworking of the famous Halloween Main Theme by John Carpenter. The track had already been reworked two years earlier with additional vocals performed by Maniac of Mayhem fame. This third version with Kvarforth’s vocals has a cleaner, more melodic and more refined sound that actually increases the eerie atmosphere of the original version. In my opinion, this third take on the same song is clearly the best.

     

    In the end, this is Shining’s most harmonious, playful and versatile record. The band keeps all its traditional trademarks in form of an eerie atmosphere, extended song structures and extremely emotional vocals but reinvented itself by adding a calmer and more psychedelic tone, a crystal clear production and different genre influences to their sound. Some older fans might dislike these changes while many other people could rediscover this unique band for the same reasons. The only reason why this record didn’t get a perfect score is somewhat ironic. Even though I highly appreciate and encourage the band’s current direction, I’m missing a couple of really unchained black metal passages to perfectly contrast an otherwise perfectly balanced effort.

    Final rating: 9.5 out of 10 points

    Please support the band and check out the following links:

    Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/shiningofficial

    Homepage: http://www.shiningasylum.com/

    YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/user/OfficialShining

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