Shining – IX: Everyone, Everything, Everywhere, Ends

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You can say what you like about Niklas Kvarforth, and many quite justifiably and quite rightly do, and his Shining project, now on their ninth release IX – Everyone, Everything, Everywhere, Ends (Season Of Mist), but he has managed to keep his music from sounding like everyone else, and actually doing something with his darkened black metal act that few others do, creating a sound and atmosphere that doesn’t just ape his predecessor, and that varies from album to album while still being identifiable. The actual success rate in terms of quality of output is a bit more hit and miss (with the common reasoning being that it is the odd numbered albums that are worth bothering with, while the even numbered releases can fail to deliver).

With the intent of Shining to cause discomfort and pain to others, and with IX being described as an album to inspire feelings and reflections of revenge and retribution, the music to hand is surprisingly (disappointingly?) safe; there are certainly no challenging moments that the likes of Deathspell Omega or Blut Aus Nord inspire, or horrific atmospheres akin to a Pyrrhon or Portal in full flow (accepting they are megalodons swimming in a very different pool).

With most of the compositions uncurling to around 7 minutes in length, the blueprint here is one that steps outside traditional Black Metal trappings and away from the cold, depressive harshness of their previous works. Opener ‘Vilja & Dröm’ kicks off with a belligerent chugging groove, and the album flits from modern aggressive Black Metal, like Dimmu Borgir minus the symphonics and theatrics, to cleaner, more Gothic moments as, much like Watain did on The Wild Hunt (Century Media),  IX brings a Fields of the Nephilim swathe to the proceedings and a cowboy Western kiss to ‘Inga Broar Kvar Att Bränna’ in particular.

In terms of where IX sits in the Kvarforth canon, it’s fair to say it doesn’t rival V: Halmstad as the go to and defining release of his career, but is more of a worthwhile investment of your time than the limp Klagospalmer (both Osmose). Much like a lot of the music on display, though, it sits comfortably in the middle. If its intention is to unnerve and distress, the protagonist does much more of that away from the music, than he does with it.

 

6.5/10

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STEVE TOVEY

Woods of Desolation – As The Stars

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This one-man metal project that we know as Woods of Desolation comes from the intriguing mind of D., the Australian musician that has been playing an undeniable important role on the Down Under’s underground scene not only with his current project Woods of Desolation, but also with Forest Mysticism and Grey Waters. The road that was started with depressive black metal (the highest point being the debut full-length released in 2008, Toward The Depths) suffered what we can call a big change with the injection of shoegaze and more ethereal environments and soundscapes with Woods of Desolation’s sophomore album, Torn Beyond Reason (released in 2011). Three years after we have the third album which mixes the sounds of Forest Mysticism with the sounds of Grey Waters. It sort of works as a full circle for D., the musician in charge of this new album, As The Stars (Northern Silence Productions).  With the help of Vlad from the mighty Ukrainian band Drudkh and the countrymen Luke Mills on bass (Nazxul) and Old on vocal duties (Pestilential Shadows). Having the support and help of other musicians was probably what made this album be so damn rich in terms of guitar layers and tones. Every single track seems to take advantage of D.’s guitar work to levitate and finally rise in a spiral movement that is too fuckin’ strong to be stopped.

 

As Michael Gira (Swans) once told me, the main goal must be to achieve ecstasy. Well, As The Stars doesn’t have a problem achieving ecstasy, but rather a problem to let it go. Like a fuckin’ junkie never satisfied, Woods’ music on this new album is constantly trying to exceed itself. What once was depressive now it seems to be uplifting and hopeful towards positivity. But who really knows? It’s really hard to tell when you’re so fuckin’ high for almost thirty eight minutes and you’re not allowed to stop. Hopefully this album, and this band, will have the due credit and recognition. If you like stuff like Alcest, Lantlôs and Deafheaven… Why the hell would you not give a chance to Woods of Desolation? Don’t be afraid. Jump!

 

8/10

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TIAGO MOREIRA

Austerre – Withering Illusions And Desolation

AusterreIf ever there were an album title that gave the game away, then the 2007 debut from this now-defunct Australian depressive black metal duo Austere would take the prize, the cake, the plate, the table, and the whole damned marquee – dripping in blood from the wrists of a million suicidal loons, obviously – were such a presentation ever to take place, of course. But the recently re-released Withering Illusions And Desolation (Wintereich Productions) is not about celebration. This is about despair, about futility, about the utter hopelessness of existence and our feeble failure to either discover or impose meaning on the foolish acts that constitute the absurdity that is our waking life. Continue reading