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

The Stone – Nekroza

The Stone - Nekroza - Artwork

On paper, The Stone aren’t particularly cult. They hail from Belgrade, Serbia, not the frozen mountains of Norway, they mix elements of Death and Thrash metal into their sound and worst of all, their new album Nekroza (Folter), the Serbian quintet’s 7th album (8th including one under Stone to Flesh moniker) has decent production values. Clocking in at around 55 minutes, it is a solid piece of modern black metal. As well as the genre necessities of blast beats, punk riffs and guttural screams, The Stone mix it up with other influences. There’s traces of thrash, death metal reminiscent of Behemoth, and moments even bring to mind early Motörhead records.

Opener ‘Kamenolom’ begins with an ominous soundtrack of horns before the blast beats burst in. But this isn’t a relentless dirge, there are constant subtle shifts in the riffs and tempo. It’s still raw, heavy and oppressive in a way that only Black metal can be, but has a real energy permeating throughout every track. There’s plenty of hammering brutality, but it’s tempered with more intricate and ambitious rhythms.

Vocalist Nefas’ throaty screams combine with ominous yet aggressive guitar work from Kozeljnik & Demonetras. One of the most surprising elements of the band’s sound are the excellent solos dotted throughout the record; ‘Košmar,’ ‘Sunovrat’ and ‘Crno Zrno’ are all graced with some searing and melodic guitar flourishes.

While there’s plenty of variety in terms of pace, there’s nary a dull moment. The likes of ‘Pesimizam’, ‘Dani Crni’ and ‘Lov na veštice’ are all quality, while the epic, thudding ‘Mrak’ slowly builds from a snail’s piece to all out thunder, complete with melodic solos. But the seven-minute title track is probably the highlight, bringing together the different elements of the band’s sound into one melting pot.

The Stone may not be regarded on the same level as Dimmu Borgir or Satyricon, but on the strength of this record they should be. Mixing the crushing with the melodic in a way you don’t often hear, Nekroza is easily one of the most enjoyably Black metal albums of the year.

8.0/10

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DAN SWINHOE