Shining – Varg Utan Flock (Album Review)

Black Metal as a genre has been constantly evolving as many artists have placed their own spin upon it with a variety of results. For Swedish outfit Shining, after three decades of existence, their latest release, Varg Utan Flock, explores the genre inside and out, and reinventing ways of expressing extreme sounds beyond conventional ways often heard within the Metal genre.

Released on Friday, January 5, 2018 through Season of Mist, Varg Utan Flock marks the band’s 10th proper studio album and a follow-up to 2015’s well-received IX – Everyone, Everything, Everywhere, Ends. Recorded in February of 2017 at Andy La Rocque of King Diamond’s Sonic Train Studios, the album, like each previous full-length work of Shining, consists of just 6 songs. 

Band founder and visionary Niklas Kvarforth tackles the “Wolf Without A Pack” theme on this release, and his raw emotions could be felt upon each of the 6 tunes on this one. Working with the lineup of Peter Huss (guitar), Euge Valovirta (guitar), Marcus Hammarström (bass), and Jarle Byberg (drums), the unique creativity of Kvarforth is a fluid balance. 

Opening with “Svart Ostoppbar Eld,” he lets loose with a barrage of riffage and slowly sets in with a dark, progressive overtone with a sense of bleakness that lets out that raw sense of hopelessness that longtime fans have grown to admire.

Wherever Kvarforth draws his inspiration from, it comes across strong and the expression on each tune shines through. For example, “Gyllene Portarnas Bro” captures a rather somber vibe with its raw, groovy guitar overtone while his vocals capture pain that cannot be masked too easily. But, on “Han Som Lurar Inom,” his inner rage comes out resembling bits of his past sounds without stepping too far back. That in mind, his works on Varg Utan Flock shows many different sides of his inner darkness while continuing to push his musical boundaries at the same time. The final two tracks – the classical piano inspired “Tolvtusenfyrtioett,” with guest musician Olli Ahvenlahti on piano, and the Japanese Suicide Forest-inspired “Mot Aokigahara” begins somber until Kvarforth’s rage lets loose towards the latter half of the track.

Clocking in at just over 40 minutes in length, each tune is strategically placed on Varg Utan Flock which works well with keeping listeners engaged throughout the entire body of work. Overall, this release is an emotional journey throughout Kvarforth’s inner darkness and is quite the ride. It is worth listening from beginning to end and a few listens will enhance the experience, bringing out of the appreciation of this release. For these reasons, CrypticRock give Varg Utan Flock 4 out of 5 stars. 

Season of Mist

Purchase Varg Utan Flock:

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