Album of the Day




Shining’s V-Halmstad is over the top, even for black metal. But there’s a point where going over the top transcends tone-deaf cheesiness and ridiculousness and becomes admirable — and even enjoyable — for its complete and total lack of self-awareness and self-consciousness; it goes past the train wreck factor and manages to loop back around to become pleasing and exciting. Like Con Air — a movie so absurd in its construct and execution that its fetish for doing everything to the max makes it impossible not to enjoy — V-Halmstad takes a particularly histrionic subgenre — suicidal black metal — and plays every element to its most hyperbolic extreme. In theory, it’s a package that should be hilariously pathetic. In fact, it’s so brazenly ridiculous that it’s better than most albums of its kind. The feel-good suicidal black metal album.

Whereas Xasthur’s fascinating depressive messes actually sound like someone at the end of their rope and Leviathan’s The Tenth Sublevel of Suicide is a dense, swirling clusterfuck of impenetrable bleakness, V-Halmstad is a solid, wonderfully melodramatic, rocking black metal album with dark intentions. There’s multiple samples of women weeping (one taken from the film adaptation of fucking Prozac Nation), a random reworking of Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata” right before the final song, and nutball vocalist Niklas Kvarforth’s inspired vocals. Truly, his vocal performance takes the notion of black metal having cringeworthy singing to a postmodern extent, sounding less like a rasping banshee and more like an angry Muppet having a nervous breakdown. It’s hilarious at first,  but then, after a few times through, it makes sense.

More importantly, Halmstad is so packed full of Celtic Frost by way of Immortal riffs that almost every song is surprisingly memorable. And there are solos a plenty, too, from “Neka Morgondagen”‘s slick opening to the Pink Floyd over flamenco acoustic work on “Besvikelsens Dystra Monotoni.” Then there’s “Låt Oss Ta Allt Från Varandra,” a radio hit in a world where this kind of music gets played on the radio. Its brilliant main riff is so reminiscent of Danzig’s first album that the song ends by shamelessly ripping off “Twist of Cain.” These aren’t Williamsburg ironists taking the piss out of black metal, but genre lifers playing everything to the hilt. But instead of this being a study in outsider art, it’s just really fucking fun. More reserved bands wish they could make something this good.

After last year’s much-lauded Blackjazz, Norway’s Shining have relegated Sweden’s Shining to the status of “the other Shining.” But while there aren’t any sweet, blazing sax solos, don’t count Sweden’s version out. With music this inherently absurd and entertaining, they’re not a band to be laughed off. Well, no, they are, but that’s sort of the point. Ridiculous music without miles of ironic distance: in the post-screamo crunk era, we need as much of it as we can get.


You can download Shining’s V-Halmstad for a whopping $5.34 here.

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