Sound — 6
This may be one of the weirdest albums I have ever reviewed. Not in and of itself, necessarily, but more based on the band's philosophy. Shining openly endorses suicide and other self-harm in all its forms. Niklas Kvarforth, vocals/guitar (and occasionally keyboards), has openly bragged that some of their fans have committed suicide due to inspiration from their music. They have given out razor blades to fans at concerts before. In 2006, Niklas Kvarforth supposedly committed suicide only to re-emerge in early 2007 (having anonymously been fronting the band disguised and going by "Ghoul"). This was possibly a step to inspire further fans of the band to commit suicide. "8 1/2" is actually the 9th studio album by the band, consisting of 6 tracks and lasting approximately 48 minutes. For those of you who are new to the band, it is black metal with heavy doom metal influences and some progressive elements.
The album opens with the track "Terres Des Anonymes," which begins with some seriously high gain guitar with heavy feedback. On this track (as most of the album) the lyrics are non-English. Throughout the song there is an underlying melody that I could hear on my monitor headphones, but could not hear properly through my speakers for some reason. The next track is "Szabadulj Meg Onmagatol," which again takes advantage of so much gain that you are hearing the guitar through a cloud of static and feedback, with the lead guitar playing a melancholy and repetitive melody through most of the song. The lyrics begin with a long drawn out groan/scream and finally goes into the actual lyrics, which are once again non-English. The song does go on to pounding double bass drums while the vocalist screams "blaaaaah!" for quite a while, then some actual lyrics, then back to the "blaaaaah!". "Ett Liv Utan Mening" (translated to "A Life Without Meaning") actually begins with some clean guitar playing an arpeggiated melody and the drums kind of playing along with a weak groove. The lyrics start out with a drawn out "Aaaaaaaah!", then the heavy high gain guitar comes in, the double bass pedal is back, and the lyrics are sang in a plaintive voice. The track "Selvdestruktivitetens Emissarie" is next up and has some kind of odd medieval type of stringed instrument playing the melody in the background for part of the song, but barely discernable above the heavily distorted guitar. Next up is "Black Industrial Misery" which seems to be some serious tremolo guitar, fast pounding drums and some random sounds and screaming smattered throughout. A little over two minutes in there are some actual lyrics. The album closes out with the track "Through Corridors of Oppression," which has a very doom metal sound and feel in the beginning, with some synthesizer work adding melody and atmosphere to the riff. The lyrics and snare seem to have a good deal of reverb going on during this track.
Lyrics — 4
Niklas Kvarforth is an odd duck, but his lyrics are straight up black metal lyrics. The vocals for each track were sang by a different black metal vocalist, except for "Through Corridors of Oppression" which are actually sung by Niklas. The vocals for "Terres Des Anonymes" were sang by Famine (from Alcest, Peste Noire, and Valfunde). The vocals for "Szabadulj Meg Önmagadtól" were provided by Attila Csihar (from Mayhem, Tormentor, Aborym, Burial Chamber Trio, Gravetemple, Keep Of Kalessin, as well as numerous other projects). Vocals for "Ett Liv Utan Mening" were supplied by Pehr Larsson (from Alfahanne, Maze Of Torment and Vinterland). Vocals from "Selvdestruktivitetens Emissarie" were supplied by Gaahl (from acts such as Gorgoroth, Wardruna, Gaahlskagg, God Seed and Trelldom). Vocals from "Black Industrial Misery" were provided by Maniac (from Mayhem, Skitliv, Wurdulak and Sehnsucht). And vocals for "Through Corridors of Oppression" were provided by Niklas Kvarforth. While the lyrics are almost entirely in different languages that I don't speak, I was able to find translations of some of them using the internet. From the track "Through Corridors of Oppression" go something like this: "Slowly passing the oppressed/ innocent sons and daughters lost/ trembling in the bottomless depths of darkness/ successfully failing in their search/ To search the light/ to search salvation." Some really optimistic stuff, right? Then from the track "Selvdestruktivitetens Emissarie" you have: "Friendship, love and family/ it's the whore you cheated/ a hot irresistible happiness/ no promises ever held/ but here in my arms you are save/ here in the form of the edge shiny reflection/ here you I love you with open arms welcome." I understand dark lyrics, but I can't wrap my head around a band pushing their fans to commit suicide.
Overall Impression — 5
I can't get behind this album - their "philosophy" is just too jacked up for me, and the music displayed on this album is mediocre at best. The best stuff on the album seems to be a few tricks done in the studio, and then the synthesizer parts. Honestly, if you want a really dark album then maybe this is for you, but in my opinion there is a lot of black metal out that is far superior to this album. I just can't endorse this album. It was subpar musically as well as being exceedingly bland with the exception of some of the synth lines.