Alongside Varg Vikernes, Kvarforth is one of the more genuinely controversial characters to emerge from the black metal scene, as infamous for his unpredictable and – some would say – unhinged personality as he is famous for his music-making activities. His history is one of confrontation and violence, his belief system one of pro-suicidal nihilism and his actions those of one who openly advocates self-harm, mutilation and depravity in all its forms. That’s why there’s no such thing as a gentle introduction to his world.
And yet, beyond all that – if you can get beyond it, and many never will – he has created some truly wonderful music with Shining. Music that has grown from its primal black roots into a multi-headed beast of experimental extreme metal, where harrowing atmospherics and a genuinely unsettling sense of otherness clash head on with primitive aggression to create something quite special.
Whatever else Kvarforth might be, there’s little argument that he has a keen musical brain and it’s no great surprise he is in demand as a guest performer. It’s those collaborations with other artists that are featured on this gargantuan, close to two hour compilation.
Musically, it’s a diverse and sometimes hellish journey. Knowing that the two ‘biggest’ contributors are Glorior Belli and The Vision Bleak, straight away gives you a sense of the underground status of the featured acts and confirms this isn’t a record for the casual heavy metal fan. No, this is the proper subterranean deal in all its filth-encrusted glory.
Whether lending his talents to the desolate, doom-laden soundscapes of Monumentum and Gravdal, or the second-wave primitive black metal of Diabolicum, the interesting thing to note is that no matter how far removed these bands may be from each other in a musical sense, they all share common ground with Kvarforth and Shining in so much as creating music in its most unfettered and purest of forms.
Often raw, ugly and harrowing, each of these fifteen tracks nonetheless makes a deep emotional impact which often verges on being quite beautiful. A contradiction? Maybe. But that’s Niklas Kvarforth for you.
(released December 27, 2011 on Spinefarm Records)