Hammer has found itself in some pretty strange situations over the years but puffing away on Cuban cigars with Niklas Kvarforth the controversy-powered mastermind behind Sweden’s self-proclaimed ‘originators of suicidal black metal’, Shining, is certainly one of the strangest. Less strange perhaps is the reason Hammer finds ourselves indulging in such Hannibal Smith-esque activities, as we joined Kvarforth, Shining guitarist Peter Huss and producer Andy LaRocque, as they celebrated the recent completion of Shining’s upcoming ninth studio album IX/Everyone Everything Everywhere Ends.
“I believe opinions will differ quite a lot amongst the people who hear it,” Kvarforth tells us earlier in the day at LaRocque’s studio in Varberg, Sweden, after we’ve had our eardrums blown through our skulls after an exclusive first play back of the record. “The rules in the genre are somewhat blurred these days, but if it was still 1996 I believe people would be truly offended with how much of a liberty, or ‘not giving a fuck’ to be precise, I’ve taken with this album.
“Some stuff I would personally consider turned out way heavier than what we’ve ever achieved before,” he adds, “but there Andy had a major role. I think he knew what I was aiming for and there wasn’t that much discussion about the sound to begin with as I believe we were all on the same page from the very start; achieving something more ‘alive’ and ‘authentic than before, not fussing around too much with technicalities.”
And that certainly tallies with what blasts through our brain as the album’s six tracks roar out like some sort of blackened aural back draft, although as Kvarforth goes on to explain “[It’s not just about] having the loudest guitars and the fastest blast beats,” he says. “I feel that the melancholic aura of the band has somewhat been lacking on the last couple of albums and thankfully that particular element is stronger than ever on this one, at least according to me and the unexpected turns we take in terms of arrangements. It might feel completely normal to me to arrange a song the way I do, but others go like ‘what the fuck?!’
“But that’s what Shining is about: Fucking up the systems of human beings.”
Of course Shining, and Kvarforth in particular, are known for embracing and occasionally wallowing in the darker extremes of life; IX/Everyone…, as he tells Hammer, whilst not a concept album as such, as with the bands previous albums contains a continual thread that runs throughout with Kvarforth stating that the record is a “reflection of the past two years of my life and some of the poorer decisions I’ve made during that time” and is the product of a band who feel they have “no bridges left to burn.” However, as the vocalist later reveals to Hammer, of all the poor decisions he may feel he has made prior to creating the band’s latest opus, enlisting new drummer ‘Raikku’ was not one of them, even if some unique and somehow Shining-esque challenges later occurred.
“I have had the privilege of working with amazing musicians throughout the years, and especially drummers,” he says. “I mean: Hellhammer, Schill and Witt are all fantastic and supreme drummers and so is Raikku. But the recordings were flawless this time around, to such an extent that Andy and I were almost getting angry with him because of his skills. You know, I wasn’t satisfied with one part, as he had changed my basic idea, so I tell him to play it my way instead. Raikku then sat for 20 seconds without saying a word and recorded my new idea immediately without having to rethink or even rehearse the part. Fucking amazing.
“But this band is fucking cursed, too, without doubt,” he then admits. “It’s not too strange really considering the negative energies I conjure up and worship – it would be stranger if everything went smoothly; you see, Raikku actually broke his arm a while back, which we both thought would be a big problem with some of the newer stuff where he has to play in an almost inhuman speed. I was proven wrong though… and soon everyone else will be too”. You have been warned.
IX/Everyone Everything Everywhere Ends is due for release this spring via Season Of Mist.