Every now and then I just kinda feel like things are getting stagnant. I wouldn’t say I was getting bored with the music scene, but sometimes I crave a new sound and I just want to be enthralled by something I haven’t heard before. Luckily, I came across Norway’s SHINING.
Not to be confused by the blackened emo Swedish band by the same name (he says as he alienates a portion of his audience), SHINING play a style of music that amalgamates jazz fusion, black metal, and industrial. Some of you may cringe at the thought, but this blend of genres makes for a truly engaging and challenging listen. The music is weird, but sometimes weird is good; and with Blackjazz, weird is spectacular.
The music is abrasive in nature, although it wouldn’t take a genius to come to that conclusion by the album’s title alone. The first few tracks, “The Madness and Damage Done” and “Fisheye“, make heavy use of fuzzy distorted guitars and vocals with synth accompaniment; Shining wear the industrial influence on their sleeves. As with anything jazz related, expect odd time signatures and changes in meter. Don’t expect to be turned off if you think this will be too hard of a listen, however, as a lot of the synth lines and guitar riffs are catchy and memorable, serving as hooks. In “Fisheye“, we get our first taste of saxophone, played by vocalist/guitarist Jorgen Munkeby, who also played sax in Ihsahn‘s After, which I praised as the first great album of 2010.
“Exit Sun” provides some great proggy riffs and melodies as the synth roars as a siren. This song is very energetic, with Munkeby shouting “HEY! HEY! HEY! HEY!” over the racket. That may seem cheesy when done on record to some, but sometimes it’s cool to just let go of yourself and fucking rock. More noisy distorted vocals wail over stuttering chugging riffs as the song goes by, synth providing various melodies and electronic noise. Around this time in the record, I noticed there was something very Mike Patton-like about it, especially in Munkeby’s processed vocals. More prog metal riffs flow around Munkeby’s shouts.
Exit Sun flows into Exit Sun. Yes, there’s two consecutive tracks in a row. I first thought that was a tracklist error, but there’s another The Madness and Damage Done coming up later. This one is a short electro beat with some noise that fades out into silence.
Now onto “HEALTER SKELTER”. Wow. This song is instrumental jazz in the blackened industrialized style heard throughout the record thus far. There’s not much I can possibly say about this track. You’re just going to have to hear it for yourself. It’s just fucking crazy, and probably my favorite.
The other “The Madness and Damage Done” starts out with synth emulating a violin and this continues as ominous guitar drones and industrial bleeps grow in intensity into a crescendo of spastic riffing and ends in the same motif as part one, with the same lyrics and riff hooks. This spreading out makes the album flow like a cohesive piece.
SHINING truly shines (no pun intended) most when doing extended instrumental passages, and it shows in “Blackjazz Deathtrance”, which is probably holds the essence of Blackjazz. This style is reminiscent of “HEALTER SKELTER”, with added vocals and more obvious use of trance elements. It’s 11 minutes of progressive experimentation with their sound. The track’s name certainly does it justice. This song is all over the place. It’s songs like this that make this record a challenging listen, and I mean that in a good way. It’s obvious that a lot of thought was put into this sound.
“Omen” acts like a post-rock song that SHINING wanted to cover in their own style. Munkeby groans and wheezes over grinding noise and guitar drones that eventually explode in bursts into the soundtrack of what I’d imagine to be the creepiest horror film ever made. Finally, Blackjazz ends with a cover of King Crimson‘s “21st Century Schizoid Man“, featuring Enslaved‘s Grutle Kjellson performing vocals. SHINING take this song and make it their own. They tear it a new asshole, and I mean that in the best possible way.
This album may take several listens to grow on you, but if you keep an open mind you may be like me and see SHINING’s Blackjazz as what an avant-garde metal album should be: experimental, progressive, and different, all while maintaining a cohesive album feel to it.
Munkeby has an impressive resume this year. After was the first great record. Blackjazz is the second.
SHINING – Blackjazz gets…