Welcome to a new feature on Heavy Blog, “The Anatomy Of”. Taken from the Between The Buried And Me album of the same name — in which the band pays tribute to artists/bands that they feel have most inspired their songwriting — it’s a feature in which we hand off the metaphorical microphone to bands so they can talk about their influences.
Since this column’s inception, we’ve wanted to reach out to Norwegian progressive industrial outfit SHINING to get frontman, saxophonist, and band leader Jorgen Munkeby’s take on the genesis of Blackjazz. We expected the typical rundown of influential records that all of the bands have delivered thus far, but Jorgen went above and beyond and gave us a technical track-by-track breakdown of some of the record’s standout tracks! Check out Jorgen two-thousand-plus word essay detailing the ins-and-outs of the group’s groundbreaking 2010 record Blackjazz.
Over our 15 years long career, Shining has straddled such diverse genres as acoustic jazz through artrock to industrial metal. I could very well have written an article discussing The Anatomy Of Shining, which would include all our influences ever present in our abnormally varied music catalog.
But something happened back in 2010. We stumbled upon a unique gem. Hard as a diamond and black as the deepest vacuum space. We called it Blackjazz, and we have loyally stuck with it since then. In fact we’re still polishing this jagged and piercing beast. In this article I will instead focus on our period after the discovery of Blackjazz, and I will shine a light on what lies inside the hard walls of this black I will also do something I rarely get to do, but something that I love. I often include lots of parts in our music that are direct paraphrases and tributes to other artists I admire and that have greatly inspired me. Back in the days these bits and pieces could be from Mahler or Miles Davis, but now they’re more often from Marilyn Manson or Meshuggah. I’ve left them there in the music to remind me that we owe a huge amount to those who came before us, and that we are in fact “standing on the shoulders of giants,” to quote Isaac Newton.
Our song “Exit Sun” is long and pretty experimental, full of parts, and is probably the song with the most direct links to other artists.
MAIN OPENING GUITAR RIFF
When writing “Exit Sun“, I had just discovered The Dillinger Escape Plan, and their music had hit me over the head like a ton of bricks and literally made me think that Dillinger made the best music in the world, and that I might just as well stop making music. But thankfully that feeling only lasted a few days, and I found myself eager to start making my own music again. DEP’s fierce and raw energy and its spastic rhythms was what initially hit me hardest, but I also though that it was really refreshing how they included a somewhat boogie type one string cowboy riff in the song “Milk Lizard” on Ire Works. I sat down and wanted to write a song that started off in somewhat the same manner. Almost the whole beginning and the end of our song “Exit Sun” is based upon the riff that had its seed in the DEP song. Of course the final version doesn’t sound much like Dillinger’s riff, due to its totally different tempo and its weird 7/8 meter rather than boogie 4/4, but the creative spark for “Exit Sun” definitely came from the hard working American mathcore legends.
I’ve always loved Meshuggah’s trademark trick of taking a short little riff or cell of notes and looping it so that it changes its placement in regards to the downbeat every time it returns. For instance the riff might start on the downbeat, then when it loops it starts on the sixteenth after the downbeat, then on the eight note, and then on the sixteenth before the downbeat, before it again lands on the downbeat itself the fourth time it returns. But underneath all this cleverness, Meshuggah manages to focus on what’s much more essential in music: Getting the music to groove and swing. And there are no other band that does it better in metal than Meshuggah!
When the first part of “Exit Sun” was written, I felt it needed a second contrasting part, so I decided to see if the chopped up feeling of the end riff of Meshuggah’s “Electric Red” song from their Obzen album could work well against the more outstretched figures of the first part. In Meshuggah’s song it’s really just a riff thrown in for the last minute end of a song (starting at 4:56), without it leading anywhere particular, while in “Exit Sun” it’s being used as the main foundation for everything that’s happening in the middle of the song (starting at 2:37 in the Live Blackjazz DVD clip above).
We literally kept the Meshuggah riff almost in its original form, added some melody over it, and then after a while started manipulating the main riff by transposing it, changing pitches and slightly twisting it. But this is still probably the clearest example of a tribute riff in Shining’s music we have ever released. Thanks to Meshuggah for lending us their riff!
DESCENDING CHROMATIC LINE
The last part in “Exit Sun” that was based on another song is a unison descending chromatic line that shows up three places, with the first being at 1:45 in the Live Blackjazz DVD video. It is bluntly based upon the amazing opening bass line of Muse’s mega hit “Hysteria“. Although the pitches and root notes have been changed and the tempo is taken up a few notches, it is still fairly easy to hear the connection.
“Fisheye,” probably our most well known song, also contains two places with noticeable links to other songs. The remnants of these ideas are not as easily discernible as with “Exit Sun“, but they should be able to be spotted nevertheless.
DRUM PATTERN, GROOVE:
The opening drum groove is the very signature and backbone of the song, with its noteworthy and elegant use of the 7/8 meter. When I first heard Nine Inch Nails’ Year Zero album, I loved the heavy and industrial feeling of the medium tempo opener track “HYPERPOWER!”. I wanted to see if I could make a drum groove, and not to mention a drum sound, that sort of resembled this, which in turn led to the whole song slowly unfolding.
I remember programming the drum groove in Cubase and working quite a bit on the mix, so when it was time to record properly with real drums in the studio, we were unsure if we could get it to sound as industrial and hard as the demo drums sounded. But when Sean Beavan stepped in to mix the album, he gathered all the tricks from back in the days when he was producing and mixing Nine Inch Nails in the 90s, and managed to make the best sounding drums and the best sounding drum groove I have ever heard. Due to Sean’s work, this has turned into a staple groove among drummers for sound check.
Even though I don’t think most people will notice the link between “Fisheye” and “HYPERPOWER!”, the first three beats of the two songs are exactly the same and has pretty much the same tempo. The idea for “Fisheye” was definitely conceived in the Year Zero opening track.
[youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4kQMDSw3Aqo&w=560 “The New Shit”]
Another signature part of “Fisheye” is its chilling and ice cold synth melody that focuses on my favorite musical interval of all, the b9. I remember that I loved the melody that comes in at 1:37 in Marilyn Manson’s song “The New Shit” when I first heard it, and the memory of this part jumped into my mind when I sat down to write a synth melody for “Fisheye“. The sound we utilized is quite different, and the pitches are not the same either, but the underlying idea and feeling is the same.