Release Date: Feb 2, 2010
Record label: The End
Genre(s): Rock, Metal
An astonishing blend of industrial, metal, free jazz, and raw electronic noise, Shining's Blackjazz represents more than a leap forward for the band; it's the kind of album artists will be striving to equal for years to come. Comparable to Ministry's The Mind Is a Terrible Thing to Taste, Blackjazz mixes scorched-earth synth-guitar riffs and concussive drumming with the unholy shrieks and post-Coltrane saxophone of group leader Jørgen Munkeby. The production by Sean Beavan, who's worked with Nine Inch Nails and Marilyn Manson, among others, gives this a pummeling edge -- the drums sound sampled from NIN's "March of the Pigs," while the synths and guitars have a fullness and warmth that are crushingly heavy without being mere noise for its own sake.
“Blackjazz” may have been the perfect way to describe King Crimson. Though “progressive” metal bands seem to be running rampant anymore, few carry the free jazz sophistication of Norway quartet, Shining, their double-dutch whirlwind of industrial cacophony and Zappa-esque musical deviation at times blurring the line between rupture and rapture. Their last album, Grindstone, demonstrated the sort of off-kilter genius you rarely discover because you don’t know where to find it, or what to call it, the album’s calculating eclecticism as chaotic as an arbitrarily conceived mix tape.
The difference between Shining the live act and what you hear from the band on record can be vast at times. In concert, the Norwegians are an absolutely formidable, visceral presence, hammering out an astonishing blend of progressive rock, extreme metal, and free jazz. On the other hand, on such superb albums as 2005’s In the Kingdom of Kitsch You Will be a Monster and 2007’s Grindstone, it’s a different story, the aforementioned influences still present, but often offset by a much more experimental, ambient, almost introspective quality that can be just as disarming, especially if you see them live before hearing them on record.
Though they're separated by profound differences-- most especially improvisation and rigidity-- jazz and metal have a lot more in common than most fans would admit. In particular, both tend to be torn over innovation: There are those who believe that no art form can survive without pushing its boundaries outward and upward, and those who believe that straying too far from those boundaries turns the music into something else, something undesirable and ugly. Into this morass of dreary arguments over authenticity wade Jørgen Munkeby and his colleagues in Shining, and they handily illustrate how the whole issue can be mooted by just not caring that much about pleasing either side.
Norway’s Shining are a unique prospect There’s no doubting whatsoever that Norway’s Shining are a unique prospect, possess an inimitable and outrageous musical vision, and somewhat of a cult following as a result. Equally experimental as it is disturbing, their latest musical experience doesn’t disappoint and is an altogether leftfield and very noisy affair. Whether the neutral can stomach the multi-genre driven but well-crafted din these guys produce is debatable, but there’s no denying the talent in abundance, which they flaunt as often as you would expect if you’re already a fan; pure noise and saxophones included.
Journalists, critics, hacks – whatever you want to call the people who make a living (or not) from writing about music – often get criticised for seemingly 'not having listened to the record', or at least multiple times. I'll be honest here: I'm writing large chunks of this review without having even got to the end of the damned thing. With Norwegian collective Shining's aptly titled Blackjazz, you don't really need to, such is the immediacy – whether negative or positive.
Norway's Shining began as an acoustic jazz group. After two albums, they drastically changed their sound for 2005's In The Kingdom of Kitsch You Will Be A Monster, their breakthrough record and debut for the iconoclastic Rune Grammofon label. That album lived up to the descriptor "unclassifiable"; it is a startling amalgamation of free jazz, metal and progressive rock percolating through a dense, constantly shifting soundscape.