Sunday, September 11, 2011

Shining - 2010 Blackjazz

Band : Shining
Album : Blackjazz
Release Year : 2010
Genre : Progressive | Black Metal | Jazz | Experimental

Tracklist :
01 The Madness And The Damage Done Pt 1
02 Fisheye
03 Exit Sun Pt 1
04 Exit Sun Pt 2
06 The Madness And The Damage Done Pt 2
07 Blackjazz Deathtrance
08 Omen
09 21st Century Schizoid Man

A Norwegian band that started out as an experimental jazz group in 1998, and has since evolved into playing their own avant-garde brand of progressive metal. Winner of the Alarm Award in both 2006 (for In the Kingdom of Kitsch You Will Be a Monster) and 2007 (for Grindstone). Shining’s fifth album Blackjazz was released 18 January 2010 on Indie Recordings. The album’s title is meant to describe Shining’s sound, which on Blackjazz became even harder and more intense than ever before. New Shining sounds like Experimental Metal with huge Jazz influence.

Compared to Shining’s past albums, “Blackjazz” seems to be a much more violent, aggressive, modern and “avant-garde” affair, closer to the work of like-minded bands The Dillinger Escape Plan, Fantômas, Ground Zero and Ruins. These songs are performed with a sense of urgency that almost borderlines on lunacy but, after the first couple of listens, it becomes quite clear that this is one of the most chaotically controlled albums of recent times.

Whereas Shining have experimented with electronic elements from the very beginning of their career, they have always been a lot more subdued compared to the dense, layered industrial sound design they went for this time. Synthesizer leads and flourishes abound across the album, which leads me to a major complaint : had they focused on simpler, catchier leads instead of the intricate finger work scattered all over the songs, “Blackjazz” could have been an even stronger set of compositions with an stronger focus on the absolutely stellar rhythmic section of the band. Drummer Torstein Lofthus’ work on this album is nothing short of stunning and easily ranks among the best drum performances I’ve heard in a long, long time.

The guitar work is, without a doubt, the most chaotic performance on “Blackjazz”. Angular riffs and chords, with little to non-existent focus in melody, make up the bulk of the album. The fact that there are no guitar solos might enrage some of the more conservative fans but, yet again, this is not an album for narrow-minded prog rock listeners. There is some heavy feedback experimentation as well as noisy drone elements that might bring to mind the work of Khanate and Gnaw (“Omen”). These sections mix surprisingly well with Shining’s own brand of savage mindfuckery.

Singer and band leader Jørgen Munkeby lashes out a bizarre yet intense vocal performance that draws much inspiration from Mike Patton and Yamatsuka Eye, aided by a diverse array of effects and post-production vocal manipulation. Apart from singing and playing guitar, Munkeby (a former member of Jaga Jazzist) took care of the saxophone parts, specially prominent in “Blackjazz Deathtrance”, drone-meets-Naked City sounding “Omen” and the album closer, a fucked up rendition of King Crimson’s classic “21st Century Schizoid Man”. “Blackjazz” needs to be thoroughly heard over and over in order to be believed and fully understood. A soon-to-be classic album.

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