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Shining - Blackjazz CD (album) cover

BLACKJAZZ

Shining

 

RIO/Avant-Prog

3.84 | 105 ratings

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siLLy puPPy
5 stars After two albums of classic 60s avant-garde tinged post-bop jazz and two more of dark experimental progressive rock laced with auxiliary reserves of tripped out electronica and partitioned metal music bombast, SHINING led by the eccentric composer and band leader Jørgen Munkeby decided to delve into the heavier world of extreme metal that trimmed down the musical instruments even more and focused on a caustic rambunctious style of guitar driven metal with crazy jazz flair ups courtesy of Munkeby's frenetic saxophone squawking.

Another sound shift also signified yet another change in the lineup. Out was keyboardist Andreas Hessen Schei replaced by synthesizer wizard Bernt Moen and gone was basset Morten Strøm who found a replacement in Tor Egil Kreken. Torstein Lofthus stuck around for this third wave of stylistic shifts as drumming powerhouse extraordinary and the band added one extra member in the form of Even Helte Hermansesn as a second guitarist thus making the new version of SHINING a provocative and quixotic quartet. While the previous albums were primarily instrumental, SHINING's fourth album BLACKJAZZ was their breakthrough and featured a frenetic fast-tempo paced style of industrialized metal with Munkeby taking on the newfound duties as lead vocalist.

One of the major inspirations behind this sudden shift into extreme metal was the band's 2007 tour with Enslaved and also due to the fact that the previous two ridiculously complex albums didn't translate so well live therefore BLACKJAZZ was designed to represent how the band performed in a live setting with the album title referring to this new bizarre amalgamation of black metal, industrial rock and of course jazz! The album exists in the same league as fellow Norwegian band Dødheimsgard and in many ways Munkeby's frantic vocal style reminds me of Devin Townsend especially from his earlier years on Steve Vai's "Sex & Religion" album as well as with Strapping Young Lad.

BLACKJAZZ doesn't waste any time slapping you in the face with caustic swells of guitar riffs, bantering bass lines and spastic drum rolls but for all its direct assault on the senses, the musical flow is much simpler with less detours into psychedelic atmospheric journeys into another universe. The second track "Fisheye" dates back to the 2008 when SHINING performed with Enslaved at the 90-minute "Armageddon Concerto" and was mined to create the studio version of the first movement. It seems that this decision was the impetus to switching to the avant-garde industrial metal style on BLACKJAZZ and for those hoping for another dark prog journey in the vein of King Crimson's debut, they must have been as disappointed as the jazz purists who first heard SHINING's third album "In the Kingdom of Kitsch You Will Be a Monster."

Ubiquitous caustic bombast aside, BLACKJAZZ is filled with creepy and oft eerie atmospheric backdrops that keep the incessant high octane metal rampages into the world of darkened progressive rock with highbrow time signature workouts, intricately designed atmospheric generators and brilliant execution through highly energetic but adventurous virtuosity. While saxophone jazz mixed with metal has become a bit cliche some ten years after this release, nobody has pulled it off quite as well as SHINING did when such a concept was still a novelty. All those King Crimson attacks are still quite present to the trained ear with the most striking example coming on "Exit Sun" which mimics parts of "21st Century Schizoid Man" which also happens to appear as a more metal cover version as the album's closer.

As the album entered mid-point with the crazed "Healter Skelter," the jazz and metal parts become ever more entwined with the saxophone parts dueling in a death match with the rampaging guitar and bass lines. This particular score is daunting in its virtuosic delivery. For those who appreciated the less bombastic approach of the previous two albums, BLACKJAZZ does deliver some darkened prog goods in the form of Anekdoten or Morte Macabre on tracks like "The Madness and the Damage Done" and most importantly "Omen" although do be warned that the quickened pace fo the drums, vocals and guitar parts which contrast quite starkly with the chilled out atmospheric backdrop offers a stunning contrast of stylistic approaches somehow woven together seamlessly as only true seasoned composers can master but it's probably the excesses of "Blackjazz Deathtrance" that i find most memorable here.

After a more extreme version of "21st Century Schizoid Man," the classic King Crimson song from 1969 that pretty much was the firing canon of the entire prog explosion that followed, the album ends and leaves you with the initial perception that you're not entirely sure what you just experienced. BLACKJAZZ performed an incredible mastery of fusing completely disparate musical styles into a seamless whole. The caustic metal mixes with jazz and what sounds like symphonic classical music is uncanny in how well it all gels together. Sure this isn't black metal and it isn't jazz but elements of both are here hanging out on the same playground along with their buddies prog rock, electronica, industrial rock, 20th century Western classical and moments of psychedelia.

This is not an easy listen for sure and will take some time for it to unleash its magic but once those sonic spores have hatched in your head, you cannot unhear it! In my world this is the second masterpiece in a row from the Norwegian band SHINING and although they wouldn't keep the world's attention very long after this lauded breakthrough, for a brief moment in time they were actually one of Norway's most promising bands. Warning: not to be listened to if you have severe reactions to extreme stimuli! Symptoms may include sanity loss, ringing ears, excessive desires to bang head against wall and possible sudden outbursts that could leave hotel rooms in shambles. However if you have all those uncontrollable impulses firmly under lock and key, this album may provide that exhilarating excitement that extremophiles crave but rarely find in such abundance.

siLLy puPPy | 5/5 |

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