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kev rowland
Honorary Reviewer
3 stars Jørgen Munkeby (saxophonist and guitarist, a graduate of the Norwegian Academy of Music) has long been the driving force between Norway's jazz-metal collective, Shining. Over the years they have broken down musical barriers and have refused to be categorised into any particular style of music, as they mixed progressive, technical metal, jazz, avant-garde and experimental sounds. But now he is back with something different "I was tired of doing the same thing," he explains. "I was done with 'Blackjazz' and wanted to create something new and exciting. I needed a change. I'm finally at the point where I have nothing to lose and everything to win. We had 360 degrees to play with so we could've gone in any direction. This new record is more Muse than Meshuggah, more Ghost than Gojira, and more Biffy Clyro than Burzum!"

It is all over the place as one might expect from the quote, and given Shining are known for having the sax as a key instrument it is somewhat surprising for one not to make any appearance anywhere on this! Devin Townsend has been an obvious influence, as have Linkin Park, and it is when the guys are really pushing the envelope with downtuned guitars and stacks of groove that they really make the listener stand up and take notice. It is mainstream for the most part, and it will be interesting to see how hardcore fans view this, as while it is an okay album, it is never really much more than that, and certainly not one which would be expected from him/them. It is almost a case of treating this as a brand-new band, and while the sound is very modern and powerful, for some reason it feels as if it as all been produced at the same level and consequently there just isn't enough drama for it to be consistently interesting.

Report this review (#2167109)
Posted Tuesday, March 19, 2019 | Review Permalink
siLLy puPPy
PSIKE, JR/F/Canterbury & Eclectic Teams
1 stars After "Blackjazz," SHINING got increasingly more commercial by jettisoning its prog and jazz complexities after adopting a heavier extreme metal style with vocals but after that high note that caught the world's avant-garde metal and prog communities by storm, this Norwegian band led by Jørgen Munkeby seemed to be going for a crossover appeal that would hopefully thrill alternative metalheads and hard rockers worldwide. By the time we get to the band's eighth studio album ANIMAL everything progressive and jazz had been totally abandoned and even the metal was tamped down in order to make a watered down form of alternative heavy rock that sounded more like heavier versions of the Stone Temple Pilots or Foo Fighters than anything that came before.

ANIMAL was recorded by the same lineup as "International Blackjazz Society" except that it added bassist Ole Vistnes who replaced Tor Egil Kreken. Most surprisingly of all is that the famous saxophone squawking that had been one of the few common denominators starting with the early post-bop albums and through the experimental King Crimson inspired prog era had been completely dropped for the first time leaving a completely jazz-free album that was focused on the more commercial side of alternative and industrial rock. Gone too are Munkeby's frenetic Marilyn Manson vocals (for the most part) and replaced by cleaner bad boy band style parts. It goes without saying that SHINING was not interested in pleasing prog and avant-garde crowds any longer and wanted to make some ca$H.

Some tracks like "Fight Song" sound a bit like if Soundgarden hooked up with Muse but ultimately comes off as a cheap imitation rather than something either original or interesting even as pop rock. The album features nine tracks and plays for 38 minutes while featuring one of the least diverse albums of the band's career although there are a few slow numbers amongst the rather by the numbers hard-hitting alternative rock guitar riff fueled tunes. For anyone who thought that SHINING's inspiration was limitless, ANIMAL will prove that even a once highly creative and fertile wellspring of ideas can suddenly dry up when hair brained ideas of commercial crossover potential creeps into the picture.

Who's to say why Munkeby steered the band in this direction. There are many reasons artists go for a more commercial direction and some of them may be quite legit but when it comes to actual execution on ANIMAL, all i can is that this is a very hard one to sit through as it's completely devoid of inspiration and about as canned as it gets. It reminds me of some of the prog bands of the late 70s that grasped for straws to see if they could fit in with the pop hits of the day but even Emerson, Lake and Palmer's "Love Beach" sounds like a classic masterpiece in comparison to this limp biscuit. This is one to be avoided at all costs even if you happen to love commercial leaning alternative rock. This is just shamefully bad in about every possible way. Will Munkeby pull off another inventive move to revive SHINING's sagging career? It's anyone's guess but if ANIMAL is any indication, SHINING's moment has long expired.

Report this review (#2488125)
Posted Sunday, December 27, 2020 | Review Permalink

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