REVIEW: SHINING – “International Blackjazz Society”
Welcome to the ‘International Blackjazz Society’, where genre lines are blurred, and the saxophone is metal in more than just a literal sense.
Immediately, with a squeal of the sax, the seventh album from Norway’s jazz-metal outfit, Shining, is launched into gear, and (aside from a very brief eighth track,) it doesn’t let up throughout. This album has such a fantastic flow, with each song leading flawlessly into the next.
If you are not familiar with what this band is all about, allow me to explain the term “blackjazz”: coined by frontman and multi-instrumentalist Jørgen Munkeby, and now used as a label for Shining’s main genre of music, it is a fusion of “free jazz” and “black metal”. As with their previous couple of albums, this is the perfect way to describe the sound that they have created, mixed with the obvious industrial element, which is mainly due to Munkeby’s distorted vocals. Their 2010 album, simply entitled ‘Blackjazz’, was really groundbreaking for them, and I think that since that point, they have worked to make that development more palatable for the general public, to convert new listeners.
“Last Day” is an energetic track that stands out on ‘International Blackjazz Society’, something that the band clearly knew when they chose it for arguably one of the most epic music videos ever created, where they performed upon the precarious ledge of rock that is Trolltunga, in the mountains of Norway. A fitting location for the aptly named “Last Day”, and appropriately featuring the lyrics “all you can do is to hope and pray”. This video might also be where fans notice the change in lineup. Original drummer Torstein Lofthus has been replaced by former Leprous drummer, Tobias Ørnes Andersen– a bittersweet change, in my opinion. Another great song on the album is “Burn It All”, which flows mysteriously out of the previous track, and builds into an intensely dramatic chorus. Reflexively, a track like “House Of Warship” instantly grabs your attention, essentially becoming a jazzy sax solo backed up by Andersen’s creatively constructed beats and snare rolls, his cymbal accents making everything all the more interesting.
All in all, ‘International Blackjazz Society’ is precisely what you would expect from a Shining album, but with a more mainstream production sound. Although that is a good thing, I would like to see them progress even further into the realms of experimentation than they already have, rather than cleaning up their sound. Going from an acoustic jazz quartet to an industrial jazz-metal outfit has worked for them, and now that they have perfected that approach, I think that they would benefit from delving even deeper, and possibly introducing another unusual aspect. However, this album is entertaining, lively, and a nice change from a lot of other modern metal out there.