Much is made of Norway’s Shining (not to be confused with the Swedish band of the same name) and their blending of extreme metal and jazz. There is often an attempt made to link them to the black metal movement for which their part of the world is so well-known; however, this tag is a bit misleading, at least at this point in their career. Their latest album, International Blackjazz Society, proves that. (Get it from Amazon.)
While the group’s sound is certainly abrasive, the sound they have developed borrows most heavily from industrial rock acts such as Nine Inch Nails at their most abrasive (and minus the teenage angst), 16 Volt, or a slew of others, but with liberal helpings of free jazz and progressive elements.
After the opening “Admittance,” which is a short blast of abrasive free jazz, the album offers several tracks of caustic industrial rock in a row. Shining walk a creative tightrope. Every time things begin to veer too close to the more extreme end of radio rock, they add in just enough experimentation to keep the more discerning listener roped in. “The Last Stand” is similar to early NIN, but with less depression and more rock ’n’ roll swagger, and adds a blast of saxophone just where it is most needed. “Burn It All” is the fiercest track, and the closest to what might be considered extreme metal, while “Last Day” is an invigorating anthem with exciting interjections from the keyboards and saxophone.
Watch the video for “Last Day”:
Really, things don’t vary much until a pair of songs in the album’s second half, “House of Warship” and “House of Control.” “House of Warship” is four-plus minutes of muscular free jazz, the saxophone invoking Albert Ayler or John Zorn at his most outré. The rest of the band provides a heavy underpinning for the solo. “House of Control” returns to a slightly more song-oriented approach, albeit one that is much more dynamic than anything else on International Blackjazz Society. The song eventually builds to a heavier climax more in keeping with the rest of the album.
After a brief interlude titled “Church of Endurance,” the album closes with “Need.” This track is in the same vein as the earlier portion of the album, another high-energy industrial rock track with a searing saxophone solo.
The success of Shining might be determined by the individual listener’s expectations going in. The group’s experimental tendencies, first explored on earlier albums like Blackjazz and Grindstone, are well integrated into their sound by now, and their seamless interweaving in the songs is not likely to be a major stumbling block for fans of heavy rock. Someone seeking more avant-garde or progressive elements might struggle with International BlackJazz Society. Their feelings will more likely be determined by their tolerance for the straightforward rock and metal elements which have dominated Shining‘s approach since 2013’s One One One. The band have certainly developed their own unique style, though, and mastered the hybrid of styles they have chosen to create.