June 12, 2013

Shining - One One One

Review by Justin C.

Let's get this out of the way up front: There's saxophone on this album. I know some people have an attitude about horns in their metal, but I think saxophones are pretty metal. Yes, they're literally made of metal, but I think they're also metal in attitude. Ihsahn certainly agrees, and you can trust him, right?

I admit that I'm biased. Long before I started playing guitar, I played the saxophone. Adolphe Saxe, the inventor, originally designed versions for orchestra and military bands, but for my money, it didn't find its true home until the invention of jazz. You may only know it from the mewlings of people like Kenny G, but in the hands of players like John Coltrane and Eric Dolphy, the sax has been used to create some of the strangest and most demanding music in existence. And what is that if not metal? Personally, I don't think I would have gotten into more extreme metal if I hadn't already cut my teeth on avant garde jazz. Without doing an academic study, I'd even go so far as to say that the experimentation started in 1950s and 1960s jazz paved the way for some of the crazy metal we have today.

Photo © Per Ole Hagen, Artist Pictures Blog, All rights reserved.

In support of that thesis, we have Shining, a fascinating Norwegian band that started out as a jazz quartet but ultimately morphed into the black-electro-industrial metal band we hear today. Their previous album, Blackjazz, was so far out there that it was hard even for me to get a foothold, but their newest, One One One, has all of their experimentation but with insane catchiness and immediacy. Just try to listen to the opening track, "I Won't Forget," and not get it stuck in your head. Jørgen Munkeby's vocals are snarling and raspy, but completely intelligible. Unlike a lot of metal singers, he doesn't drop down to a low guttural for emphasis--he charges up to the very top of his range. Guitars are processed with outer-space distortion backed by punchy bass, keyboards provide all manner of different textures, and the drums are frenetic but laser-precise. And then there's Munkeby's saxophone. His tone is fantastic by any traditional standard, even when he pushes it to the limits, and he uses his sax to full effect as a metal instrument. Check out the solo in "The One Inside." It's as fearsome and gripping as any guitar solo you'll hear.

Photo © Per Ole Hagen, Artist Pictures Blog, All rights reserved.

The album wouldn't be so good if it were all jazz freakouts. The songwriting is also tight and top notch. For example the guitar riff in "Blackjazz Rebels" is as catchy and bluesy as anything out there. Even though it's immediately accessible, I find new things to dig on every listen. If you passed on this one because you were put off by the out-there-ness of the last album, I'd urge you to check this one out. You may be as pleasantly surprised as I was.

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

The photos originally appeared in this Shining, One One One live at by:Larm article, check out Per Ole's Flickr for many more Shining photos.

Tagged with 2013, avant-garde black metal, Justin C, Per Ole Hagen, Prosthetic Records, Shining (No)
  1. Totally agree with your view on the sax.

    I'm generally big on jazz and I consider it a life mission to make the historical connections between jazz and metal much more explicit.

    If you're interested, check out my blog... been busy lately so it hasn't been updated as much as it should but it is still alive.


    1. Cool. I liked your take on "On the Corner." His later work always reminds me of the story of what happened when he was seated next to a politician's wife (widely reported to be Nancy Reagan, although that part wasn't true) who asked what he did to make him important enough to be at the dinner. Davis responded, "Well, I changed music five or six times..."

  2. For avant-garde sax check out Colin Stetson. His stuff for La Blogotheque is quite metal:

    1. That is some seriously stunning stuff. Those two tracks from "New History Warfare Vol. 3" are going to haunt my dreams. Thanks for the heads up!