Introducing: Shining

Band evolution is an interesting thing. Last week I reviewed Anathema’s tenth studio album Distant Satellites, a masterpeice of progressive, almost ethereal music, but a million miles away from their origins as a doom metal band. However, the band I want to introduce to you today, has come on perhaps an even further journey through the jungle of genres.

Shining are a Norwegian band, heavily based in avant-garde and jazz, who formed in 1999 as an acoustic jazz quartet led by the multi-talented Jorgen Munkeby. Their first two albums (Where The Ragged People Go and Sweet Shanghai Devil) stuck to an energetic brand of modern jazz, which remained solely acoustic, despite the band learning to incorporate a wider range of influences on their second album.

Their sound underwent its first major transformation before the release of their third record In The Kingdom of Kitsch You Will Be A Monster. The double bass was now an electric bass, electronic beats were introduced, electric guitars and synthesizers invaded the woodwind and Shining’s jazz origins had become tainted with experimental progressive rock. The change proved to be successful, as the band were awarded the Alarm Award for the best new jazz album in 2006. The follow up, Grindstone, kept with this unusual marriage, making the music harder and weaving elements of drone into the sonic, odd-ball barrage they had come to specialise in.

However, come their fifth album, Blackjazz, Shining would once again evolve, increasing the heavy aspects of its predecessors, so that they resembled something similar to black metal. Unfortunately, the introduction of frantic guitars, industrial synths, screamed vocals and a double bass pedal assault, left little room for the woodwind to shine. However, Munkeby’s writing remained firmly based in the jazz realm, so that traditional jazz elements do still remain; disguised cleverly under the dark cloak of black metal.

Their sixth album, One One One, was released in 2013 and once again shows the band refining their sound, due largely to producer Sean Beaven (who mixed and produced a significant portion of Marilyn Manson & Nine Inch Nails’ catalogue including Antichrist Superstar and The Downward Spiral) who gave the necessary polish required to their sound, whilst helping to highlight the industrial elements of their new ‘blackjazz’ direction. Upon first listen of tracks I Wont Forget and Off The Hook, it is immediately obvious that Shining have worked harder on melodies and on more easily digestible tracks, resulting in an album that somehow combines raw aggression with experimental instrumental passages in a very accessible way.

From acoustic modern jazz to black-tinged, industrial metal, Shining have come along way across six albums, but in doing so have managed to keep themselves sounding fresh and unique. Whilst I think we have probably witnessed the last major stylistic change of the band, I have no doubt that Munkeby’s writing will continue to deliver the quality that fans have come to expect of the eccentric four-piece.

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