International Blackjazz Society
23rd October 2015 – Spinefarm Records
02. The Last Stand
03. Burn It All
04. Last Day
05. Thousand Eyes
06. House Of Warship
07. House Of Control
08. Church Of Endurance
For the purposes of this site, and indeed the metal community at large, the Norwegian Shining have three albums. Their previous life as an experimental, avante garde jazz outfit bore four albums of fruit, but in 2010, we saw the band break out in a huge way with the show stopping and appropriately named Blackjazz; a roaring, dissonant album filled with chaotic saxophone leads, and thunderous black and industrial metal imagery and sounds, all structured to that of a freeform jazz record. They were a different creature altogether.
Since then the band have steadily climbed to prominence with their unique blend of David Lynch-ian atmosphere, and a style that mixes the best of Nine Inch Nails and Nordic prog metal. 2013 saw the release of their second album under the Blackjazz sound, One One One, a much more structured and cohesive album, with a tighter focus on song craftsmanship and an even greater emphasis on the industrial styles of their previous album. Their third in the style, International Blackjazz Society, grows both Shining’s sonic palette and the cult of Blackjazz.
The record opens with the now familiar sax of band founder and frontman Jørgen Munkeby; an ear-shattering primer for the material soon to be unleashed. The teetering rasps of the saxophone bleed into second track and first proper song “The Last Stand“, a banging single akin to One One One’s, “I Won’t Forget“. Jørgen’s vocals are as chaotic and visceral as ever. The mix of the track ebbs and flows, but purposefully breaks through into a wall-of-sound-clipping-mess. It’s an odd blend of ear-worm infection and dissonant bliss.
International Blackjazz Society, as a whole, feels a lot like this first song, and indeed Shining’s last album as a whole. This certainly isn’t a downside or a detriment however, as the style and sound is uniquely blackjazz; something that only Shining would be able to manage. Listeners won’t be all that surprised by the general atmosphere of the album; it’s still bleak and filled with a grim, dark adrenaline that perfectly contrasts with the outrageously catchy nature of the songs. This is by no means a sing-a-long affair, yet it’s hard to imagine audiences not screaming along to “Fuck this day will haunt me everywhere I go // so fuck my soul when I burn it all”. It’s just absolutely beautiful.
While the band still don’t fully capture that magical sense of spontaneity that adorned their first Blackjazz album, IBS does feel a little more in that vein than One One One, with more recurring musical motifs throughout what is a rather short run time. Elements from songs pop and go, then return later on down the road, while tracks bleed and flow into one another in a vastly different way than the more rigid approach to the last album. It creates a wonderfully claustrophobic and closed in vibe that perfectly fits the music and attitude being represented, heightening the listener’s own anxiety and blood pressure – seemingly mirroring the band’s own frustration.
While Jørgen and his array of instrumental and vocal talents are once again the highlight of the album, it must be said that the band has never sounded better with their new line-up. The drums on the album, supplied by Tobias Ørnes Andersen, are appropriately vicious and nearly relentless, except for when they die down to give spotlight to the trademark sax. One of the best moments on the album clocks in on “House of Warship“, when the drums and sax seem to be having a sonic duel, fighting for the stage; battling, yet complimenting each other at the same time. Sagen’s guitar leads are beautifully shrill and chaotic, and new bassist Ole Vistnes has a few show stopping moments as well.
International Blackjazz Society highlights the best of both worlds on the two albums that preceded it. It has the same basic sound and tone, but new experimentation with song composition and instrumental highlights makes it feel as fresh as the day the band broke through. It wouldn’t be hard to picture a jam band on bath salts and ketamine to sound too dissimilar from Shining in 2015. Recurring sonic motifs, and a welcome, yet sparring addition of some clean melodies here and there helps create a dynamic and infectious third outing for the proud and dissonant prophets of the cult of Blackazz.