Alternative Press - "The pacing and WTF-factor have been scaled back album number seven, but discordant anger still bubbles and primal jazz rules."
Personnel: Jorgen Munkeby (vocals, guitar, saxophone, keyboards); Håkon Sagen (guitar); Eirik Tovsrud Knutsen (keyboards); Tobias Ornes Anderson (drums).
Recording information: Grandsport Studio, Echo Park, CA; Shining Studios, Oslo, Norway; The Blue Room, Hollywood, CA; Urban Sound Studios, Oslo, Norway.
Since their debut in 2002, Norway's Shining have pushed their own envelope. Founded by multi-instrumentalist and vocalist Jorgen Munkeby (the only constant member), they began as an avant acoustic jazz group, then embraced more diverse elements over time -- mainly industrial and extreme metal. With their 2010 breakthrough album Blackjazz, they created their own genre; it melded all of the above and more. Almost everyone who has ever liked this group's recordings has complained about something. That won't change with International Blackjazz Society, the group's debut for Spinefarm. Where 2013's One One One de-emphasized jazz in favor of heavy metal, International Blackjazz Society actually de-emphasizes metal in favor of dark, atmospheric, speed-crazed, industrialized hard rock. "Admittance" kicks off with Munkeby's alto sax skronk (à la John Zorn's in Painkiller), but is quickly disassembled when the band enters. Perversely, their "intro" is a crescendo that disappears altogether in a series of guitar and keyboard vamps that resemble early dEUS meeting a young Blue Öyster Cult. The added layers of saxophone become quirky melodic additions to a distinctly rockist attack. Working again with mixing engineer Sean Bevan (Depeche Mode, Nine Inch Nails), an industrial approach to rock makes sense. To that end new keyboardist Eirik Tovsrud Knutsen has a prime role in shaping and sculpting swirling backdrops, even in the most riff-laden jams -- check the dark, churning, bloodcurdling anthem "Burn It All." The set's first single, "The Last Stand," has a pumping piano à la the Stooges' "I Wanna Be Your Dog," but it's consumed by gigantic snares, blustery sounds of hurricane-force winds, and a gnarly, bluesy guitar riff that turns toward metal before Munkeby's saxophone solo brings in another Stooges reference, this one "L.A. Blues." (The video of Shining playing this live on a 700-foot high cliff top is amazing.) "House of Warship" is a killer instrumental that melds spiraling, noisy free jazz and extreme metal in trademark Shining fashion. "Thousand Eyes" is midtempo, crunchy, metallic hard rock based on a single riff -- with killer drumkit work from Tobias Ornes Andersen. Munkeby's saxophone solo claims the instrumental bridge with a smoking solo. Closer "Need" comes out of a hard rock blues riff before it takes off with amphetamine rage. Andersen's double-time playing atop Håkon Sagen's shard-like guitar riffs and Ole Vistnes' drop-tuned distorted bass add a jagged edge. International Blackjazz Society is Shining's most accessible album, and it sounds like they had a blast making it. The intensity, black humor, and blackboard-scraping cacophony is all here, with a semblance of disjointed jazzy melody for balance. If this band gains a larger audience as a result of their rapprochement with hard rock (using a saxophone to accomplish it, no less), good on them. International Blackjazz Society is not only smartly conceived, Shining's songwriting, arranging, playing, and production are also completely inspired. ~ Thom Jurek