The Avant-Garde metal band from Norway Shining returns with a bizarre direction change that is neither avant-garde nor metal. The band first came onto the radar of a more world wide audience thanks to members of the Devin Townsend Project being blown away by this band whose sound was described as “blackjazz.”
The sound was an amalgamation of a heavy metal industrial sound blended with a chaotic does of jazz influence and arrangements. Their first album ‘Blackjazz’ blasted out as a statement with the lead track “The Madness and the Damage Done” that was pretty mind blowing, and the rest of the album followed suit with bizarre experimental passages, challenging the idea of what makes a song. Their next album was a little less bizarre when it came to song arrangement, as ‘One One One’ opted to follow more of a song basis, while still retaining a lot of that blackjazz sound, complete with saxophone breakdowns, and impressed the likes of tour mates Dillinger Escape Plan. With the admiration of many high caliber musicians, they continued on with ‘International Blackjazz Society’, while good, didn’t seem to have as much punch and weight as the prior 2 albums. But not one to rest on that, the band decided to abandon the blackjazz styling they created and forge ahead in a different direction.
As shocking as it may sound, to abandon something many fans grew to love about your band is a double-edged sword, and it may be a tough pill for people to swallow. Opting to hang up the saxophone that’s made many guest appearances on other artists like Marty Friedman and Four Stroke Baron’s albums; the band went for more of a streamlined hard rock sound. ‘Animal’ has more in common with Muse than it does the prior Nine Inch Nails and Dillinger Escape Plan comparisons. The sound of the record comes off as very slick and almost over polished. Any abrasive elements from the previous still are gone in way of heavy synths. When listening to the lead single title track “Animal” during pre-release, I was under the impression it might’ve been a one off experiment for an attempt at a hit single, but after hearing more of the album, it became apparent they were going full on with this synth pop-hard rock style that you can pretty much get from any band that’s played on Sirius XM’s Octane channel. I’m not sure if bandleader Jorgen picked up some Muse records and got influenced, but “Fight Song sounds like a pop take on Muse. It’s not all mushed together and washed away in today’s vast rock soundscape, “Everything Dies” is a bit exciting and with “Animal” is one of the better songs on the album. You start to get to a point in listening to the album where you realize you can get this experience from any other Active Rock band, and it cheapens the experience here knowing they had something real original going on, and maybe they shouldn’t have abandoned what set them apart.
Overall if you weren’t married to the band’s previous albums you might dig portions of this. If you dug the blackjazz style, it’s time to move on from these guys. Just very hard to get excited about something when it sounds like everything else out there. In an era where taking chances is needed sometimes, with this album, it seems like playing it safe was a risk not worth taking.
Notable Tracks: Animal, Everything Dies