Shining // One One One
Rating: 3.5/5.0 – Don’t relax, just use more sax!
Label: Universal Records
Websites: http://www.shining.no  |   facebook.com/shiningnorway
Release Dates: EU: 2013.06.04  |  NA: 06.07.2013

Shining are a black metal band from Sweden with a very dystopian, hateful and depressive tinge to their music and a long history of albums and exploits to their name – such as violent live shows and staging the death of their vocalist. Hell, said vocalist even has a book to his name titled “When Prozac No Longer Helps”, which speaks volumes of what to expect in the pages. So when you look at the title and album art of this album you might consider One One One somewhat of a surprise or a departure.

That’s because this is a totally different band called Shining hailing from a European country (Norway), also doing black metal-influenced music and also rather popular with a cult following (they also have a good dress sense). This Shining, however, incorporates a far more sporadic and experimental flair into their intense musical palette with arguable jazz segments, prominent saxophone sections, lessons from hardcore and progressive music alike and it’s pretty much avant-garde metal in every possible way. And I didn’t even mention the prominent electronic influence that adds tenfold to the intensity and direct nature of the music (which made their last album, aptly titled Blackjazz, an absolute blast to listen to). Long winding progressive sections with huge blasts of saxophone amidst the intense metal arrangements with electronics that sound like they’re cutting your brain in two – it’s all to die for if you’re a twisted metal listener with a flair for things that push the envelope.

One One One is odd though – it’s a complete departure in some ways, but a total continuation at the same time. Many of the staple sounds are here and in full blast – huge metal and hardcore sections with the electronics and the occasional saxophone firing over the mix just sparingly enough to remain a surprise. But the focus of the songwriting has all but completely changed for something far more forward, more rocky, arguably even more poppy. The songs follow a straight forward structure with the vocals very high in the mix. There’s a greater focus on infectious, short and sharp songs as opposed to the long winding, progressive sections of the past. Imagine Trap Them‘s huge grindcore riffs with a much cleaner production and vocals – and occasional saxophone with a bit of a direct style.

But fuck, it works great. The stranger aspects of this album only compliment the straight ahead, controlled chaos the album celebrates and makes for an unusually familiar yet invigorating and fresh take on something I didn’t even know I wanted. The vocals in particular, previously confined to distorted screams buried in the background, are much cleaner, but with a sick, twisted edge that sticks in your face, as if being shouted from a few millimeters away. The riffs are huge and addicting, the saxophone doesn’t seem at all gimmicky and the electronics are used in a controlled way that makes them effective at heightening the intensity.

Shining-bandI can certainly see many people missing the progressive and nigh-on uncontrollable avant-garde sections of Blackjazz, but One One One is great because it condenses and refines it to such a point that chaos rarely sounds this controlled. What’s more,  none of the things that made this band so unique in the first place have been sacrificed; just used in a far more familiar context. From start to finish this is a more consistent record, despite feeling a bit samey [That word has been banned forevermore by AMG, so now you’re on secret probation Steel Druhm] at points despite the record being almost half the length of Blackjazz.

All in all One One One is such a blast to listen to that I can’t say I miss any of what Blackjazz had, despite being a great album in its own right. This is just so full of energy and the right amount of experimentation, it makes for something special; a balanced record that brings Shining some serious fun-factor. A seriously entertaining blend of thumping hardcore and well-needed weirdness. Recommended.

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