‘A Study in Co-ordinated Whiplash!’
SO WROTE The New York Times when Norwegian Blackjazz band Shiningarrived on the international scene wielding the sort of musical ‘weaponry’ that, frankly, hadn’t been seen before – a mighty Nordic hammer comprised of a new and singularly hard alloy: One part aggressive metal, one part stinging free jazz, the whole thing solidified with a fine industrial polish.
Few bands, if any, have travelled so far musically… The brainchild of multi-instrumentalist, vocalist & songwriter Jørgen Munkeby (skilled saxophonist & guitarist, a graduate of the Norwegian Academy of Music), Shining started their unique musical trajectory as a purely acoustic jazz quartet in the vein of the late John Coltrane, releasing the albums ‘Where The Ragged People Go’ and ‘Sweet Shanghai Devil’ in 2001 & 2003 respectively; after this, they turned their hand to more art-rock studio projects, specifically ‘In The Kingdom Of Kitsch You Will Be A Monster’ (2005) and ‘Grindstone’ (2007), before truly forging their path with the ‘Blackjazz’ album in 2010; this release was both genre-defying andgenre-defining, mixing progressive, technical metal, jazz, avant-garde and experimental sounds with cutting-edge visuals and blazing onstage performances, paving the way for ‘Live Blackjazz’ in 2011 and studio outing ‘One One One’ in 2013, both exploring and empowering this freshly-hewn Blackjazz universe.
This new-born ‘musical Frankenstein’ creation, described as “Some radioactive alloy of jazz and black metal” by The New York Times, was quick to make a mark with leading media outlets around the world. Just two weeks before its release,Time Out New York announced that, with ‘Blackjazz’, Shining was set to become one of the “Stars of 2010”, and the rave reviews continued to follow, with praise being heaped by a host of respected titles, including The New York Times, Alternative Press, Popmatters.com & Allmusic.com, the latter citing‘Blackjazz’ as “one of the most assaultive, addictive albums around”. In addition,‘Blackjazz’ became the outing with the best average score worldwide in Metacritics.com, whilst in Norway, the record debuted at #9 in the official best-seller list across all albums, backed up by top scores in all the major newspapers.
The band’s next studio offering, ‘One One One’, saw Shining turn its hybrid head towards a more concise and focused form of songwriting, whilst still continuing with its trademark sound, honed into shape as usual by the trusted team of audio magicians Sean Beavan (mixing engineer – Nine Inch Nails, Marilyn Manson,Slayer, A Perfect Circle, etc.) and Tom Baker (mastering engineer – Nine Inch Nails, Ministry, Avenged Sevenfold, etc.). Once again, the release was met with critical acclaim, with Pitchfork proclaiming “Shining suddenly seem as good at songs as they have been at lengthy suites”, Scratch The Surface describing the album as “Like The Dillinger Escape Plan remixed by Trent Reznor or Aphex Twin”, and Popmatters.com concluding “A work of brilliance by an exciting band at the top of its game”.
As with its predecessor, the album entered the Top 20 charts in Norway, with the single, ‘I Won’t Forget’, achieving heavy rotation on Norwegian radio NRK P3 for 15 consecutive weeks. In the UK, meanwhile, Shining was nominated for the Metal Hammer Golden Gods Award for ‘Best Underground Band’, and by the end of the year, ‘One One One’ had been nominated for a Norwegian Grammy (Spellemannprisen), following in the footsteps of every Shining album post 2005. Indeed, since 2001, when band leader Munkeby received the prize for ‘Soloist Of The Year’ at the Avignon Jazz Contest, the band has gathered a veritable closet full of awards and grants, including two Alarm Awards (Norwegian alternative Grammys), an a-ha grant in 2010, a Statoil grant in 2013, a Norwegian Grammy for ‘Innovators Of The Year’ in 2014, plus five other Norwegian Grammy nominations!
NOW, IN 2015, this boundary-breaking group has signed a new worldwide deal with Spinefarm Records, the first release under this fresh alliance being seventh studio album, ‘International Blackjazz Society’, set for worldwide release on October 16th.
As with the ‘Blackjazz’ & ‘One One One’ albums, this nine-track offering has been mixed by Sean Bevan and mastered in Los Angeles by Tom Baker (Baker Mastering), and according to Munkeby, “is one of Shining’s most varied albums, encompassing the whole gamut of what we do, from the sinister ferocity and experimentation of ‘Blackjazz’ to the more focussed song-writing of ‘One One One’. It really is the culmination of all the best elements in the Blackjazz world!”
The singer continues: “Shining are now at the high point of our career, with several high-profile tours completed over the past couple of years, so we feel it’s very fitting for us to be moving ahead with Spinefarm Records at this particular time; we are greatly looking forward to working with them to take Blackjazz to the masses around the world, and we can’t wait for everyone to hear our new album!”
In the build up to the release of ‘IBS’, Shining have continued to work hard on the road, playing key festivals across Europe (Hellfest, Graspop, etc.), as well as showing just why they’re renowned the world over for packing a truly adventurous streak…
To test their musical mettle against nature at its most daunting, the band recently brought in helicopters to fly over 2,000 kilos of heavy musical equipment up to a remote and precarious Norwegian cliff-top (‘Trolltunga’), with a straight 700-metre drop stretching down below; here, they played a concert where no-one believed a concert could be played! The audience had a five-hour hike up to the mountain summit to witness the musicians in action, and those 300 enthusiastic (and fit!) Blackjazz fans who made it to the very top were treated to the experience of a lifetime!
Post-show, Munkeby said: “This is the craziest thing I’ve ever been a part of! First of all, I’m happy that we’re all still alive! But I’m also happy that we got all the technical aspects of this to work; it’s no easy task to plan a full rock and metal concert on top of a freaking mountain!”
It’s clear that Shining are more than prepared to put their money where their mouths are!
The ‘Trolltunga’ concert was filmed with one helicopter, a drone, and several cameramen, and a video of this one-off (probably!) performance will be released once the material is gathered and processed.
SHINING’S STAND-OUT blend of jazz and metal has not only gathered love and attention from fans and media across the world, it has also drawn support from other like-minded artists, something that has led to major tours with the likes ofThe Dillinger Escape Plan and Devin Townsend, as well as musical collaborations with Marty Friedman, Enslaved, Ihsahn and the aforementionedMr. Townsend – fellow envelope-pushing performers chasing cultural excellence.
Adventurous, compelling and constantly developing, Jørgen Munkeby & Shining are, simply, a market-leading force to be reckoned with, as their full-tilt cover of King Crimson’s ‘21st Century Schizoid Man’ (a track on the ‘Blackjazz’ album and a regular highlight of the live set) clearly shows. In order to keep themselves at the cutting edge, the band has maintained a constantheavy touring schedule in both Europe and America, playing headline shows and appearing at most of the biggest festivals in Europe; these include Wacken in Germany, Norway’s premier event The Øya Festival, plus the Temple Stage atHellfest in France in 2015, where they delivered a headline set, and a full bill-topping tour of Europe has just been announced for the autumn…
The future is bright. In fact, it’s Shining.
Tobias Ørnes Andersen