If the name Jorgen Munkeby has slipped out of your mouth at this stage of your metal journey, you aren't putting your back into it. Known widely as being a major player in the jazz metal fusion trend that seems to be flooding the scene, his work can be heard on a plethora of discs, from the last albums by Ihsahn, to his own Shining project. Founded in 1999, this Norwegian jazz five piece began as a humble jazz quartet, with all of their works dwelling in the acoustic world. But as the years have passed, they ahve ventured into the more extreme, adopting tenets of industrial and black metal, as well as prog themes. Coming to a head with 2010's "Blackjazz," the band have now carved out a niche as one of the most innovative extreme metal bands, infusing Munkeby's signature saxophone sound in tower distorted riffs. On their new album, "One One One," they look beyond the term blackjazz, towards a future much more diverse and much much heavier.
With a pulsing dream beat opening the first official single on the album "I Won't Forget," you are immediately dragged into the middle of a sonic storm. There is an industrial feel to the backbeat, thanks mainly to the blinding distortion. Munkeby dazzles in every facet of his game, delivering a bruising, technologically sound vocal. Rather than rest on these pseudo-industrial backings, the band explodes into full thrash mode in the chorus, with Munkeby screaming the track name in a raspy cry. But the true gift is when he punctuates a massive breakdown with a saxophone solo that is as wild as you could imagine. Much like his work with Ihsahn, the sax blends in to the instrumental, but stands out even to the casual observer. In the more downtempo works, like "The One Inside" allow bassist Tor Egil Kreken to inject a little low end groove to the party, complementing the blasting kicks from Torstein Lofthus. As a unit, this rhythm section operates like few others can, rattling everything in the room. The full group effort that comes in around two and half minutes could stand as a monument to the style itself. Not enough mention is made of drum tone and how it elevates a band. "My Dying Drive" stands as a prime example of how the signature sound of a drummer can shape a song, and take it further. It forms the foundation for all of the electronic elements at play, including the effects tinged vocal line. While the screams here may feel dated, they somehow manage to fit, largely thanks to the devastating instrument they rest on.
Songs like "Off The Hook" seem odd at their inception, but there is a very unique sound that the band possesses that helps to smooth out the rough edges. Munkeby plays a major role in that, especially since his fingerprints are all over the way the track is constructed. Sharing duties with Håkon Sagen, they build massive guitar grooves that are coated in a thick layer of synthesizers and snare drums. And while the title may be fitting, "Blackjazz Rebels" doesn't necessarily deliver in all the ways you would hope. yes, the main guitar riff is catchy as hell, and leaves your head in a perpetual state of banging. But you spend the better part of three and a half minutes waiting for that signature segment that will blow the roof of, and it doesn't come. The saxophone is mysteriously absent here, in the one place it would seem to fit best. What you have instead is a fairly straightforward industrial metal track with little left or right movement. This isn't to say it fails, but it doesn't reach the heights it aspires to. But where it fails, "How Your Story Ends" immediately delivers. Munkeby launches the track with a squealing and screeching piece of work, one that sets the tone for the entire piece. The beats come fast and furious here, a dizzying array of fills and rolls, punctuated each time by the resounding thud of the kick. Just as the saxophone set the tone early, it is the sax and keyboard work that does so late, mirroring the main riff.
Machine gun snares welcome you to "The Hurting Game," their blinding speed and surgical precision impressive in and of itself. This track will stand out as the mosh pit pleaser, with the staggeringly fast pace and subsequent breakdown. While Sagen and Lofthus command the main part of the interlude, it is Munkeby's screeching background that holds it all together. While his instrumental work shines here, his voice seems strained in delivering one grating scream after another. But if his vocal chords were put to the test already, the repetitive opening to "Walk Away," which sees him screaming "walk away" over and over again, will be his true test. The backing instrumental gets more intricate and dizzying as time goes on, with swirling guitar riffs, thundering bass lines, and an apocalypse of percussion joining together in a single crushing unit. It is oddly up to the breakdown to offer a reprieve from the seemingly non stop blows. For as heavy as it seemed at the time, "Paint The Sky Black" makes some of the earlier tracks look like child's play. The intensity levels are through the roof by now, and the drums are simply relentless. Atmospheric keyboards are the only buffer between you and the sonic beatdown you've been launched into. It's punch after punch, until you are bloodied and bruised by each and every pounding beat. If this were a heavyweight bout, the fight would be stopped to protect your health.
How much is enough? How big a vein of jazz inspiration does an album need to stay true to its purpose? While everything on "One One One" is executed with pinpoint accuracy and undeniable strength, it seems like there should be more to it than meets the eye. Save for a few well placed and expertly played solos, the album was lacking a luster that might make it stand out from the competition. As an industrial metal disc, this is certainly at the head of the class, thanks to some well crafted melodies and uber precise musicianship. But for a group that has already broken down the jazz metal barriers, it is just too tame; it is too safe. And while I struggle to have an answer for what would make the album an instant classic, like "Blackjazz" before it, the only thing that comes to mind is that we all have a fever, and the only cure is more saxophone.
Official Site - http://www.shining.no/
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