During a performance at Poland’s Unsound festival, Shining singer/saxophonist Jørgen Munkeby paused between songs to address a cluster of furiously headbanging fans: “Thank you for expressing your emotions with us.” There was humor in his understatement, but there was even more truth, because Shining’s jazz-metal hybrid is, indeed, heavily expressive and messily emotional stuff — a chain reaction of blast beats, detuned riffs and tortured yowls sent zinging down a labyrinth of strange time signatures. Call it music for agonized physicists, an exploration of deep structure and even deeper chaos, fusing math-rock precision with existentialist skronk.
At least, that was true of the Norwegian band’s 2010 album Blackjazz. Following 2011′s Live Blackjazz, One One One is intended as the final part of a trilogy, but the album marks a significant shift from its predecessors. Where Blackjazz was thick with fuzz and reverb, One One One sweeps away the haze and hones in on fundamentals. The production is cleaner, and song lengths have been trimmed considerably, from eight- or 10-minute sprawls to sharp, punchy, three- and four-minute blasts.
There’s still a maze-like sensibility to the band’s stop-start changes and weird meters, like the 7/8 chorus of “Paint the Sky Black,” but all those tangled passageways lead eventually to a classic rock ‘n’ roll payoff. “Off the Hook” sounds a little like Mudhoney playing technical death metal; the circus-carousel melody of “My Dying Drive End” is as much Faith No More as it is John Zorn. While the hooks are meatier and the choruses (marginally) more suited to singing (or screaming) along, the band hasn’t softened its attack, however. “The Hurting Game” covers an epic expanse of ground in just four minutes, taking in double-time thrash, Branca-like guitar squalls, freeform sax squeal and rapidfire soloing, and doom riffs. It’s enough to make your head spin, and that goes for the album as a whole. It’s a funhouse (or, indeed, a Funhouse) designed by hyper-intelligent robots that’s been doused in gasoline and set on fire. Whatever emotion you associate with that image, One One One positively oozes it.