revity is a virtue, and not one often found amongst experimental composers, jazz-heads, and session men. Norway’s Shining, two members of Jaga Jazzist and a session-sharpened rhythm section, move the dial on their jazz-metal hymns between “aggressive” and “abrasive” with all the grace of hippopotamus. That’s the great part—Shining never lick their lips, bat their eyelashes, or ask if you’re going to buy them a drink; their rocking is whole and complete and realized, no bullshit foreplay. Lacking intros/outros, Shining’s vertigo crunch is free to pounce between extremes, leaving only the outrageous, unclassifiable noise that came to a head on their lauded 2005 breakthrough, In the Kingdom of Kitsch You Will Be a Monster.
Grindstone, Shining’s fourth album, seems a fitting title, as Shining’s weird science is oddly workmanlike: there is too much history and skill embedded in its tracks to appear natural or unbecoming. Go ahead and hop between nervy chase-scene pounding and orchestral revelation, just don’t expect anyone to believe it’s the first thing that leaks out when you pick up an instrument in the morning. Grindstone, in fact, is strikingly unnatural, making the line between Shining as preposterous, pretentious shit and Shining as preposterous, bulls-in-a-china-shop innovators a thin and ultimately personal one.
Wherever you choose to draw that line, it is impossible to ignore their relentless, rhythmic grandstanding. Grindstone is mostly devoid of pondering, the result of Shining’s genres of choice: bopping jazz (because they are educated students of music) and pounding metal (because they are Norwegian). And the band’s most enduring and attractive trait continues to be their absolute refusal to drag shit out.
Like a lot of primarily instrumental bands, they are wiseasses, their song titles more clever and humorous than their compositions let on. Witness “To Be Proud of Crystal Colors Is to Live Again” (tracks four and eight), “Moonchild Mindgames,” and the title track from their previous album, “In the Kingdom of Kitsch You Will be a Monster.”
Shining’s constructions are too pristine and guided to carry any punk catharsis, too sheen and even to carry any notion of “soul” or “heart” within their heaving chest cavities. But call Shining academic at your own peril—they possess human traits, just not desirable ones. They’re angry, unfeeling, wry. That they express these traits in the most concise and unflinching manner possible makes accepting Grindstone a bit like staring at a charging animal. It is a thrilling and changing experience—just prepare to get gouged.