Woah! SHINING (the Norwegian BlackJazz Munke(b)ys) have got some balls. While Rock and Metal fans are often the most obsessive and loyal of supporters, woe betide a band who undergoes a misplaced style change; when heroes embark in a new direction that isn’t just left at the traffic lights but involves a radical transformation, it’s not unknown for a band to split and lose an audience, sometimes irretrievably. Make no mistake, Animal (Spinefarm) is one such move.
Harsh vocals – Gone. Vitriolic jazz – Gone. Saxophone – Gone. Extreme elements – Gone. Progressive Metal – Gone.
So, what does that leave us with? Well, the line up from International Blackjazz Society is retained, but that is, pretty much, the only constant thread to the past as Animal sees SHINING throw themselves head, heart, and soul into modern Hard Rock.
And do you know what? It’d be really easy to jump in two-footed and resort to foul, lazy criticism if Animal wasn’t so good at what it does. Musically, it rocks like an absolute bastard. The title track howls, full of synths hooks, thick production, catchy chorus and a pounding beat; ‘My Church’ nails a huge groove, reminiscent of Nickelback’s ‘Burn It To The Ground’, with an ascending, impassioned chorus to round out a simply magnificent stomp.
‘Fight Song’ calls to mind Muse’s heavier moments, ‘When I’m Gone’ is an electrified power ballad, ‘Everything Dies’ reminds of Motörhead covered by Devin Townsend and elsewhere the focus is on big, thick, headbanging guitars, and well-written anthemic, catchy Heavy Rock. Don’t think for a moment this is some brainless penis-swinging, though, for these are talented musicians and songwriters of class sending a despatch of climate change, of mankind racing towards our own terminus, of the fragility of life and reflections on mortality; “When will you understand? That nothing lasts forever” croons Jørgen Munkeby on deep cut ‘End’, and it’s not just to undermine the radical change his band has gone through musically, but to reinforce a constant, pessimistic, apocalyptic reoccurring message that occurs throughout lyrics that obtusely, deliberately sit at odds to the overall positivity of the music on the album. A cry of “Everything must END!”, before ‘Hole In The Sky’, a track not a million miles away from Biffy Clyro’s ‘Many of Horror’, sends us on our way in a downbeat, sombre finale, .
Whether this album is a big risk or not is irrelevant as, taken on its own merits, Animal is an unmitigated success. Everything about it – the songs, the subtle touches of class, the choruses, the stomping riffs – is of high quality and of real depth. What we have is a band looking to reinvigorate their own passion for their work, who, rather than channeling their previously explored avant-garde tendencies, have honed in and knuckled down on not just producing straightforward, infectious Rock music, but on producing really good straightforward infectious Rock music. What better way to deliver their more serious message.