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Posts tagged “Ross Baker.

Lacuna Coil Interview (Cristina Scabbia)

Unbreakable – Cristina Scabbia of Lacuna Coil

 Originally published in Ghost Cult Magazine Issue 18 – June 2014 

http://www.ghostcultmag.com/interview-cristina-scabbia-lacuna-coil/Lacuna Coil

Currently weaving their way across the U.S. on the Revolver sponsored “Hottest Chicks In Rock” tour, Italian Gothic Metal act Lacuna Coil and co singer Cristina Scabbia in particular, has forever received plenty of attention for their passionate and dramatic music and high energy live shows. On the phone from Reno, Nevada Cristina is remarkably chirpy considering the gruelling tour schedule the band have lined up in support of soon to be released new album Broken Crown Halo (Century Media).

It’s a long tour, people don’t see that it is a lot of hard work to do this, being away from our families and friends for most of the year is difficult but this is what we do. I’m not complaining about it because I love playing live and connecting with our fans but it’s not all glamour.”

It is this fearless work ethic that has propelled the Milan act to the forefront of gothic and mainstream metal scenes. One look at Lacuna Coil will tell you how important family and togetherness is for them. From the uniform stage gear the band dons each night to the way the band interacts with each other it is clear that friendships between the band members run deep. A fact that made the recent announcement by drummer Cristiano “CriZ” Mozzati and guitaristCristiano “Pizza” Migilore that they were “retiring” from the band after sixteen years, all the more shocking.

We have known this was happening since December (2013) really. We sat down to discuss the tour schedule this year and they let us know it was time for them to do something different. It was readily apparent that they were not into the touring lifestyle and that’s fine. There was no fight or anything like that. We are continuing on our path and they are on theirs. It did not affect the album and there was still a very friendly atmosphere when we were recording the album together. Cristina recalled. “Marco our bass player is our main songwriter anyway so nothing much will change writing wise.”

As anyone who follows LC across various social media platforms can attest, Miss Scabbia is an avid user of social media helping promote her band but also to give fans a real glimpse behind the veneer of magazine covers and photo-shoots into the real world of a touring rock band. She may be characterized as the glamorous and sexy diva of Gothic Metal but a pampered princess she is not.

People think you are becoming a millionaire touring all the time but bands have to tour now more than ever just to pay their bills! I posted a status on Facebook the other day looking for an outlet to buy something and some girl wrote “Why don’t you get someone to bring you that? You are a millionaire you can afford it. People seem to think you get on a couple of magazine covers and all of a sudden you are super rich but it is really not the case. The fact that people seem to think things like that makes me want to post more on Facebook and Twitter and show people what our lives are really like. It is a luxury to have this job but we also spend a lot of time working our asses off! That’s a reason why I wrote a column for Revolver Magazine so I could show people what life was really like for bands.”

Sadly just a couple of days before this interview took place we learned of the tragic passing ofGWAR front man Dave Brockie a.k.a. Oderus Urungus a moment Cristina acknowledged on her Twitter account. “That was really sad. He was a very cool guy with a sarcastic sense of humour. I loved their cinematic style and he was a very cool guy when I met him.”

Considering she grew up in the glare of media attention, one could hardly blame Cristina if she was bored of the Metal “Sex symbol” tag she inherited. While the she may be wearing similar attire to her male counterparts onstage these days there is no doubting the 41 year-olds charisma and ability to turn heads where ever she goes. “I think it’s cool to use social networks to show people your real personality. I can be a tomboy on the tour bus! I don’t ware high heeling and make up all the time and I want people to see that. A teeny tiny girl from Italy, a size three! I’m not perfect and I’m not a model. I think if I can give any message to the younger generation it is that you can be confident without having to fit into that mould. I’m not surely what people mean when they say hot. For me someone needs to be more than just good looking. For every photo of me all dressed up there is an image of me in jeans and a hoodie. I like to show the real me online but I like to keep the lives of my family, my friends and my partner private. If you show too much then you don’t have any privacy. I take the sex symbol tag with a pinch of salt because it doesn’t affect my life. I know who I am and I would never do anything I was not comfortable with. I don’t feel doing tours like this (The Hottest Chicks In Rock) as anything other than empowering for women. I am showing that you can be successful on your own terms. I’m 41 and have an album in the charts and make music with people I love. I can’t think of anything better than that.”

 

Lacuna Coil

 

Being sexy and provocative is something rock bands have been doing for years, yet strangely it’s only remarked upon when the protagonist is a female. “The funny thing is bands like Mötley Crüehave been taking their shirts off and selling an image of sexuality for years but no one pays attention to men doing that!”

Lacuna Coil have yet to choose a replacement guitar player, but the drum stool has seen the rapid appointment of former The Agony Scene sticksman Ryan Folden. As Cristina explains this was an easy choice. “He started as our drum tech and filled in for Criz when he and his partner had their baby girl. He’s a great musician and a perfect guy to have on a tour bus. It was really important for us to have someone we felt comfortable with and who understands the touring lifestyle. As for the guitarist we are carrying on with just Maus for now but the response from musicians expressing interest in becoming part of our band has been phenomenal. As soon as we put a status online we were inundated with emails and video auditions. We really appreciate it but we aren’t auditioning anyone right now. It’s going to take some time for us to decide on what the right thing to do is. I think it’s really cool with one guitar too. It gives the band a more rock vibe which I think is really interesting.”

 

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Lacuna Coil may cautiously be soldiering on with one guitar player for now but this is not the only change in the LC camp. After working with producer Don Gilmore for a few years, the Italians felt it was time for a change drafting in Jay Baumgardner (Papa Roach) to helm the mixing desk forBroken Crown Halo“Jay owned the studio we recorded the last couple of records at so again it seemed a natural choice. We met Jay through Don but they are completely different. Don is a really hands on guy who wants to get every aspect of the recording right where as Jay stands back and looks at the whole picture. Our engineer Kyle also was really helpful. He has a lot of great ideas and plays many instruments. I am very happy with the results.”

 

Indeed Broken Crown Halo feels like a very natural progression from Dark Adrenaline. There has even been talk of Lacuna Coil taking inspiration from legendary horror director Dario Argento and soundtrack masters Goblin on this new record. “Yes very much. We grew up with these movies. They left a mark on us as kids. We wanted to combine those atmospherics with our music as a lot of themes fit well with the record. We haven’t written about Zombies and Vampires, but only used them as a metaphor for the destruction and horror we see in the world today. I think the record has such a spirit of defiance. We have been through a lot of things as a band in the last couple of years, couples splitting up and other conflicts, but whenever you touch the bottom you always rise to the top. It’s about facing all the adversity over the last fifteen years and still coming out on top. The song we released the video for “Nothing Stands In Our Way” is a great example of that. It tells of how we overcame the adversity life has thrown at us and we are still going strong today.”

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BULLET FOR MY VALENTINE Live

BULLET FOR MY VALENTINE – PHONES 4U ARENA, MANCHESTER

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Originally published on Gigsandfestivals.com 3/12/2013

The inaugural night of this U.K. jaunt see’s the Welsh wonders ascending to the giddy heights of arena rock touring. The show is far from sold out with many empty seats on this cold December night but the arena floor is fit to bursting point with a youthful, enthusiastic audience. Before we see how Bullet For My Valentine fair on the big stage, we get two hungry British acts chomping at the bit to stake their claim to the Brit-rock throne.

Openers Young Guns attempt to warm us up with their brand of emotive pop rock. Despite suffering sound issues early on which makes the vocals inaudible for much of the first number the lads plug away regardless like true professionals. The audience’s response remains relatively tame until closing number ‘Bones’ with a dynamic chorus the number manages to get the crowd singing along. Perhaps a less metal orientated audience would be more applicable for this act but unfortunately, this was not their night despite a gutsy showing.

The reception afforded to Asking Alexandra is far more enthusiastic. The spiky metalcore band are by far the heaviest act on the bill with their post Killswitch Engage screamo angst being aimed squarely at the audience of disaffected teenagers. Whilst Danny Worsnop’s harsh vocals lack powerful distortion to back them up, the York based act make up for their downfalls by delivering an energetic performance. The bright side is that Asking Alexandra may be the gateway act for many younger fans to discover far more edgy new artists.

With a flagrant disregard for their own personal space, fans are pinned to the barrier in anticipation of tonight’s headliners. Bullet For My Valentine have made a career from combining diluted thrash riffs with pop choruses something which has drawn as much criticism as praise but once the union flag covering the stage falls to signal their arrival the reception that greets them is thunderous.

Blazing pyrotechnics accompany ‘Scream, Aim, Fire’ but while Matt Tuck may garner much female attention it soon becomes glaringly apparent that the band look lost on a stage this size. Aside from headbanging on the spot there is little movement onstage and while Tuck utilised the ramp at the rear of the stage their performance is delivered somewhat cautiously.

The rest of the band offer little to back their frontman up either, content to perform their parts on the spot. Although guitarist Padge delivers a decent, if heavily Metallica influenced solo spot. Unfortunately the band seem to lack the energy of acts many years their senior, perhaps some of this can be attributed to this being the first night of the tour.

Their easily digestible pop metal sees the crowd bringing the energy, with ‘Your Betrayal’ provoking several moshpits’ gleefully throughout the arena. Whilst Bullet For My Valentine may not be classed as edgy or inventive their songs have hooks a plenty. Tuck is James Hetfield in espadrilles and whilst the band are nowhere near the calibre of their heroes there is a certain charm that comes from knowing the band were weaned on classic rock and metal.

Adopting a slower tempo ‘Bittersweet Memories’ receives a muted response but a medley of hits including early number ‘Hand Of Blood’ brings the crowd back on side. Questions of authenticity will still haunt them, especially after a lacklustre encore spearheaded by an unnecessary pub rock cover of Motörhead’s ‘Ace Of Spades’ with Tuck giving a cringeworthy speech about Rock N’ Roll and a patronising dedication to “The older members of the audience”. The saccharine ‘Tears Don’t Fall’ brings the curtain down on the show with a whimper rather than a bang. Tonight saw a proficient but unspectacular outing for the Brit Metal foursome who have much work left to do if they are to cut it at this level. I am hopeful that the energy in their performance will gain momentum throughout the remaining of their UK tour.

Ross Baker


Kvelertak – Meir Album Review

Kvelertak – Meir

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Originally posted on Ghost Cult Magazine’s website on 26/03/2013

Norse trailblazers Kvelertak split open the metal scene with their incendiary self titled debut not to mention a fierce reputation on the live front. A mash up of furious punk rock, searing black metal and rock n’ roll swagger the first record was indeed something very special. Having returned to Converge guitarist Kurt Ballou and God City studios for this sophomore effort Meir contains all the characteristic of what made Kvelertak such a shot in the arm.

Frantic tremolo picking and lush melodies of ‘Spring Fra Livet’ kicks the party off and the rousing ‘Bruane Brenn’ is classic Kvelertak not to mention the best reason to stage dive you may get this year. Erlend Hjelvik’s vocals are still as corrosively intense but the rapturous sing-along’s are also in great abundance.While the band remains blessed with fantastic rock n’ roll hooks regrettably yet there are a couple of tracks which could have been given greater attention.Åpenbaring’ has a gorgeous build up riff but finishes to quickly after the vocals have kicked in and the solo in ‘Månelyst’ could happy be extended by a few bars such is the magnetism of its gigantic hooks.

‘Nekrokosmos’ moves away from the garage punk aspects with an almost stoner rock middle section and ‘Undertro’ mixes frostbitten aggression with an almost Thin Lizzy vibe to the guitars.Great musicianship and the seamless melding of musical genres are aspects one expects of Kvelertak by now and while there are some great songs present here just a couple of tracks don’t maintain the lofty standards set by the first album. To follow-up such a groundbreaking debut has clearly been tricky but aside from a couple of half-baked ideas the album is a classy and well rendered affair.

It is a shame to see a couple of small disappointments here and there but when the bar is set so high that can be expected. While Meir may not have the impact its predecessor has had it still contains some fantastic music which may make more sense in the live concert environment. Meir is still a fantastically well written album but this is a tricky transitional record from an undeniably fantastic group.

7/10

Ross Baker


Ghost – Infestissumam Album Review

Ghost – Infestissumam

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Originally posted on Ghost Cult Magazine’s website on 20/04/2013

Since their Opus Eponymous debut dropped three years ago the nameless ghouls have enticed the greats of rock into their diabolical trap with a combination of a lavish stage show and the catchiest tunes Old Nick has given us in years. Yet by 2013 surely we’ve all gone back to our King Diamond and Blue Öyster Cult albums and cooled off. Not likely!

Beginning in triumphant fashion with their dark choir underpinned by lush classic rock riffing Papa Emeritus II and company have risen to deliver a sermon bolder and more dramatic than the first. ‘Per Aspera Ad Inferi’ stomps along with an almost military drumbeat leading to a triumphant expansive chorus. ‘Infestissumam’ see’s the Swedes expanding their horizons and further incorporate church organ, choral vocals and occasionally eastern melodies while remaining resolutely satanic.

Eschewing the more pop orientated song structures of the debut was a bold approach, certainly while this may be their major label debut the band have pushed themselves into bold new territory delivering an album full of quirks and killer melodies. The psychotic waltz of ‘Secular Haze’ is not the only stylistic departure with ‘Ghuleh/Zombie Queen’ beginning with stark piano and Papa’s chilling “From the darkness/ comes a succubus” refrain before the sinister organ builds the song to a powerful crescendo. The presence of big name producer Nick Raskulinecz has only encouraged the band to unfurl their greater potential, gleefully incorporating classic rock hooks with their blasphemous agenda in even more theatrical and bombastic fashion than before.

Having won fans such as Phil Anselmo and Dave Grohl (The later appearing behind the drumkit drumming on their cover of ABBA’s “I’m A Marionette”) it’s clear that Satan’s minions have the tunes to match their exquisite presentation. The finale of ‘Monstrance Clock’ with its infectious “Come together” refrain will haunt you insidiously for hours after its last airing.

Infestissumam may be Latin for “Most hostile” but this is a graceful and grandiose affair which further pushes their esoteric agenda together with sweeping and timeless melodies. A deliciously tuneful black-hearted affair this sophomore effort shall see Ghost welcome many new parishioners to join their faithful congregation.

9/10

Ross Baker


TesseracT – Altered State Album Review

TesseracT – Altered State

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Originally posted on Ghost Cult Magazine’s website on 26/05/2013

Since debut album One was released to much critical acclaim prog metal pioneers TesseracT have been dogged with the departure of not one but two lead vocalists. While such adversity would have broken manly lesser acts, the Milton Keynes act picked themselves up and following the departure of American singer Elliot Coleman came across young Brighton based frontman Ashe O’Hara.

The move has proved a shrewd one as O’Hara’s voice has a wealth of emotion and power that belies his cherub like appearance.  Following up such a resound praised record especially after such crippling circumstances TesseracT have refocused with a new album that retains the technically and emotional depth which made the debut so essential.

Boldly hinged around the concept of ‘”The Law Of Conservation” which states energy is transferred between the four states of matter, mind, reality and energy the stabbing polyrthymic structures remain but with a greater emphasis upon melodic hooks. Altered State disowns any screaming vocals which were present on the debut which the band felt they need “in order to fit into the scene”. It’s a bold move but one that paid off well.

Ashe’s delicate haunting notes more than match the unmistakable impression Dan Tompkins left on One with numbers like ‘Of Matter – Retrospect’ showing an emotional range rarely felt within the myopic scope of the average metal band. Familiar complex rhythms and patterns are present but the emphasis has shifted towards a more mature and reflective direction.

O’Hara’s performance is simply stunning. First single ‘Nocturne’ is brimming with passion and sincerity. His angelic tones reaching for the heavens while the swirling mass of guitars churn malevolently beneath him.

Considering the impact One had upon British metal TesseracT could be forgiven for resting upon their laurels yet Altered State expands their vision adding bold new elements. The elegant jazz saxophone on ‘Calabi-Yau’ is curveball and ‘Exile’ breaks new ground with some delicate acoustic chords further enhancing the reflective mood of the song.

A couple of tracks standout from the pack but Altered State” is best experienced as a whole piece. Distilling and focusing all their frustrations into creating a record which transcends the boundaries of the subgenre they found themselves a part of TesseracT have become the benchmark for progressive acts the world over.

8/10

Ross Baker


An Interview with Shining (NOR)

Painting The Sky Black –

An Interview With Jørgen Munkeby of Shining (NOR)

shining-band1 Originally posted on Ghost Cult Magazine’s website on 01/07/2013

“I grew up with PanteraSepulturaDeath andEntombed. I started playing at nine years old and practiced playing my saxophone with metal albums!” Shining saxophonist, guitarist, vocalist and composer, Jørgen Munkeby, is clearly as proud of his metal roots as well as his jazz heritage. Ghost Cult caught up with the blackjazz industro freak to discuss the latest album and all things related. The new album One One One attempts to condense all the musical genres Shining employs while condensing them into a more direct song based format; a series of “hits” if you like.  How did you set about achieving this? When I said I wanted to create a set of hits we are not taking about hits in the way Nicki Minaj has them! We just wanted more concrete song structures and a greater focus on the vocals. Our previous music has been composed in a more classical fashion without much repetition. What was different about recording One One One than the previous opus Black Jazz? Black Jazz was a conceptual album with long songs and a title taken from Venom’s Black Metal andOrnette Coleman’s record Free Jazz. This was the way we set out to define our own style of music; I am really proud of those songs but you certainly wouldn’t have them on your IPod playlist. When starting One One One we wanted to take the more straight forward songs from Black Jazz – ‘The Madness and The Damage Done’ and ‘Fisheye so we used them as a starting point for writing shorter more straight forward songs. I wanted to focus on making each individual song standout more while retaining the energy of the band and having an album that would flow well as a whole. I know our music can be hard to absorb but I would rather the listener pressed pause, took a break and came back to it than writing more simplistic music which does not excite me! Improvisation is a big part of jazz music. You talk about using more standard structures on One One One and the Live Black Jazz record sees a lot of improvisation. Will you confine improvisation exclusively to the live arena? We have actually made alternative endings for at least five songs from One One One for live use. We will continue to improve and will adapt the new songs to the live setting. As far as live albums go I’m not sure when we will do another one, because they are expensive to make, and a lot of live albums are just used as bonus CDs or cheap shit produced by bands fulfilling a contract with their label as a gap between studio albums. I have no interest in that I want to make great stuff. We have no interest in just playing a four minute song, talking, and then playing another; we will tie them together. It is important to retain the energy level. You wrote an article recently, regarding the evolution of music, where you said that “Today’s extreme music is tomorrow’s background music”. How important is it for you that Shining is considered to be a cutting edge act that continues to push the boundaries of musical genres? It’s not important in itself, what is important is that I feel happy and confident with the music we are making. It felt right to be extreme and aggressive on Black Jazz’ and this time it felt right to produce songs which were fun to play. I just focus on the music I am writing not how it will be perceived. You have combined jazz, prog, metal and industrial music in your work. Are there any boundaries that Shining will not cross? There really are no rules. The only consideration is how can we make our music better? There are no genre barriers. We had an opera singer on one of our earlier albums and we are constantly open to change. What we have done lately is we have leaned towards that of a metal band. We haven’t used melatrons or strings and timpani drums but you never know what we will do in the future. I could have chosen to change the band name when we started writing Black Jazz as the music was very different but I chose to keep it, as Shining has evolved all on its own while retaining an experimental spirit. In 2013 the world appears to be catching up to the diverse music scene Norway has, other than black metal, why do you think it has taken so long for this to happen ? Norway is a really small country of five million people, so it’s not weird that we have not exported that much music. People only had the pop band A-Ha other than the black metal scene. The black metal scene got a lot of attention so it took a lot of people time to look for anything else. It wasn’t until acts like Satyricon and Mayhem changed their sound that people in the metal scene began to open their eyes to other types of music in Norway. Indeed it was that innovation which drew you to working with Black Metal musicians such as Enslaved and Ihsahn. What made you want to work with these artists in particular? After studying contemporary jazz music for years and playing the music of John Coltrane and artists like that, I wanted to produce music that belonged to my generation and country. The jazz music I was playing belonged to black American jazz musicians and I wanted to produce something that belonged to my generation. I returned to my old metal albums which reignited my love for rock and metal and I found new stuff like Meshuggah and The Dillinger Escape Plan. That led toIhsahn and Enslaved getting in touch. They saw something in Shining that interested them and it really helped us with getting on the track that led us to Black Jazz. It opened my eyes to how the Saxophone could be used in heavy music. Working with Ihsahn really helped me because I was working with him around the same time I was recording Black Jazz. Listening to metal again and being inspired by it felt like coming home! What do you look for in a musical collaborator and who would you like to work with in the future? We don’t have any collaborations planned at the moment but there are a lot of musicians I admire and would like to work with. Off the top of my head, Trent ReznorMarilyn Manson, The Dillinger Escape Plan, MeshuggahSkrillex! Skrillex has defined dubstep. We have a remix compilation where fans are rearranging the track ‘I Won’t Forget’ and there have been a lot of dubstep style entries. What’s great about dubstep is it sounds really aggressive which is what I like about it. You can hear that he comes from a rock background when he makes music too! You worked with Sean Bevan (Nine Inch Nails/ Marilyn Manson producer) again on ‘One One One’ why is working with Sean so special? Sean has been working with us for three albums and I wanted to involve him even more this time. As a co producer he helped with the direction of the songs and stripping away parts that weren’t that interesting. He came up with ideas for arrangements with me. I am most happy with ‘I Won’t Forget’ which is a song he was most involved in. We understand each other and you need that when you make art together. What do you make of other extreme metal acts like Yakuza and Ephel Duath who have tried to combine jazz with metal? I haven’t really checked out Ephel Duath but I will do. My feeling is that these bands like Yakuza andSigh are different from us, because they don’t come from a jazz background, which gives us a unique feel and way of approaching music; where I see bands like those guys and Meshuggah coming from the other direction. There are a lot more metal bands that seem to be ready to experiment with jazz but I think it would be very cool to have more jazz musicians trying to do what we do. You haven’t booked many festivals for this year. What are your touring plans? The record is out just before summer, so we are doing Festivals in Norway with European festivals next year. We will be touring the U.K. and Europe October/November time and we will be touring the U.S. after that. There is a lot of interest in the U.S. considering how little we have toured there; we have only done ten American shows. We want to get over there this fall and spring next year as well. That’s the plan. We can play jazz festivals or metal festivals. In Norway we do a lot of different stuff so it is important to mix it up. The new generation of music listeners don’t care about genre. They want to listen to Lady Gaga then The Dillinger Escape Plan. That’s the future of music. I spent the whole of last year in the studio and I am now in the mood for playing live. I hope people take the time to check us out.

Ross Baker


Shining (NOR) – One One One Album Review

Shining (NOR) – One One One

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Originally posted on Ghost Cult Magazine’s website on 28/05/2013

Masterminding the melding of Jazz and metal has been attempted by many noisemakers but these proponents have often hailed from the metal world. Shining mainman Jørgen Munkeby has travelled a different path hailing from a trad jazz background Munkeby introduced “Black Jazz” to an unsuspecting world three years ago nailing progressive metal to free jazz and harsh electronics it was an uncompromising and experimental record which sat up and slapped the metal scene square in the face.

Fast forward to present day One One One sees Shining condensing and distilling their freeform frenzy into more traditional song structures.For some this would seem like Shining has lost its edge yet what One One One succeeds in doing is compressing these rogue elements and spewing them out in controlled bursts of kinetic energy.

Spanning thirty five minutes this high energy thrill ride is a seemly mesh of all Shining’s musical styles with all the indulgences stripped away leaving only the juicy succulent flesh for the listener to feast upon.The driving percussion and industrial guitars of ‘I Won’t Forget’ kick off this adrenaline ride recalling the manic rush of NIN circa Broken and ‘My Dying Drive’ pulls no punches with its stellar grooves.

What makes this album so inviting is how every instrument is allowed to stand out without being smothered by the rest. The frantic saxophone on ‘How Your Story Ends’ ads to the song without becoming its main focus and the electronic elements are never employed at the expense of the guitars.The album title itself alludes to Munkeby’s desire to create a series of “track one’s” or “hits” and while the songs have shorter running times than the sprawling Black Jazz this is still the bold work of an extreme act hell-bent continually challenging themselves and their listeners.

The corrosive saxophone grind of ‘The Hurting Game’ alone should serve as a vehement denial of the notion that Shining have become a straight metal act. Jørgen’s vocals while mostly screamed still allow for lyrics to be clearly deciphered and while the cold industrial sections complement the harsh guitars there is an organic feel to the songs.

In One One One Munkeby has succeeded in balancing the fine line between indulging his renegade tendencies while simultaneously delivering his most direct and simplistic album yet. While a fine collection of music never before have Shining’s individual songs shone so brightly even when removed from the context of the album. A vital and exhilarating brand of controlled chaos bravely realised and delivered with the meticulous brilliance of a master craftsman.

8/10

Ross Baker