The Best Albums of 2013, #6

band01Shining, One One One

For an extreme band so wildly creative that the possibilities for invention seem limitless, sometimes the most extreme thing they can do is to set limits for themselves. I have never seen nor heard a more mind-blowingly creative metal band in the last decade as Norwegian band Shining, who blend metal, noise, avant-garde, and jazz in ways no artists have been able to match. A peer turned me on to their album Grindstone in 2007, I was lucky enough to see them play a scorching set in Oslo in 2008, and they outdid themselves on the monumental Blackjazz two years later, a record that’s looking more and more groundbreaking as the years go by. The question with bands like Shining is always, “Where can they possibly go next?” If invention becomes your calling card, how long can you keep pushing that envelope? Look at The Dillinger Escape Plan: after three innovative albums, they’ve since settled into a comfortable rut of predictability. Give Jørgen Munkeby credit, though, because six albums into Shining’s career he and the rest of the band sounds as driven as ever. Only this time, Shining has filtered its wildly intense and frenetic sound through conventional pop music song structures. No free-for epics here. This time it’s all about a set form: nine songs, 35 minutes. By setting very strict boundaries for songwriting, it has increased the band’s focus on One One One, and in so doing they sound liberated. These tracks are explosively catchy, albeit in Shining’s typically alien-sounding way, and while the pace is not unlike an all-out assault, dynamics are executed just enough to keep it all from feeling like a tiresome barrage of noise and free-form saxophone solos. From its bright orange album cover, to such instantly memorable tracks as “The Hurting Game”, “Blackjazz Rebels”, and the insane groove of “The One Inside”, this is a lot more than pop music for the extreme crowd. It’s the most vibrant, exhilarating album to date by a band of peerless innovators.