Shining (Nor) - Animal
Spinefarm Records
10 songs (37:35)
Release year: 2018
Shining (Nor), Spinefarm Records
Reviewed by Goat

It's genuinely hard to watch a band you once loved for their uniqueness devolve until they've basically lost everything that made them special, but that's what has happened to Norwegians Shining. Past albums Grindstone and Blackjazz saw the band exploring prog and avant-garde realms with their very talented vocalist and saxophonist Jørgen Munkeby leading the way, then removing the avant-garde craziness and settling into shorter, more accessible song structures across One One One and International Blackjazz Society to increasingly diminishing returns. The direction of travel wasn't looking good as the band got poppier and closer to the mainstream, and the result is Animal, an album stripped of the avant-garde structures, jazz influences, even of the saxophone and demented yells that was right in Munkeby's wheelhouse. Shining now sound like any band that you could hear on the radio, a poor mash-up of 30 Seconds to Mars and Muse, yet without the undeniably talented voice of Jared Leto or the bizarre experimentation of the latter.

Instead, Munkeby's clean singing is joined by a huge layer of 80s styled synths, atop utterly uninteresting rock structures; robbing the band of any character. Even the moments on the past couple of albums when Shining sounded like a Nine Inch Nails tribute act were far, far superior to this. Songs like Take Me or the title track are very much like Fozzy or Nickleback but at least are catchy, have a decent groove, and some edge to the vocals; what on earth was the thinking behind Fight Song, which sounds like an outright attempt to copy recent Muse with a synth-drenched, 'uplifting' ballad? It's utterly turgid and full of clichéd lyrics about fighting together because no-one is going to save us, like some awful Eurovision entry everyone grits their teeth through. Munkeby just isn't a good clean singer and fails to make this as enthralling as intended, actively dragging down other songs like When the Lights Go Out. And the rest of the band aren’t much better, the often simplistic drumming of ex-Leprous sticksman Tobias Ørnes Andersen a far step below the past performances of Torstein Lofthus or even his former band. You can barely hear the guitars behind the synths, and the mix is poor, throwing everything together into a messy racket.

And while some songs are tolerable if you like this sort of thing, others are simply bad, My Church's almost constant drum blasts and repetitive lyrics a pain to listen to, while the party-rock of Smash It Up! is dangerously close to nu metal. In Flames' recent material sounds incredible when compared to the likes of When I'm Gone, which at least uses the synths effectively, and while Everything Dies is the closest to something from a past album with some yelling and distorted riffs, sounding more like Shining than one of the bands they're trying to become, it's simply not up to the same standard that they once managed. Hole in the Sky is the only truly interesting song, abandoning rock entirely in favour of the synths and a female vocalist, showing a softer side of the band that we have never seen before and succeeding in the emotional impact even if it's a bit closer to Ultravox than the Black Sabbath cover I assumed before listening. Animal isn't quite a 'crap of the month' contender thanks to a few bright spots, but it is a colossal disappointment and a woeful misstep for a band that previously was nothing short of genius. I hope they succeed in the mainstream, but this former fan won't be following them any more.

Killing Songs :
Everything Dies, Hole in the Sky
Goat quoted 40 / 100
Other albums by Shining (Nor) that we have reviewed:
Shining (Nor) - One One One reviewed by Koeppe and quoted 87 / 100
Shining (Nor) - Blackjazz reviewed by Goat and quoted 95 / 100
Shining (Nor) - Grindstone reviewed by Goat and quoted 89 / 100
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