Sound — 7
Before anyone goes mental for a certain Mr Kvarforth, this isn't that Shining (Swe), this is Shining (Nor). Completely different band altogether. So what do these guys do? Maybe something in a similar vein to the Swedish mob? Mmmno, if the Swedish lot are depressive nihilists, the Norwegian bunch are the manic, unhinged schizophrenics. The album name sums up the sound and feel perfectly well: Black jazz. Heavily rhythmic yet completely chromatic synthesizers, the wrong-sort-of-catchy guitar riffs, time signature changes to put Thomas Haake to shame, two distorted bass guitars (for some reason), additions of saxophone and industrial interludes, absence of any form of emotional connection except pure, unbridled rage and total brain breaking musical savagery. The anxiety that this album puts forward is a completely unnatural feeling, you're in a nightmare world where a crazed psycho is telling you, no, screaming at you, about fisheyes and helter skelters, where the word "normal" sort of lost meaning when you pressed play. Granted, the first song, "Madness And The Damage Done Pt 1", is probably the closest thing to a marketable single on the album, but after that, you're delving deep into just how far metal/jazz fusion can go. So really I should point out, if you like cheesy pop songs, "Blackjazz" probably isn't for you. One thing I should also comment on is just how deep their arrangements and programming's go, so much so that practically every song features each member of the band using a keyboard/MIDI controller at some point, adding their own demented sound to the mix of warped noise. And this album is the least complex album they've recorded, although mind you... It is by far the heaviest, and most twisted.
Lyrics — 7
Jorgen Munkeby is the main guy here: vocalist, guitarist, saxophonist, keyboard player, songwriter, arranger, all round criminal master-mind etc. On vocals, he is the guy who'd break into your house, write words in blood on the bathroom mirror just for the hell of it, then run off, only to return later to stalk your pets. The only consistent vocal style featured on the album is very very harsh screaming, the sort that makes most black metal vocalists quiver with fear, accompanied by variations of harsh vocals: growling, shouting, laughing maniacally in your ear and so on. There is the occasional point in time where his clean voice breaks through, though usually for a dynamic shift from growing tension to outright percussive onslaughts, and maybe the odd spoken word section using the "through a telephone" technique, just to add to the overall creep factor. Incredibly appropriate for this album. Lyrical content is based on a number of strange sources, writers and famous madmen like Aleister Crowley, mythology, doomsday cults and writings, unsubtle references to varying Armageddon's, that sort of strange conspiracy theory stuff that makes people a bit on edge (or perhaps over it, in the case of the band). I guess if you're going to make an album as deranged as this, better to just go full mental rather than singing about trivial Friday nights and random women on the street (both concepts being used in popular music since the dawn of friggin' time). "Fisheye" is a song that probably doesn't even have a meaning at all, perfectly precise and coherent babbling about 1 3 7 5, nails, brains, eyes, hooks and fish, blaaargh...
Overall Impression — 9
Originally, I understood the idea, but never really got into the sound as such - only so much lunacy the human brain can handle. The 3 songs that really drew me in though, are among the best pieces of insane metal I've personally heard. Your experience may differ entirely, and this album has taken me a good year and a half to fully appreciate, but at the end, there's bound to be something you'll like about it if you love the sound of chaos, whether it's synth or saxophone. Songs to look out for: "Madness And The Damage Done Pt1/Pt2", "Fisheye", "Exit Sun Pt1", "Blackjazz Deathtrance", "21st Century Schizoid Man" (King Crimson cover, seriously recommend it).