BLACKJAZZ, A SHINING EXAMPLE THAT INDUSTRIAL METAL CAN STILL BE AWESOME AND AWE-INSPIRING
Though much lauded by critics, Fear Factory’s Mechanize served mainly to remind me that the bifurcated band — reuniting vocalist Burton Bell and guitarist Dino Cazares with a brand new rhythm section — had neglected to make any real progress from 1995’s Demanufacture. Indeed, fifteen years later, Bell and Cazares appear content to rest on their laurels, assuredly to the delight of many of the band’s nostalgic fans who have long yearned for a so-called “return to form.” And while industrial metal fell out of favor Stateside some time back (not long before nu-metal began to outstay its own welcome here), over in Europe the sound has carried on, if not exactly moved on. Accordingly, many of those originally drawn to industrial music by the breakout sounds of Fear Factory, Ministry, or Nine Inch Nails have long since abandoned the messy scene for more niche subgenres (power noise comes to mind) or other music altogether. This is why, as one who’s all but given up on industrial in recent years, I have quickly come to love Shining‘s Blackjazz.
I named my column for MetalSucks Scraping Genius Off The Wheel as a winking homage to Jim “Foetus” Thirlwell, an industrial music pioneer who has found much success lately thanks to his soundtrack work for the popular cartoon The Venture Bros. Decades earlier, however, Thirlwell was brazen in his unconventional juxtaposition of musique concrète with bombast, jazz,and kitsch, resulting in an absurd and menacing final product. Blackjazz is no less ridiculous nor minacious in its approach, splicing disparate influences into a sound that will intrigue fans of artists as diverse as Rammstein, Fantomas, Pig Destroyer, and Einsturzende Neubauten. John Zorn devotees — especially those who hold avant-jazz ensembles Naked City and Painkiller in high regard — will likely appreciate the tumultuous abutment of clashing sonics on their cover of King Crimson’s “21st Century Schizoid Man,” which I liken to throwing G.E. Smith and the Saturday Day Night Live Band into a blender. Saxophone skronk hasn’t felt this attuned with metal since Mr. Bungle’s debut, as “Healter Skelter” so obviously confirms. This is beautiful, curious, maniacal music.
Yet Blackjazz isn’t all blaring horns and artsy nose-thumbing. “The Madness And The Damage Done” somewhat recalls the density of Marilyn Manson’s Antichrist Superstar with a sputtering collage of militaristic percussion, charred vocals, and dark atmospherics. Later, the reprise of this track boasts an introductory passage not unlike the twisted canned carny ditty that opened Foetus’ late classic “Take It Outside Godboy.” Deliriously catchy, “Fisheye” takes a Pretty Hate Machine-esque synth line and smashes it against bits of The Melvins, grindcore, and the fucking symphony. So much is happening here on Blackjazz, but all of it is extraordinary and engaging.
(4 1/2 out of 5)
[Gary Suarez usually manages the consistently off-topic No Yoko No. He’s returned to Twitter for the remainder of the Lenten season.]