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Shining

Grindstone (Rune Grammofon)

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Norway burns brightly in the ears of American listeners, thanks to two vibrant scenes there: the improv set and, well, all that black metal. Shining operates somewhere in the middle. Over four albums, the group has welded metal's tough skeleton to fanciful jazz-rock (think Miles Davis' electric era made squeaky-clean) and prog's overblown virtuosity.

The results can evoke the kind of fodder found in fantasy novels: hooded, elfin characters marching through a stand of trees. Hell, Schubert-tinged classical asides even appear, and when the flute hovers over clouds of processed guitar, Shining can be mistaken for a vampire Jethro Tull bearing black fangs instead of dancing jigs.

The group's precision in turning stylistic flips, though, can transform its brutal splatter-attacks into something less progressive and more clinically professional. But undeniably, bits like the blistering "Asa Nisi Masa" just shine. With a neo-Sabbath guitar throwing sparks around a vocoder-laced voice that howls to the moon, the jam is a campfire ritual that will burn the toe-hair off any Hobbit.

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