Shining's last album In The Kingdom Of Kitsch You Will Be A Monster was at times a larger-than-life smorgasbord of smash and grab stylistic mindfuckery. Featuring former members of Jaga Jazzist, the young group seemingly threw everything against the wall and fortunately at most times things worked out pretty well. It definitely wasn't an album for those wanting a smooth ride, but dealt out some amazingly effective songs in a variety of different genres.
If you thought their first album was crazy, though, you really haven't heard anything yet. Even more willfully insane, Grindstone takes a similarly wide array of musical foundations (prog, rock, jazz, ambient electronics) and subsequently goes nuts. The album opens with "In The Kingdom Of Kitsch You Will Be A Monster" and the metal-tinged prog track is six minutes of math-like power-chord progressions and over-the-top vocals that go on for way too long.
Although they both have unique sounds about them, both the following "Winterreise" and "Stalemate Longan Runner" each follow a strikingly similar structure, with more slashing guitars and meaty keyboards romping over heavy percussion. At times, the songs fall away to spacey ambience, but head back into ripping moments each time even louder and more crazy before. The overall effect of the meticulous pummeling and trip-outs are something akin to a more jazz-influenced Mars Volta, and unfortunately the frustrating moments outweigh the exhilarating ones.
From there out, the album spits out a couple shorter ambient pieces (including two similar songs with the same name), a Wendy Carlos-style cover of a Bach piece (with the name designated in morse code), and "The Red Room," a track that sounds like a slight reworking of a song from In The Kingdom Of Kitsch You Will Be A Monster
There are a couple longer tracks where the group actually take some time to flesh out and develop their madness in a more interesting way than simply alternating from near-silent to in-your-face blasting loud, but it's simply a bit frustrating sifting through the rest of the album to get to them. In a few places, the group manages to show the deft touch that made them so striking on their debut, but their more extreme songwriting approach makes Grindstone more of a chore than an experience in most places.