By Greg Maki
While the 2020 shutdown of the world wasn’t kind to any recording artists, it had the potential to be devastating to an act like Jinjer. The Ukrainian metal band had been surging in popularity around the world, first on the strength of the single “Pisces,” then on 2019’s one-two punch of the EP “Micro” and the follow-up long-player “Macro.” In spring 2020, the band was to embark on its biggest North American headline tour to date, complete with a handful of major festival appearances. Like everyone, the quartet made do the best it could when touring no longer was an option, dropping a steady stream of music videos for tunes from “Macro” and releasing the live recording “Alive in Melbourne” last November. Best of all for Jinjer fans—a rabid bunch if I’ve ever seen one—the band wrote and recorded its fourth full-length album, “Wallflowers,” an effort that should pick right up on the momentum that had been building steadily through the last few pre-COVID years.
The biggest takeaway is that “Wallflowers” easily is Jinjer’s heaviest record to date—not that any of its previous material would be confused with “easy listening.” Whenever a metal act starts to taste popularity, there’s always that fear among fans that it will start to chase mass appeal, sacrificing some of its original vision and artistry in the process. Rest easy, Jinjer fans. “Wallflowers” is a ferocious slab of progressive groove metal, the band seemingly channeling all of the doubt and uncertainty of the past 18 months into 11 aggressive and technically ambitious songs. Frontwoman Tatiana Shmayluk reasserts herself as one of the genre’s most versatile voices, but seemingly employing her clean tones less than ever allows the entire band—bassist Eugene Abdukhanov, drummer Vlad Ulasevich and guitarist Roman Ibramkhalilov—to shine just as bright.
The songs here essentially range from heavy to heavier. Highlights include the pulverizing “Colossus” and closing “Mediator” (the record’s two heaviest songs); “Disclosure!,” which begins with an unexpected grungy feel before venturing into more familiar metallic terrain; and the dynamic stretch at the record’s center of “Pearls and Swine,” “Sleep of the Righteous” and the title track. Shmayluk’s performance is especially impassioned on the latter, which seems extra personal to her given how open she has been about being an introvert despite being the face and voice of an internationally successful band. “Wallflowers” the song feels like it eventually could replace “Pisces” as the one the band saves for the encore of its live shows.
“Wallflowers” the album shows Jinjer as an act with real staying power—not just a flavor of the week with a pretty face—cementing the band as a major player in the world of heavy music.
Napalm Records – Aug. 27, 2021