King of Everything, by Jinjer
Suggested by Noli-Rose Nikitaki
“I’m glad someone put Jinjer forward,” said someone in the comments. “If you know absolutely nothing about them, I’d listen to the ‘Pisces’ track first for the full ‘what the hell just happened’ experience.”
Then he signed off with a winky face emoji, successfully undermining his own suggestion with a nugget of trollish abandon.
I decided to comply. I did in fact know zip-diddly-squat about the band. I fired up Youtube and watched a video of the song being performed live. Once it was over, I sat, blinking in shock. Then I watched the video again, because… wow.
Jinjer are a Ukranian four-piece Metalcore band. They were formed in 2009, and have released three studio albums and a pocketful of EPs. King of Everything is their median LP, released in 2016. Pisces is track nine of a possible ten.
Watching the live performance of Pisces, it’s immediately apparent that the vocalist, Tatiana Shmailyuk, is miraculous.
The song starts with some exquisite picked guitar, playful yet steady bass and swinging, sensual drums. Shmailyuk glides effortlessly into the mix, her voice clean and powerful, soaringly rocky with a pop-diva sheen. This continues, melodic and bright, until the metal kicks in after seventy-odd seconds.
At that point, Shmailyuk becomes possessed by a growling demon.
You all know my feelings on the growl as a vocal choice. It’s well documented that I find it absolutely abhorrent, a sludgy sledgehammer taken to the delicate walnut of my enjoyment.
But here, in the hands of Tatiana Shmailyuk? It’s fantastic.
I think it’s the consummate ease with which she flips between exquisitely clean and growling dervish which elevates the song. And when you extend this outside the confines of Pisces to the full album, you’ll see that Shmailyuk has yet more distinct styles to offer, such as the spitting, acerbic punk sneer she adopts in Captain Clock, or the jaunty Incubus-style club singing of Beggar’s Dance.
Tatiana Shmailyuk is incredible, but in no way does she eclipse the rest of the band. Musically, they can all hang with the cool kids, effortlessly swerving between the heaviest of metals in Sit Stay Roll Over to the almost rock ballad sections of the sublime Just Another, and more. There’s a strong side of Prog or Math here, so fans of those noises should give this bell a ring. In fact, my one slight complaint is that, for a band with such an eclectic range, they lean on the heavy button a little too hard. I like it when they do, but I’d prefer the balance to swing away a touch more readily.
Before I finish, there’s a question that needs asking. After my pre-listen preparation, which led me to discover that all the vocal noises on this album are handled by one tattooed Ukranian woman, I found myself marvelling at the skill, the talent, the musicianship… in short, I loved everything. Without this knowledge, would I have felt the same? If I’d assumed the “obvious,” that the band had two or more vocalists sharing duties across the ten tracks, would my enjoyment have been muted? Would I have heard a stock growl, laughed my stock laugh, and dismissed the album out of hand?
I’ll leave that question to the philosophers. King of Everything gets a deserving, yet surprising, 8/10.