Thursday 21 November 2019

Jinjer - Macro (2019)

Country: Ukraine
Style: Progressive Groove Metal
Rating: 6/10
Release Date: 25 Oct 2019
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I've mentioned as recently as this week that metalcore doesn't tend to be my thing. Here's Jinjer to prove that every rule has an exception. Hey, there's been enough negative news about the Ukraine this week; let's find a positive side! Jinjer hail from Donetsk and temper all the shouting with some notable variety, hence the "progressive" label. Tatiana Shmailyuk screams very well, thank you very much, but she also sings clean here, often shifting back and forth surprisingly quickly. One of the other band members, though which I'm unable to say, adds death growls. I only assume they're not her too because they often coincide with her doing something else.

They're groove metal at heart but with such a heavy metalcore component that it wouldn't be unfair to call them metalcore too. Fortunately, the nu metal side that often comes with that is less apparent than it used to be, with a progressive edge becoming accordingly more obvious. That's most overt on the closing track, lainnereP, which, frankly, is different enough from the songs around it that it couldn't have been placed anywhere else on the album, but there's prog throughout if you listen. I, for one, feel that this is a major plus point in the band's evolution.

They're also now comfortable enough to play with unlikely genres, finding a way to fit them into regular songs without culture shock kicking in. Easily the most obvious example of this is Judgment (& Punishment), which kicks off like another bass-heavy groove metal song, but then inexplicably leaps into reggae territory before heavying up on the fly and getting all shouty. This shouldn't work but it does. It's highly unexpected but I have to admit that it's also highly effective.

Songs like Pit of Consciousness and The Prophecy and moments in others were most surprising to me by revealing that mixing groove metal with progressive rhythms and vocal lines can end up sounding like Voivod, who came out of the merging of prog with punk and metal. Sometimes different journeys end up at the same destination, I guess. I seriously doubt this was intentional.

The lesser songs for me here are the ones that don't add much prog, as they merge together and fade from interest. A lot of people seem enthused by the song called Retrospection, but it's most interesting for me for starting out in Ukrainian, which sounds really good on this material. It fades later for me, as do Pausing Death, Noah and others in the middle of the album. To me, the interesting songs are early ones and late ones.

In particular, I think the album ends really well. Home Back features a neat mellow section midway through that's rooted in soul and jazz, shifting into and out of it seamlessly. The Prophecy ratchets up the speed and that Voivod sound again for a while during the non-shouting verses. Then lainnereP does something completely different, playing up the prog and removing the heavier side entirely for narrated whispers, synths and a delightful bass.

Much of the success is due to Tatiana Shmailyuk, who's almost a textbook on how to use the human voice. She sings, she shouts, she growls, she whispers, she snarls, she screams, she skanks. She's fascinating to listen to whatever style she's using. While the band behind her are tight and talented, they're just not as interesting on half these songs.

I'm also not a particular fan of the drum sound. It's not drummer Vladislav Ulasevich, who does a fine job; it's that it often sounds like he's hitting a plastic ice cream container rather than what I presume is actually a high tom. Add that to the djeneral groove/metalcore tone and this often fights to do things that leave me dry.

In the end, the variety wins out. I have trouble even listening to a lot of metalcore albums, but I've run through this one three or four times now and, when it's interesting, it keeps my attention and my enthusiasm. Even when it isn't interesting, it doesn't annoy me and push me to turn it off, it merely fades from my attention until something interesting shows up.

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