In the past few years, Ukrainian progcore act Jinjer have exploded in popularity. I've seen their name plastered across major festival lineup reveals, magazine cover features, and praise throughout social media. Genuinely, they deserve it.
On face value, this sudden leap of exposure may come off as disingenuous, but as you start to trace their trajectory, the rise of this Eastern European heavy group is not only wholly impressive, but also sincerely organic. Debut album Cloud Factory already was on a promising path with groove galore, a knack for catchy tunes, and a spoonful of instrumental virtuosity shown on tracks like "Who is Gonna Be the One" or "Outlander." The potential was blatantly present. Inevitably, that potential blossomed into a show-stopping quality when the "Pisces" single surfaced off the King of Everything record. Half a decade later, the hit is still cherished as a go-to pleaser, showcasing the dynamics of Tatiana's clean and screaming vocal range. The following Micro EP and Macro LP proved they were far from a one-hit wonder and cemented their young but deserving legacy with solid stylistic experimentation.
When bands ascend at this quick pace, the "heavy is the head that wears the crown" cliche becomes apparent. Despite garnering a vast fanbase and a seemingly flawless climb into the limelight, it is my perspective that such accumulated hype and acclaim makes the next steps so fervently crucial. A meh or so-so follow-up release could tear down the vicious momentum of a band. When the initial single for this latest album was unveiled, I had serious concerns that the future of Jinjer would simply be just more of the same. "Vortex" has melody, grit, and is enjoyable, yet lacks a special factor or progress from previous material. So the question of "has the band churned out a par-for-the-course album instead of presenting any risks?" became my main focus when approaching this review.
Fortunately, there's not a clear answer to that question. I'd argue both yes and no. As a whole, Wallflowers sounds like retreading similar territory as Macro. While the first three tracks "Call Me a Symbol," "Colossus," and the aforementioned "Vortex" are undeniable bangers, I lament the fact that they sound nearly no different than the last album. Some fans may be perfectly content with that news, however I feel it is far more fulfilling to witness an artist's growth with each release.
While my criticism remains for the following pieces, I feel there are enjoyable aspects to highlight. "Copycat" is bound to be a live staple considering the technical guitar leads and energy. The album closer "Mediator" is equally lively as Vladi pounds the fuck out of the drum kit. Additionally, both "Pearls and Swine" and "Sleep of the Righteous" have a lovely balance of cleans and growls, provoking the same dynamic as shown on "Pisces." Again, this material deserves praise, however I'm less attracted to these songs because Jinjer has walked down a very familiar path on Macro or King of Everything.
Luckily, not all hope is lost as I dug deeper into the details and tracklisting, I discovered small amounts of worthy exploration and maturation. Taking a step backwards to a couple of the previously mentioned songs, "Call Me a Symbol" engages in a The Faceless-like proggy, death metal breakdown briefly while "Colossus" shows a slightly blackened and more brutal vocal delivery. “Disclosure” is another notable track with an alternative/grunge endeavor in the vein of Hole or Veruca Salt. The lockdown lyrical theme and focus on the bass groove during "Wallflower" also stood out. These moments are truly fascinating and I wish the band were more generous in sharing such experimentation.
Overall, Wallflowers is enjoyable and Jinjer fans will certainly eat it up. I applaud them for bringing some serious anger and bite in the vocal booth alongside some sweet riffs, grooves, and plenty of dynamics. Nonetheless, I hold concerns that the band are starting to approach a state of repetition. I genuinely feel conflicted because this record holds some kickass moments, yet I’m sorely missing something significant and new for me to sink my teeth into. For now, I'm satisfied with more Jinjer jams, but I'll need more risks to hook me for the long ride.