Show Review: Jinjer – House of Blues Cleveland, Ohio

Event: Jinjer USA Tour 2022

Venue: House of Blues – Cleveland, Ohio

Date: November 13, 2022

Artists Performed: Space of Variations, Vended, P.O.D., Jinjer

For this crusty old small-town Ohio dude, November was a crazy month for shows. Prior to arriving at Cleveland’s House of Blues for an evening with Jinjer, I had already been to Michigan to see Mercyful Fate, and Indiana to see Cannibal Corpse. After three shows in three states, which is certainly nothing new to touring bands, all of the driving was making me… slightly disagreeable.

Nothing much to do on long commutes by yourself but think, which can be the hardest part of traveling on your own. On the other hand, it’s good to take time to reflect, especially toward the end of the year. It had been almost one year to the day since I saw Jinjer perform last. A show that was also at Cleveland’s House of Blues, but people were just getting used to being out in public again after COVID lockdowns, and this was prior to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The entire vibe of the world was different a year ago, and Ukrainian artists like Jinjer understandably put touring and performing on hold. No matter how challenging the past twelve months had been for myself and my circle of friends, I decided none of us had it all that bad. Look at me driving to concerts! Waah!

It was good news that Jinjer was back on tour in the US, along with P.O.D., and Vended, as well as fellow Ukrainian band Space of Variations. I was looking forward to seeing both Space of Variations and Vended, and for very different reasons.

Space of Variations released their second album, IMAGO, on Napalm Records this summer and, as far as metalcore goes, I enjoyed it more than I expected. Poppier than I usually like, but that ended up being the draw because they got the balance right. I’m happy to report the balance was skewed quite a bit toward the heavy in a live setting. They played mainly songs from IMAGO with highlights being “Someone Else,” “Non-human Club 2.0,” and “Fuck This Place Up” (from Mind Darknet, 2018). It was a high-energy set from a promising young band that pulls off their recorded material excellently and, as it turns out, proved to be a tough act for Vended to follow.

For anyone unaware, Vended‘s frontman Griffin Taylor and drummer Simon Crahan are the sons of Slipknot‘s Corey Taylor and Sean “Clown” Crahan, respectively. I’ve got to admit, my curiosity was almost entirely fueled by this connection. That being the case, having no previous exposure to the band, I somewhat sadly got exactly what I expected: A slimmed-down Slipknot. It’s not entirely fair to “expect” anything, but it bothered me more than it should have at the time.

The truth is, these guys don’t shy away from their roots. Taylor addresses it directly in the song “Bloodline” when he sings “It’s amazing what a last name does,” and that any hate he might get because of it means very little. He’s got confidence for days, which maybe should be toned down to benefit the band as a whole. It doesn’t seem to me that his ambitions lie in making it as a solo artist, but Griffin Taylor seems a bit of a ball hog. So is his dad, to be fair, and it makes zero sense to fault the guy for the obvious influence Slipknot has had on his life and art.

It is perhaps egotistical for him to assume everyone already knows who he is, but based on his voice alone, he’d get Corey Taylor comparisons even without the pedigree. On the other hand, by embracing both his heritage and genuine affection for Slipknot as a musician, Griffin sort of shoots himself in the ass. He does it willingly, though, and with enough passion and energy to fill a room much bigger than the House of Blues. One day. Not quite yet.

P.O.D. was… fine. I don’t know. It’s weird. So, I’m not familiar enough with P.O.D. to compare them with anything outside of this performance, and to tell you the truth, I think Griffin Taylor nicked a good bit of the glory P.O.D. vocalist Sonny Sandoval deserved. The band played well, Sandoval effortlessly hyping up the crowd. They played a nice mix of about a dozen hits. “Rock the Party (Off the Hook),” “Murdered Love,” and “Youth of the Nation” stuck out as the best to my ears.

Hopefully, the Vended boys paid close attention to P.O.D. during their time on the tour (which picks up again on December 7th with Malevolence in their slot). The way Sandoval fronts his band is, by leaps and bounds, more proficient and unsparing.

It has been quite a year for Jinjer. Russia’s war with Ukraine had the band members home helping their homeland. Jinjer had to pull out of their Knotfest Roadshow gig. Eventually, they were allowed to play concerts, with some of the proceeds going towards Ukrainian relief efforts. They kept busy over the summer and did a lot of good. Last year, vocalist Tatiana Shmayluk’s stage banter was more sparse, but she was fired up as hell last week! A powerful presence, Tatiana. She stalks the stage, stares at the audience, and takes the time to make eye contact with several fans. This is as if to say, “Pleasure to meet you, Sandy. Now, buckle the fuck up!”

Between each song, this audience interaction was happening. The songs sounded brutal and gloriously melodic, proving to any newcomers that all of Jinjer‘s layers are well worth wading through. I was happy to hear “Teacher Teacher!,” “Judgement (And Punishment),” “Who is Gonna Be the One,” and the always jaw-dropping “I Speak Astronomy,” which were admittedly all stand-out songs in a set full of stand-out songs. The sound was perfect (for all four sets), the stage show was straightforward and stylish, and they performed as a tight single unit. Mechanical in all of the appropriate ways, maintaining a sense of looseness thanks in part to Tatiana’s simultaneously glamorous and diabolically powerful voice.

When she called out Space of Variations, “All the way from Ukraine!” she got quite a roar from the audience. A lot of love for Ukraine in that building. Just before singing “Pisces,” she said, simply, “Thank you, Freedom!” to much crowd appreciation. You could tell she meant it, and you could tell the crowd had enough positive thoughts to fill the rest of the room. Part of this moment was political, for partially obvious reasons. Earlier that day Russian troops withdrew from Kherson, which was seen as an extremely significant step toward ending the war. So, a bit of a victory lap she absolutely deserved to take. And we, the audience as a collective, let her enjoy that freedom. I saw lots of pats on the backs and beer-belly hugs. People were happy at this show. Walking around. All free and shit.

Tatiana had every reason to feel grateful that night. Yes, and do you know what’s awesome about that? That shit’s contagious! We’re at a gathering with hundreds of strangers and when the band we’re all watching hooks us through the gills… we line up. We’re caught. It’s over. Take us to the Metal. Gratitude and pride mixed with integrity and the drive to continue one more day. Just one more fuckin day, and if you get enough people in one room thinking the same thing – like we were that night, moving and moshing together to the sound of “Vortex.” Whirl! Spin! Swirl! Swuuurrrrrrrrl! There we all were, feeling thankful for a few of the same things – for a few of the exact same minutes- together!! As in not alone, and I’m fairly confident many people in that room needed to feel that.

Shows like this make solid arguments for the healing power of heavy metal, and Jinjer is a bright, shiny example of excellence on a global scale. Do not miss your chance to see them while they’re still able to comfortably play at smaller venues.

This tour picks up again on Tuesday next week in the southeastern US, then out west through December. The start of 2023 will see Jinjer touring Europe through March.

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