On November 9th, The Pageant in St. Louis was the site of a metal-filled evening, teeming with exceedingly loud music and even louder messages when Ukrainian metalcore band Jinjer played alongside fellow countrymen and label mates, Space of Variations. In addition to the lineup was Des Moines-based Vended, who furiously killed their time onstage, and the legends from San Diego, P.O.D.
With the first band sharing their history of a war-torn past and the headliner telling their own story of rebellion against a devil lurking, the evening was perfectly bookended with stories of togetherness and community.
Not only that, but the bands made sure to drive home the importance of family while shrouding their messages underneath a firestorm of double-kick drums, bass guitars that vibrate your soul, and lightning-quick guitar riffs.
The first band was a Ukrainian group called Space of Variations. Based on the sound this band produces, they seemed to me like they fit more in the realm of ‘garage metal‘, which is totally a good thing in my view. Their roughness around the edges only made their high energy and skilled playing more impressive. They were also able to tell their own story through their music: they talked about the war in Ukraine and how it has changed them as individuals and as a country. But, they also talked about how they are still fighting for peace and unity through music… and they did so in an engaging way that allowed us, as the audience, feel like we were a part of their struggle — even if for a mere moment. With the skill these guys brought, they deserve to play in any city at any venue, from a dirty basement stage to a stage as familiar as The Pageant.
Des Moines-based metal group Vended was the second band to take the stage. Fronted by lead singer Griffin Taylor and backed up by Simon Crahan on drums, you could almost say Vended (pronounced “Ven-Dead”) was born to play this music. Taylor and Crahan just happen to be the offspring of two of the biggest names in metal music today — Corey Taylor and Shawn “Clown” Crahan of the mighty Slipknot. While certainly taking some influence from their fathers’ band, you can tell that a lot more thought and originality had gone into the formation of Vended than many may expect upon first finding out who they are. Even though both band members are spitting images of their dads, Vended slaps you right in the face if you fail to recognize that this is a completely different band, able to stand up all on its own. The skill these guys bring to the table sets them apart in the form of epically precise drumming and an understanding of music theory that can only come from a lifetime spent around music. Griffin Taylor looked like he stepped straight out of a comic book: long, bushy, blonde hair, piercing eyes, war paint on his face, and a voice that stabs you deep down in your core. He could have been an angel or a serpent; it’s up to you to watch him dance and decide for yourself.
Speaking of When Angels and Serpents Dance, third on the bill was P.O.D., the legendary rock/reggae fusion group out of San Diego, California. Sonny Sandoval and the boys from Southtown effortlessly kept pace with the metal crowd all night long, pleasing newbies and old-school fans alike with brand new songs, as well as with songs like “Boom”, “Alive”, “Southtown”, “When Angels and Serpents Dance”, and the iconic “Youth of the Nation”, which led to someone in the crowd pointing out that St. Louis had just experienced a tragic school shooting of its own just weeks prior.
That song seems to be more relevant now than it did 20 years ago when it was written.
The whole set was a lot of fun, full of wild energy and, honestly, the band did a phenomenal job of keeping everyone just as engaged while seeing a Christian rock band at a metal show. It was a real treat getting to see P.O.D. for the third time and it made it even more nostalgic for me after Sonny came out rocking his well-known dreadlocks again, considering the first time I saw them years ago was the first show after he cut them off.
I’m not sure what I was expecting when I went to see the band Jinjer perform for the first time, but whatever it was, it wasn’t this. If you’re a fan of metal, you have to check out Jinjer: they’re one of the best bands to come out of Ukraine in recent years. Their lead singer Tatiana Shmailyuk is a force of nature onstage, a vocal powerhouse with an unbelievable vocal range and strength that will blow your mind. When she’s not belting out full-throated screams that start deep down in her gut, she’s hitting beautiful, soft, and dreamlike harmonies that give you chills. I can’t recommend this band enough.
I’m sure you’ll agree when I say, Tatiana Shmailyuk is one-of-a-kind! The whole band put on an incredible show, but it was Tatiana who stole the show for me. Without taking anything away from them, the rest of the band was just as impressive. They played flawlessly throughout the entire set without ever skipping a beat. The music wasn’t overly complicated, but what it was, was just simple enough to sound good while still being challenging enough so that each member could show off their own unique talents without sounding sloppy or like they were trying too hard. Jinjer had full control of the stage from start to finish and the word ‘epic’ doesn’t begin to describe the energy in that venue.
It’s hard to put into words how much fun it is when an entire band is playing together like they’ve been doing this for years, instead of just days before this concert started. All four of the bands seemed so comfortable onstage together, like they are having more fun than any audience member could possibly have while watching them play! What’s great is, usually, when a band has that much fun onstage, the audience is right there in front of them, willingly along for the entire ride. With many more dates around the world, be sure to take advantage of the opportunity and go experience a night with Jinjer as soon as you can!
Photography by Thomas Semonco