Here’s something you don’t come across every day: A speed/thrash band from Serbia. (Okay, I am familiar with the mighty Space Eater, who also hail from that country.) Not only that, but an all-female thrash band. (Yes, I know there are others, such as Nervosa.) But an all-female speed/thrash band from Serbia? This is unprecedented in my experience, and worth investigating for the novelty factor, if nothing else. Fortunately, after spending some time with their debut ‘To Live is to Suffer’ issued by the excellent French label Inferno Records, I can say without qualification or hesitation whatsoever that Jenner are no novelty act. Don’t check out Jenner because they are easy-on-the-eyes Eastern European women trying their hand at thrash metal. Check them out because they are a badass speed/thrash quartet who stand proudly and defiantly on their own merits.
I was intrigued to note in my research that Jenner initially formed in 2013 as a classic metal band in the vein of Judas Priest, Warlock and Grim Reaper. From what I understand, the subsequent arrival of guitarist Aleksandra Stamenkovic into the fold led to Jenner sharpening their attack into a tougher, more aggressive, wild and reckless beast, citing as influences Anthrax, Overkill, Exodus and Agent Steel. Stamenkovic was evidently instrumental in shaping the band’s sound; indeed, she receives sole credit in the CD liner notes for writing and arranging all eight songs, at least musically (drummer Marija Dragicevic is Jenner’s principal lyricist). What’s interesting about Jenner’s musical evolution is that while they have gone all-in flying the speed/thrash flag, their trad metal roots still surface from time to time in their sense of melody and catchiness embedded in the face-melting speed. It also helps that vocalist Andelina Mitic actually sings, instead of barking or growling like so many modern-day thrash singers do. Mitic delivers enough range, character and power to serve the songs effectively, and while her accent is quite noticeable, this is to be expected given the band’s Serbian nationality. Also noteworthy is Jenner’s superb use of backing gang vocals, which sound cool as hell shouted by women instead of men, for a change. Nowhere is the band’s mastery of the gang-vocal trope more evident than “How Deep is Your Greed,” in which the titular phrase is shouted after each line in the verses as the mighty riffage chugs along deliriously. It’s neck-snapping heaven!
All of that said, the centerpiece of Jenner’s attack is the guitarwork of Aleksandra Stamenkovic. Both her tone and her riffs are pure Bay Area, reminding me most of Heathen’s first two albums but also Metallica circa ‘Ride the Lightning.’ As mentioned, Stamenkovic never forgets the catchiness factor even as she’s dishing out one high-velocity, high-precision, pummeling riff after the other. And her leads just plain smoke. She doesn’t play great “for a girl,” she “plays great,” period. But that’s not only true of the guitars. All four members of Jenner perform at a high level of skill and competence, and their performances are captured in a clear, polished, powerful production that hits hard and takes no prisoners. There are no skipworthy moments, much less skipworthy songs, and the 37 minutes pass blissfully with maximum headbanging and air-guitaring. Inferno Records have come up with a real winner here, folks. ‘To Live is to Suffer’ is highly recommended to Bay Area thrash devotees, and Jenner have quickly become one of the brightest new stars in a genre that is often accused of being stale and devoid of interesting newcomers.
~ Review by Kit Ekman ~