Jambinai - ONDA (Cover Artwork)
Staff Review


ONDA (2019)

Bella Union

Sometimes, you stumble on a band completely by accident. Earlier this week, I stumbled upon the band Jambinai while going down a rabbit hole while listening to music at work. I immediately dug what I head on their latest release, Onda, which combines Korean folk, sludge metal, and post-rock. I don’t typically dig post-rock, because while some of it is brilliantly arranged I feel like it just ends up being new age music for people in their twenties and thirties. Sludge metal, and more extreme metal, is a genre I’ve gotten into recently. But, if we’re being honest … I only know what I like, not necessarily what’s good. And I know as much about Korean folk music as I learned listening to this to album.

The shifts between melodic post-rock and Korean folk and the full-on metal sections is what really caught my attention. Typically, bands can do loud well or they can do quiet and subtle well. It’s rare you find a band that excels at both, Jambinai does that here. The subtle parts may have stuck out to me more because I didn’t recognize the instruments I was hearing, which turned out to be traditional Korean instruments.

The tracks that stand out the most so because they are both nearly opposites of one another, “Sun.Tears.Red.” is a full-on onslaught of heaviness. The screamed vocals, I assume in Korean, recall the heavier moments of John Zorn’s Naked City album. The band is also precise in their playing, which I think isn’t something everyone in their early to mid-thirties expects from heavy bands. While many of us found band like Tool, Fantomas, Dillinger Escape Plan, and the like. There are also those among us whose exposure to heavy music starts and stops with the nu-metal and rap-metal we all got sucked into listening to half a lifetime ago.

Elsewhere, the band draws back the volume and builds songs blending traditional rock instrumentation with traditional Korean instruments. The vocals shift from a scream to an almost Joan Baez or Joni Mitchell feel approach. While the singing is, again, in Korean it is beautiful in its performance. This can be seen, most easily, on the track “Into the Woods.”

Frequently, the band blends these two styles together in the same song; shifting back and forth musically or utilizing the effective use of a scream over subtle instrumentation. They also know when a blast of heavy guitar or drums can enhance the subtle melodicism of the quieter parts of their songs.

Like I said, I’m not a big fan of post-rock, know only a little bit about sludge metal and other extreme metal, and my knowledge about Korean folk is non-existent. Listening to this album, the band made a fan though. I’m definitely going to check out their two albums prior to this one and see what other projects they have their hands in.