Sunday, November 18, 2012

If This Is Sin, Sister Count Me In


If This Is Sin, Sister Count Me In

Who better to open for the reigning female metal queen, Doro, but another European female fronted metal assault?  I was excited when I heard that Doro would be coming into Toronto and I would get to see her perform for the first time.  As is my custom in discovering new music and bands, I looked up who would be setting the stage and warming up the crowd for the German Goddess.  Sister Sin was on the bill and I admit I’d never heard of them.  A quick jaunt over to you-tube allowed me to sample some of their work and I was hooked.

Female fronted Sister Sin hail from Gothenburg, Sweden with the current line-up including Liv Jagrell on vocals, Jimmy Hiltula guitars, Strandh on bass, and Dave Sundberg on drums.  The quartet formed in 2002 and has toured the US on several occasions.  Back home in Europe has seen Sister Sin play the prestigious Sweden Rock and Norway Rock festivals amongst several album support tours.  They have supported the likes of Motorhead, Arch Enemy, Faster Pussycat and now Doro.  They released an independent EP, Dance of the Wicked in 2003. 

Their first official release, Switchblade Serenades came out in 2008 on Victory Records and that is where I started my journey into the world of Sister Sin.  Right from the very beginning of listening to Switchblade Serenades, the band lets you know what you’re in for in the next 45 minutes.  The CD opens up with a familiar, scratchy old static sound of a record needle touching down on the shiny black vinyl of an LP for a few seconds and then explodes into the lead-off song Beat the Street.  The tempo keeps rockin’ through the next track, Death Will Greet Us; bringing us to One Out Of Ten.  I’ll let you check out the official video here and you tell me what you think:
Breaking New Ground leads us to On Parole which is featured on The Rock Band Network:
From there we have Make My Day followed by the anthemic, pounding Hostile-Violent.  The title track Switchblade Serenades is up next and then Love-Hate.  There’s a lot of anger on this record if you haven’t noticed the song titles and that makes for excellent rock!  The CD finishes with All Systems Go and the longest track at over five and a half minutes, Eye To Eye.  On the top Heatseekers chart in the US, Switchblade Serenades reached #107, so I’m not the only one out there diggin’ this gritty, dirty rock.

Totally hooked and wanting more I searched out their 2010 offering True Sound of the Underground and was treated to another gem, maybe even better than the first.  All of the same elements are present here, the riff laden tracks and sing-along anthem choruses, but make no mistake, even though they are often lumped into the hair band category Sister Sin is straight ahead, dark, old-school metal.  Sound of the Underground leads the way on the record in the same fashion as Swtichblade’s lead-off, an exploding assault.  Outrage is next with a video to match:
Vocalist Liv’s attitude and edge are showcased in Better Than Them, a pounding riff laden cut.  Then this CD really heats up with their version of U.D.O.’s 2008 song written by Stefan Kauffman 24/7.  It was a great song when I heard U.D.O.’s, but Liv’s vocals just light it up.  Here’s the official video, complete with Liv boxing with another young lady:
Heading for Hell leads out with a creepy intro and then hits you full force. The pounding rhythm of I Stand Alone follows through Built to Last and The Devil I Know.  The riff assault continues with Times Aren’t A-Changing, and Nailbiter.  The closing tune may well be the best on the album with Beat ‘Em DownTrue Sound of the Underground beat its predecessor on the Top Heatseeker chart in the US, achieving 96.
On September 13th, 2011 Sister Sin released for download a cover song collaboration featuring up-coming tour partner Doro.  The ladies took Motorhead’s Rock N’ Roll and made it their own with a cool video to match:

Sister Sin’s sing a-long choruses and crunchy riff laden brand of rock were now in my regular rotation and I was eagerly awaiting my first foray into their latest release out October 22nd, Now & Forever.  The new disc was mixed by Cameron Webb, who has also worked with Motorhead, Social Distortion and Danzig.  Leading off the charge is the melodic MMVII a one minute intro, which explodes into End of the Line.  According to their official website, the video for End of the Line reached 100,000 views in less than a week!
Fight Song is probably my favourite track on this release, filled with anger and expletives.  In It for Life continues in the same vein and seems to be about the dedication to the band.  Next up is Hearts of Cold, another fist pumping anthem.  “Give it up now for the chosen few” demands the next track, The Chosen Few and keeps your fist in the air.  Hang ‘Em High maintains the pace into I’m Not You which is definitely another stand-out cut in this old school metal assault.  Running Low and Shades of Black end the attack, but it’s not quite over yet as the final track holds something new for Sister Sin.  Morning After is a heart-wrenching ballad in the style of their upcoming tour headliner Doro.  Liv Jagrell shows another side to her talented vocals here and the song is an excellent closer to the assault, a little remorse for the rest of the album kicking you in the balls maybe.  This CD, as do the other Sister Sin releases, deserves to be listened to at an intensely high volume, if your ears ain’t bleeding, it’s not loud enough yet.
Recently I had the opportunity to talk with lead vocalist Liv Jagrell on Sister Sin’s past present and future:

Meister: So, tell us your background and how you got into music?

Liv Jagrell: I've always played music my whole life, but I started to be serious when I was about 15 and found Hole with Courtney Love.  I just thought she was soooo cool and I also wanted to be a rockstar.  From that on I found Pantera, Slayer and those heavier bands and I started my first band at age 15, an all girl band.  I found Dave (drummer) when I moved to Gothenburg in 2002 and we founded Sister Sin and I never regret a minute of being a part of it!

Meister: How did Sister Sin come together and what got it started?

Liv: Well as I said before, I met Dave in Gothenburg.  I actually put an ad in a paper about looking for a band, I tried out and got hired right away!  Back then we had another guitarist and another bass player but with Jimmy starting in 2004 we felt like we had something really good going on.  And I can say we had some bad luck with bass players but hopefully we can keep the one we have now, he is the best and fits the band perfect!

Meister: Why did you call the band Sister Sin and how would you describe yourselves?

Liv: The name is from a Swedish 90's band called Machine Gun Kelly, they had a song called Sister Sin and we really liked that and thought that would be a perfect name for a band.  I would describe our music as a mix between old school metal like Accept, Judas Priest, some early Motley Crue and W.A.S.P., with a twist of a newer sound.

Meister: What keeps Sister Sin going after your near ten years together, the driving force?  Influences?

Liv: The driving force is absolutely ourselves, we so want to do this and we refuse to give up.  Playing music is the best thing in the world and I can't see myself doing anything else.  And just look at the bands that did influence us, Motorhead, W.A.S.P., Judas Priest, all of these bands have the same fire and drive.  I think you have to have a certain drive in this business to survive it.

Meister: Maybe you can tell us a little bit about your partnership with Victory records and how that came about?

Liv: Dave was watching MTV one day and saw a video from a Victory Records band and thought that if they could be onMTV so could we!  We sent them a link to our MySpace site and we got contacted right away.  That's how we got signed to Victory Records.

Meister: What is the band’s song writing/developing process and does everyone contribute or have input or is mostly Dave and yourself? 

Liv: Jimmy and Dave do all the music, Dave writes the lyrics as well.  Anyone is free to have inputs of course but they really are the backbone when it comes to the writing process.  There is not that much writing when we are on tour or are very busy.  The inspiration comes when we have time off and have a plan laid out for a new album.  We work best under pressure actually, that's when we are the most creative.

Meister: Where does the inspiration for songs and album titles come from?

Liv: We get inspired from everything that surrounds our daily lives, be it rotten politics, religious fanatics, or just the frustration of being a striving band.  "Now and Forever" is basically a statement and speaks for itself. We will not give up our mission to make and play the music we love and we intend to be here forever.

Meister: You’ve done excellent cover versions of UDO’s 24/7 and Motorhead’s Rock N’ Roll (with Doro).  Are there any other tunes in line for the Sister Sin treatment?

Liv: Well we do have a cover on the new album too, the last song "Morning After" is actually an up tempo metal song by Randy Pipers Animal, that we felt would be really good as a ballad.  Other than that we have nothing planned right now, but you never know!

Meister: I see that you’ve been to the US a few times/tours.  Have you ever played a show in Canada or will the February 7th date supporting Doro be the first?

Liv: We have played Canada once before, also Toronto, a headline show at a small rock club.  It was crowded and a nice night overall, but I was very sick and really don't remember all the details.

Meister: Your tour schedule looks rather gruelling with only about four days off in the month long stint in North America.  How is life on the road and spending that much time with your bandmates?

Liv: I'm kind of used to that now, so I don't think so much about it.  Of course it's not optimal for the voice to play that much, but I've survived before so I think it will be fine.  And yes it can sometimes be taught to spend every second with your band all the time and you get tired of each other but I like to take a walk by myself or look at some shops and something like that, and that's all I need.  I enjoy having people around me most of the time and I love my band, they are my brothers.

Meister: Sister Sin has toured with some big acts like Motorhead, Arch Enemy, Faster Pussycat and now Doro.  Do you have any road stories or memories to share with us from those tours?

Liv: One time on the road as support for Michael Schenker Group our van broke down 3 hours south of New York.  We got stuck at a truck stop for 7 hours before our manager at the time had a lady friend come and pick us up.  She drove us the last bit in half the time it would actually take.  We found out later she did not have a license!  We showed up late but got to play 3 songs haha!  So we kind of made it.

Meister: What happens if I say “monkey-balls” to your merch guy?

Liv: Hahahahha that old joke yes, well I think we gave something to whoever did that, but I can't remember what hehe...

Meister: Let’s talk a bit about Now & Forever.  I saw on your website that the End of the Line video reached 100,000 views in less than a week?

Liv: Yeah that is really awesome, we could not believe it ourselves, but of course we are very happy that people seem to like it!  Now the video has reached over 200,000, it's simply amazing!

Meister: This is the first CD with new bassist Strandh.  What did he bring to the table for the writing/recording process?

Liv: Strandh's bass playing is pure awesomeness, he has the perfect attack that we have always been looking for.  He is the missing bit of the puzzle, talented to the bone and understands exactly what Sister Sin is all about.  Now and Forever is our best work yet.  It's more dynamic and diverse than the previous albums.  We stepped out of our comfort zone this time and experimented with pianos, keyboards and different tunings.  We also worked hard with the vocals and the melody lines to bring out the best of my singing.

Meister: With you being featured as one of Revolver magazines? hottest chicks in metal, Do you think that’s there’s a stereotype with women in rock that shadows your abilities, like men are just drawn to buying the record because of a leather clad vixen on the cover?

Liv: Hahhhh hard to say, maybe at first, but I think I can battle any guy on having balls on stage and with my way of singing so I think they will reconsider that very fast and actually enjoy the record as a good heavy metal album you could bang your head off to! 

Meister: What’s it like releasing a CD in this day and age of internet downloading and do you think that hard copy will eventually disappear?

Liv: Well, one can't expect big sales these days when it comes to CD's.  But it is still an important media, especially for metal fans since most people want the real thing in their hands.  Internet is very important, it's easier to reach out to a big amount of listeners.  I'm not sure about the future of the CD, but it will probably stay for a good few years to come.

Meister: When I finish work and get home I like to open a cold beer and put on my favourite album to listen to.  Do you ever spin your own music at home?

Liv: Not so much after awhile, in the beginning you like to hear your songs and get the feel of the album and so on, but after sometime I kind of get tired of it, and then I mostly listen to it for rehearsal before shows or tours.  I like to take our whole set list before a long tour, to the gym when I work out, I run and I listen and I picture in my head what to do where and what to say and stuff like that, it's really a good way to prepare!

Meister: Where would one (me) obtain a copy of you pre-Victory Records recordings, 2003’s Dance of the Wicked and 2007’s Smash the Silence?

Liv: Hahah that is a good question, we don't have any left even for ourselves.  But I've seen it on some Mediamarkt (German store) and on ebay, so try there!

Meister: Is there anything else that you'd like to let our readers know?

Liv: Keep your eyes open for shows and tours, and I hope to see you all maniacs out there!!

Meister: Thanks for taking the time to chat with me today and I look forward to meeting you all and seeing the show on February 7th, 2013 in Toronto.

A little while ago I wrote an article for Decibel Geek on another Sewdish band that I had recently discovered, Bullet.
That’s two incredible gems that I've found hailing from Sweden, perhaps I should take a deeper look into the Swedish scene and see what else the Scandinavians have to offer.

The Meister

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