Sister Sin are a busy band who have gone through a few minor lineup changes to settle on the four-piece we hear today. With three studio albums unleashed on the heavy metal community, not four as is occasionally reported — due to Dance of the Wicked containing around seven songs and recorded more in demo form than a professional studio environment — these guys are currently witnessing a rise of fortune and fan base.
The current lineup of Sister Sin are justifiably proud of their third studio album, Now And Forever. Liv Jagrell on lead vocals, Jimmy Hiltula on guitar, Strandh on bass and Dave Sundberg on drums all deliver with a self-proclaimed confidence and comfort within their own identity on this heavy metal album, and with each passing year climb up the ladder of popularity as more and more fans are exposed to the Swedish rockers unashamed exhibition of riffs and sincerity. Fine examples of this can be found in the chugging End of the Line, or the driven In It For Life.
Sister Sin have toured with some heavyweights from the world of rock like Lordi, U.D.O. and W.A.S.P., amongst many others. This invaluable hard work and experience have all been a significant stepping stone in their evolution. Several singles and three studio albums, plus an extended player, show off their canon of work in the studio too.
So how did it all start for Sister Sin? The band settled on their name after hearing a song titled Sister Sin by a Swedish rock outfit called Machine Gun Kelly, who no longer exists these days. After initially starting with a different lineup than the one that exists today, the elusive vocalist position was the final part of the puzzle to be filled. They hunted high and low for a male lead vocalist but found, to their pleasant surprise, a female who fitted like a hand in a glove. Jagrell possessed the attitude and the voice that complimented their no-nonsense style and sound, and from this point there was little to slow this rocking machine down. As guitarist and long-term band member Hiltula explains, “She joined Sister Sin first, and then joined Hysterica, but it was no big of a deal for us. She obviously had to make a choice later on, on what band to focus on ‘cos when we recorded Switchblade Serenades, our first album, we realized that this might take more time from us than previously, but she chose to stay with us. That was a good choice.”
The interview that was originally due to take place was to be conducted with Jagrell, but according to the band she was resting her voice. Was there a need for alarm bells to ring, or was there a simple explanation for her absence? “The thing is, she’s been having problems with her voice now for, I think at least four years. It’s a common thing about singers, especially in hard rock and heavy metal, because the way you sing and everything, you strain your voice in many ways and she had this, what do you call it? — like a knot on the vocal chords.” In order to eliminate any confusion or concern, Hiltula clarifies, “So she had that one, I think, her left vocal cord. She’s had that for many years, so she’s been taking care of her voice really, really good and, while doing that, she’s been focusing more on her right vocal cord. And that’s been basically worn out by now, so she had to do surgery to get it well.”
With Hiltula handling all guitar duties and defining the heavy in their metal sound, it was good to explore his influences. “There are, many great guitarists that I used to listen to, still listen to today. From my style, guitarists like George Lynch, Dimebag, Eddie Van Halen, Yngwie Malmsteen, Jake E. Lee who played with Ozzy Osbourne — I think those guys are my main influences.”
Knowing how Switchblade Serenades is considered their true debut album and was written mainly by the three members at the time, which consisted of Hiltula, drummer Sundberg and founding member and bass player Chris Martensson, it must have placed pressure on the band for their next album, True Sound of the Underground when Martensson left? “We had a new bass player and he was just installed in the band. And in a way his main focus was to learn all the old songs, so his place in the writing process was about zero. So me and Dave took that whole part with writing, and there was a new thing for us to work together just me and him, and try to maintain or even make another album that was better than the first. So it was new grounds for both me and Dave on True Sound of the Underground.” Hiltula continues, “We didn’t have any kind of idea where we would take the songwriting; we just pounded, haha, and rehearsed and out came some really good riffs. I’m really glad that me and him work so well together.”
We’ve always been a live band, we love playing live, and that’s what we make albums for, to go out and play the songs for an audience.
With True Sound of the Underground being unleashed on us all in 2010 and building on the momentum of their previous hard work, Sister Sin maintained a live presence by sharing the stage on tour with the likes of Motörhead, Otep, Alice Cooper, U.D.O., Lordi and W.A.S.P., amongst a plethora of other bands. “We’ve always been a live band, we love playing live, and that’s what we make albums for, to go out and play the songs for an audience.” On the subject of their setlists when they tour, Hiltula responds, “We form the set list when we rehearse, obviously, and we try to blend the songs, a lot at tempos. We don’t want to play, like, four songs in a row that have the same tempo, because it kind of makes, or could make the set list kind of boring, or the show boring in a way.” Hiltula then adds, “Play songs from each album, and especially the songs that people really enjoy listening to.”
Not wishing to lose the buzz that they were creating, Sister Sin released a stand alone single which was a cover version of the Motörhead classic Rock ‘n Roll in 2011, which also featured the unmistakable contribution of German legendary singer, Doro Pesch. “We didn’t want to lose momentum at the time, so we thought, why not record a cover tune digitally to keep the momentum going after the album. Actually we had in mind at first to ask Angela Gossow from Arch Enemy to do the song. We did actually ask her but she was really, really busy at that time with Arch Enemy’s new album.” While thinking back to that moment, Hiltula elaborates, “So we decided on asking Doro because we had done a few gigs with her previously, so we kind of knew each other a little bit, and I’m really glad that she could do it because I think the end result was so good and probably better than what it would’ve been with Angela doing it; it would’ve been a bit different if she did it.”
Now And Forever is the new album, and according to Hiltula the recording process was relaxed and comfortable. “We had five weeks in the studio, which for us is quite a long time.” At this point of the conversation, he acknowledges the lack of pressure and speed in which to craft the album. “We did everything in the same studio this time. On the previous album we did the drums in one studio, and then we tracked the guitars and bass in one studio, and then we did the vocals third studio.” What you get with Now And Forever is a true heavy metal exhibition, with an old school vibe given a modern-day production. Leather-bound metal anthems in the shape of Hang ‘Em High march onwards side by side with Hearts of Cold and the foot doesn’t leave the accelerator until the final track. The album finishes off with Morning After. “It’s a step out of the comfort zone for us to do that song because the original tune is a mid-tempo heavy metal anthem by Randy Piper’s Animal. So yeah, we did a huge job with rearranging the song and taking down the tempo and adding piano and stuff. So it was basically just, we wanted to try new grounds and see what we could do, because Liv has a really spectacular voice, and we want to show people she can sing in other ways too.”
Get your studded leather belt out, tight jeans too, and prepare yourself for a sore neck when you place Now And Forever onto your music player of choice. This is going to rock your proverbial off!