Sister Sin - True sound of the underground 3.5/5

Reviewed: 9-1-10


1. Sound of the underground
2. Outrage
3. Better than them
4. 24/7
5. Heading for hell
6. I stand alone
7. Built to last
8. The devil I know
9. Times aren't a-changing
10. Nailbiter
11. Beat em down

I have a sneaking suspicion that many regular readers of this site have skimmed right past Sister Sin in the record store bins and online shopping carts with nary a moment's thought. It's understandable. The Swedish quartet are signed to Victory Records, a label that may know a great deal about punk and hardcore but lacks any semblance of credibility in the field of traditional old-school heavy metal. And Victory are hellbent on breaking Sister Sin in America, having sent them to the U.S. club circuit multiple times in the last couple of years for opening-slot touring opportunities opening for glam and nu-metal bands with whom they share nothing in common. The whole arrangement reeks of corporate rock cash-in. Strike 1. A couple of the band members (whose photograph is plastered prominently on the front cover of the new CD) look like refugees from oft-reviled sellouts like In Flames or Lacuna Coil, plus the CD booklet features mostly lame band member photos and no lyrics, like they're too cool to give you the words to their songs or something. Strike 2. And the band is marketed with ambiguous cross-format terminology like "real street metal" and a breathless quote from some publication I've never heard of saying that Sister Sin are "a savage reminder of what rock'n'roll is all about." Strike 3? Wait just a minute ...

In my judgment, those who have written off Sister Sin based on the identity of their label and how they're depicted and marketed are making a grievous mistake. Much like its predecessor, 2008's 'Switchblade serenades', this 'True sound of the underground' opus offers up a satisfying rush of adrenaline-fueled, attitude-laden, uptempo music straddling the line between 80s heavy metal and sleazy hard rock. This particular flavor of metal is enjoying something of a resurgence in Europe right now, as witnessed by the welter of acts like Animal, Crucified Barbara, Nasty Tendency, Hardcore Superstar and Crashdiet that have cropped up (and in some instances flourished) of late. If you're not familiar with these bands, the recipe is essentially this: Combine equal parts "Slave to the grind", "Ace of spades", "Balls to the wall", and "I wanna be somebody" in a large mixing bowl. Pour in a fifth of Jack Daniels and a liter of watered-down cheap American beer. Bake for 60 minutes at 325 degrees. Season with a generous sprinkling of pissed-off punk-rock energy and youthful aggression. Serve at maximum volume. Formulaic? Maybe. Prepackaged rebellion? Possibly. But it's an immensely satisfying sound that harmonizes perfectly with driving around town in heavy traffic on a sweltering summer afternoon.

Several elements differentiate Sister Sin from many of their peers. Fundamentally, they've been doing it longer, with a debut CD that dates back to 2003, so Sister Sin are properly viewed as pioneers not trend-hoppers. Another ace up Sister Sin's sleeve is their penchant for strong, catchy, simple songwriting that sticks immediately and doesn't let go (check out lead single "Outrage" if you don't believe me). But their secret weapon is vocalist Liv, who is blessed with a powerful, gritty voice that injects just the right ratio of melody, snottiness, and unhinged ferocity that this music demands. To be sure, Liv's voice doesn't display a lot of dynamics here, and she keeps her motor running at full-throttle most of the time, but again that's what the music calls for. Liv is a perfect fit for Sister Sin. So I'd venture to say that if you wish to explore only one band in the Skid Row/Motley Crue/Motorhead hybrid style making the rounds today, Sister Sin would be an excellent choice.

'True sound of the underground' is very much a logical follow-up to 'Switchblade serenades'. All of the musical trademarks that Sister Sin flashed on 'Switchblade' are equally prevalent on 'True sound'. There's been no reinventing the steel here. The consistency in terms of style and quality from one CD to the next is remarkable when one considers that bassist Chris Bednarz, who basically wrote everything on 'Switchblade serenades' (other than the Motorhead cover, that is), is no longer in the band and received no songwriting credits on this new CD, such that it was apparently composed without him. Taken on its own merits, 'True sound of the underground' has a lot to offer. The first 4 songs out of the chute are pure gold, from the blunt-force-to-the-solar-plexus opener of the title track to the infectious "Outrage" to the speedy aggression of "Better than them" to the brilliantly chosen and well-executed U.D.O. cover "24/7". (I love the non-obvious cover choice. How many of the kids that Victory is marketing this CD to have even heard of Udo Dirkschneider or the legendary Teutonic act from whence he came?) The quality level dips a little bit after this initial jaw-dropping quartet, but that's understandable and there really are no bad apples in the batch. I find myself singing along, pumping my fist and throwing the horns to every chorus on every song.

In short, 'True sound of the underground' is 39 minutes of hell-raising, mailbox-smashing, PBR-guzzling fun on a Saturday night. There's more than enough authentic heavy metal spirit in there to satisfy even the most persnickety curmudgeon of a close-minded old-school metalhead. So forget about record labels and genre labels. Give the genre police a defiant middle finger and crank 'True sound of the underground' at full volume.




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