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SEVEN SISTERS - Interview with Kyle McNeill
By Wojtek Gabriel,
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Seven Sisters heavy metal band
It took the young Londoners from Seven Sisters less than two years to write and record another set of quality tunes and put out a follow-up to their self-titled debut album. Flying the flag for traditional British metal high, the band's new effort "The Cauldron and the Cross" should satisfy the tastes of even the most demanding old-school maniacs, worshipping the likes of Angel Witch, Jaguar or Demon. We spoke to the band's frontman Kyle McNeill about the lyrical concept of the new release (based on Arthurian legends) and about the progress the band has made since its birthday five years ago.
"The Cauldron and the Cross" is another big step in your career. How was the album conceived? Did you all bring in ideas and throw them on the table or do you have a mastermind-songwriter in the band?
The conception of the album was all quite natural. We'd had a few riffs kicking around for a while, and the odd idea here and there. In terms of the song-writing approach, we probably used a bit of both approaches really. Most of the music starts with me, although Graeme contributed quite a few riffs for this album too. The lyrics were a collaborative effort between the two of us. Once the songs are written, Steve and Javi come up with their own drum and bass parts and that's when the songs really take on a life of their own. So, whilst the songs might originate with just one or two members, the finished product is very much a collaborative effort between the four of us.
I would say the song-writing on your debut album was slightly simpler. How much would you say you have evolved as a band over those two years?
I think that's a fair assessment, yeah. The new album is a lot more progressive than the debut. The songs are much longer and ambitious in general, and I think there's a bigger range of musical ideas this time around. The opening song is a really fast speed metal track, and there's a ballad later on in the record. Both of these are things we hadn't done before. It wasn't a conscious effort though, it just seemed to happen naturally. I guess we've been playing together for a couple more years since the debut and have a better idea of what we're capable of and the kind of direction we want to take.
Like you said you kicked off the album with the fastest song, "The Premonition". Any particular reason to do so?
We just had the idea to really kick off with a bang and grab the listener's attention from the very beginning. So, we thought what better way to start than with a massive dive bomb into a shred solo. It was definitely a conscious effort to try and have as explosive a beginning as we could, and hopefully we achieved that goal.
The ballad you mentioned, "Oathbreaker", would you say it's necessary to have this kind of song on a metal album?
I wouldn't say it's necessary, but it was definitely something we wanted to try. Graeme is a huge fan of big ?80s power ballads, so he wrote most of that one. We were a bit sceptical at first, but when it was finished it ended up becoming one of our favourites on the album, and it's one of the most fun ones to play live. It's obviously not something that every bands need to do, but we wanted to have as much variety as possible on the album. So, as well as having one of the fastest songs we've ever written, we also have the slowest and softest one too. I think it sits quite nicely in the album though, and breaks things down before the final onslaught of the final three tracks.
You self-produced your demos and the previous album, but this time around you worked with a producer. How different was that experience compared to doing everything yourselves?
For us, the production is the most obvious area of improvement since the debut. I think the first album sounded pretty good considering we did it all ourselves and it cost basically no money at all to make, but it's obviously going to sound much better if you're given a budget and get to work with a professional producer in an actual studio. As well as that, it became a more relaxed experience for us as we only really had to worry about our performances rather than having to keep tweaking the mix ourselves as we were going. It was definitely our most enjoyable recording experience to date, and something we're looking forward to doing again in the future.
The lyrics of the new album are based on Arthurian stories. Why did you pick this subject to build the concept around? Did you get inspired by any particular historical or fantasy books?
The initial inspiration for this album was a novel called "The Mists of Avalon" by Marion Zimmer Bradley, which is essentially a re-telling of the Arthurian legend from the point of view of the female characters. This was just the starting point though, and it took on a life of its own after that point. "The Cauldron and the Cross" basically charts the rise and fall of Arthur's kingdom, and explores the clash between traditional British paganism and the more recent Christian ideas that had been brought over by the Romans. We're trying to be non-judgemental and to not choose sides, and just make the point that both religions pretty much teach the same ideas, but it's the way they're interpreted and passed on by religious leaders that creates division and problems in the world. That's probably still as true today as it would have been in Arthur's time.
You've made a simple promo video for "Blood and Fire". Will you be filming a proper videoclip like for "Highways of the Night" the last time?
We will be, yeah. I can't say too much as it's still in the planning stages, and we don't want to spoil it. But we're scheduled to film something in July, and hopefully it should come out shortly after that.
You switched labels from High Roller to Dissonance. Is it easier to work with a British label?
Yeah, it probably is in some ways. We're able to discuss things over the phone rather than by email so it takes less time to sort things out, and we can meet in person from time to time too which is cool. It's also great to be on the same label as a lot of our friends and bands that we play live with regularly. It definitely feels like we're part of a vibrant scene and community here in the UK these days.
You guys have played in various thrash and black metal bands before so, how did you end up in a traditional metal band together?
Classic heavy metal is the kind of music we've always wanted to play, but it can be difficult to find the right people to start that kind of band in the UK. So, we all played in various kinds of bands in the past and were just incredibly lucky that we all ended up in London at the same time and were able to start playing the kind of music we were most passionate about. Once we actually found like-minded people who wanted to try writing this style of music, we haven't looked back.
I'm wondering, has the band name been inspired by Greek mythology, the cliffs on English Channel or the London tube station name?
Ha-ha, if I'm honest it's the tube station! We saw it on the front of a tube train and thought it sounded cool, so it just seemed to stick. We quickly realised that the name tied in with a few other ideas too. Our first album was based on the Greek myth, so we got into all that other stuff later on. But the original inspiration was definitely from a Victoria Line station in North London.
OK, to wrap up tell me, how would you recommend your music to people who have never listened to heavy metal before?
Wow, that's a tough one. If you'd never listened to heavy metal, I'm not sure we'd necessarily be the best place to start! But I guess I'd say Seven Sisters play classic heavy metal with some progressive elements. It's very melodic, with tons of twin lead, catchy choruses (we hope) and loads of guitar solos!
Interview by Wojtek Gabriel

Seven Sisters on facebook: facebook.com/sevensistersheavymetal
Tags: Seven Sisters, heavy metal, British metal, The Cauldron and the Cross
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Materials may not be reproduced in whole or in part by persons, organisations or corporations without the prior written permission.
© 1997-2019 Wojtek Gabriel. All rights reserved.
Unauthorised use of any works published on this website is prohibited.
Materials may not be reproduced in whole or in part by persons, organisations
or corporations without the prior written permission.