Is there a new wave of the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal sweeping across the United Kingdom at the moment? No! The NWOBHM was a historically singular movement frozen in time (1979-1983) and place (Great Britain). But there is no denying that over the last few years a brand new and very dedicated underground heavy metal scene has emerged in England. Groups such as Wytch Hazel, Ascalon, Amulet and Dark Forest are at the forefront of this new generation of English heavy metal bands (all of them have appeared live at Newcastle's own Brofest). Not to forget Seven Sisters – maybe musically the most promising of the lot. The London foursome has just released its debut album via High Roller Records. With songs such as “Destiny's Calling”, “Commanded By Fear” and the quite unusual “Cast To The Stars” »Seven Sisters« is a most delightful debut platter.
Formed in London in 2013 by Graeme Farmer (guitars) and Kyle McNeill (guitars, vocals), Seven Sisters recorded their first demo »The Warden« in 2014, followed by a 7” single entitled »Lost In Time« a year later. The current line-up is completed by Adam Thorpe on bass and Steve Loftin on drums.
“Brofest was our fourth or fifth gig”, states Kyle MCNeill stressing that Seven Sisters are still a very young band. “It was such an awesome experience to hang out with all these guys that were around during the height of the NWOBHM era. It was really great of Stu and the Bro’s to give us the opportunity to play on a big stage at a respected festival so early on in the band’s career, it gave us a great amount of exposure! We’re good friends with Fist and Vardis now who both played Brofest the year before (2014), it’s great to watch and learn from these veteran musicians, as well as listening to their stories about the antics they got up to back in the day.” So, after all, even if there only ever was one NWOBHM, Seven Sisters, living in the here and now, have been heavily influenced by the music UK bands were playing at the start of the eighties: “It is very true! It’s fair to say that without the NWOBHM we wouldn’t be here as a band. A lot of music from the 80s influences the band, as well as us as individuals. We love AOR, Thrash, Speed Metal basically a whole myriad of different types of extreme music (and also 'non-extreme'!). Like you say, I think we could be classed as part of the 'next generation' of classic metal bands, but it would be great if all these brilliant bands playing 'NWOBHM-inspired' Metal could just become the next generation of metal bands as a whole and break out of the underground scene. There are so many talented bands that I feel deserve to be appreciated by a much bigger audience. Bands like Dark Forest have been going way before 'Classic Metal' started to rise in popularity again. We definitely started at a good time, which is why I think we’ve achieved so much in a relatively short space of time. People’s interests were already peaked by the likes of Dark Forest, Amulet, Eliminator and Wytch Hazel and then when Ascalon and ourselves came along all of a sudden it felt like a scene. We’re definitely the youngest of all the bands, but it’s cool being the new kids on the block having nothing to lose and everything to prove!”
The English underground heavy metal scene in the year 2016 is very close-knit but also very small. Whereas in Germany the “active” Metal scene might consist of maybe 2,000 dedicated fans it's more like 300 punters in England, with London's Amulet playing a leading role. “Again, that’s absolutely right,” confirms Kyle. “Amulet was the only 'Classic' Heavy Metal band in London before we came along and they’ve been absolute gents to us, helping and supporting us from the start. We were all friends with the people and the bands in the scene before we started, so right away we felt included. Everyone seemed to get really excited that there was a new band around and we’ve been lucky enough to gather a very loyal fan base in the UK, especially in London. It’s a small scene, but it’s a very good one to be a part of!”
So is post-referendum 2016 London a desolate place for a band like Seven Sisters? “Haha! I think London in 2016 is a pretty desolate place for everyone!,” says Kyle only half-jokingly. “It’s a strange situation really, although the scene is small we’ve played a lot of gigs in London and for the most part there’s always a good crowd. A lot of bands come through London on tours so we’ve been lucky enough to support a few (Ranger, Evil Invaders, Noctum, Steelwing, Satan etc.). We’re never bored!”
Apart from the NWOBHM, I do hear, at least partially, some mid-period Helloween and also a bit of early Manowar and Warlord in Seven Sister's sound. Would that be a fair thing to say? “Totally,” states Kyle. “As I mentioned before, we’re inspired by a lot of things other than the NWOBHM. We absolutely love the European and US metal bands that were around in the 80s, they took the idea of the NWOBHM and tweaked it to make it their own and that’s essentially what we’re trying to do with our music. I’m a huge Progressive Rock fan (hence me always trying to sneak some synthesizers into our recordings!) and we’re all fans of the neo-classical sound. It doesn’t seem to make sense to be a complete replica of Iron Maiden or Judas Priest as they’ve already been there and done that! We try to approach things a little differently. Admittedly, it might not be so obvious to someone who doesn’t listen to “Classic Metal” so much, but I believe there’s a bit more to our music than being just another new band trying to relive the NWOBHM.” That's indeed true. Seven Sisters, although being influenced by classic metal, are anything but retro.
“The album is actually a bit of a concept album,” says Kyle about the lyrical content of »Seven Sisters«. “The songs follow the story of a guy who encounters one of the Seven Sisters, he falls in love with her but in the process gets his soul stolen. They happen to be pretty evil so he goes on a quest to rid the world of them! It’s essentially a re-telling of the old Greek myth of Orion and how he fell in love with one of the Sisters and then became a star constellation to seemingly 'watching over' the Pleiades, the open cluster of stars more commonly known as the Seven Sisters! It seemed like a cool idea to do a bit of an origin story on the Seven Sisters for our first album. We have however, made an effort to make all the songs stand up in their own right without having to know the story. We also include The Warden in the story who appears on the demo and the 7” single as well as all of our artwork so far! I’d love it if we could create our own little universe that people could immerse themselves in, it’s just an extra outlet of creativity and idea that can be truly ours.”
Hearing that, it's no surprise that the cover artwork of the album is also closely related to the band's overall concept: “The guy on the front cover is our hero that is pursuing the Seven Sisters. You can see a desert town on the horizon and a sign close to the hero pointing towards the town that says ‘Silk Road’, which is also a song on the album. There’s also the logo and the apparitions of the Sisters in the sky. The back cover is a view inside The Silk Road where you can see our good friend The Warden hanging around waiting for our hero to appear. Everything is linked with the story!”
One of the most unusual numbers on »Seven Sisters« is the last track "Cast To The Stars", with the beginning being close to classic era Scorpions (“Coast To Coast”) and then the track starting to gather pace. “'Cast To The Stars' was actually one of the first tracks written for the album”, explains Kyle. “We’ve done the acoustic/clean intro a few times; it’s something I really like (I’m trying not to overdo it!). It’s cool to get some varying dynamics over the course of the album just to give the listener a break and keep the ears interested. It’s definitely the most neo-classical inspired song, and it’s got a ton of solos! I think it might be our favourite to play out of all the album songs; it has a great energy live.”