In the last years the British Heavy Metal scene has experienced a real surge of amazing new bands. One of my favourite bands from this so called “New NWoBHM” is the London quartet Seven Sisters. Formed in 2013 the band, known for maybe the best guitar duo in the NWOTHM, has released two albums, several singles and an EP to date. In my eyes the second album, released in 2018, “The Cauldron and the Cross” is one of the best albums of the last decade and – contrary to the band’s belief, as you will hear – a masterpiece of Epic Heavy Metal. Therefore, as I am a huge fan, it was a great honour for me to interview Kyle McNeill, vocalist and guitarist, as well as one of the two founding members. Enjoy! – Divine Victim
Hey Kyle, thank you for taking your time. What a crazy year. How are you and Seven Sisters doing? Did the pandemic have a big impact on your plans for this year?
Kyle: Hey, thanks for having me!
Yeah, crazy is an understatement. We’re hanging in there and trying to keep focused on the future. Over the past few months we’ve been recording our third album which has been a welcome distraction from the depressing madness you see in the news. We had planned to have it finished by now but with me being at the opposite end of the country to the rest of the guys and travel restrictions due to several lockdowns, it’s proven more difficult than we originally thought!
The pandemic totally erased plans for me personally and for the band. At the beginning of the year I left my job to go full-time musician and focus on the band. We went on tour with Haunt feeling invincible and no more than two days after me getting back off the road I was back at my grandparent’s for a family emergency, and then the first national lockdown ensued. You couldn’t make it up. We had another tour planned with Night Demon that never officially got announced. We were supposed to go out with them for a month! We were gonna go hard this year and stay on the road for as long as we possibly could. Alas, here we are.
A surprise this year was your acoustic EP “Campfire Tales”. How did it come to this rather unusual release and how was the feedback? In my opinion it really fits your sound and is a great addition to your discography, as it nicely contributes to the epic concept of your band!
Kyle: I imagine it came as quite a surprise to a lot of people! I spend a lot of time playing acoustic guitar at home (quite a few Seven Sisters riffs start their life on acoustic) and I’ve spent years messing around figuring out acoustic versions of songs we’ve released. I put together a rough version of Lost in Time for the guys to hear, they liked it so I ran with the idea.
The feedback was mixed (as we expected) but overall it’s been very positive! We aren’t particularly interested in playing up to your usual heavy metal tropes or, for that matter, trying to please anyone that would expect that of us. It was an experiment. It was also a way for me to use my free-time productively. I really enjoyed spending a week holed up in my room transforming our songs in to something new for our fans to hear. We will probably do some more Campfire Tales releases in the future (we can’t resist pissing people off).
After your amazing second album, which is one of my top 10 favourite albums of the past decade, your followed up with a split single with Haunt last year. The result was one of the best (and probably the catchiest) songs you’ve written up to this date. Is “The Crystal Temple” a little pretaste of what we might get in near future? Can you tell us if there’s something in process?
Kyle: That’s very kind of you to say so, thank you! The Crystal Temple is absolutely intended as a pre-cursor to our next album. The lyrical theme is a prequel of-sorts to the story of our next album, also.
As I alluded to earlier, we’re fairly deep in to the recording and mixing process of our third album. As it stands, while I answer these questions, we’re about 85% of the way done. I’m fairly confident we’ll get it sent off to a mastering engineer before the year is over.
One can not deny that throughout the years you’ve created a very unique sound. Epic Melodies, Enchanting Harmonies and Arcane Atmospheres. What artists inspire you the most and what records have had the biggest impact on your songwriting?
Kyle: That’s a big question! In short, what I think best summarizes my approach to Seven Sisters songs is a blend of 70’s twin-guitar and melody focused music, 80’s/90’s US and European power metal and the grandiose structures of 70’s prog rock. There’s a lot of other stuff that both I and the other chaps will rhyme of as influences, but I think that would best sum up what we try to achieve.
As we progress as a band we’re getting more progressive in nature. I think it’s fair to say we’ve always had that prog-element to us, here and there. We’re just getting braver now! Our third album certainly has some bits in there that you might not expect to hear from what people refer to as a “nwothm” band.
As you might know this blog is devoted to the epic tunes of Metal. But do you yourself actually regard Seven Sisters as an Epic Metal band?
Kyle: I don’t think we do. When you say the words “epic metal” it conjures up bands like Atlantean Kodex – bands that exclusively aim for that huge, colosseum-filling, almost sorrowful atmosphere. At least in my mind, anyway. I don’t think we fit that description – we’re perhaps a bit too perky, ha! We definitely have songs that could be considered “epic” for other reasons though. I think The Cauldron and The Cross pt.1 + pt.2 fit in to the brackets of epic metal.
My favourite Seven Sisters song is “Once and Future King” and while the topic of this song is relatively clear – “The Once and Future King” is the name of the most popular modern retelling of the Arthurian legend – this isn’t the case for most of your songs. Where do draw your lyrical inspirations from?
Kyle: Well the album that song is a part of – The Cauldron and The Cross – is a concept album with lyrics inspired by the book “The Mists Of Avalon”. That particular version of the Arthurian legend is from the perspective of the women in the story. We focused on broader philosophical concepts and feelings that the book deals with rather than a chronological telling of the story.
All of the lyrics we write are based on some sort of concept. The first album is a story based on the Greek myth of Orion and The Seven Sisters. The Lost in Time and Witch’s Eye singles we released are linked to the Warden character we talk about in our very first demo. Everything is sort-of linked!
Kyle: That was a great gig! I believe we’re a live band, first and foremost. You can’t emulate the intensity and spontaneity of a live show.
We’d love to play them all! In our immediate scene – I’d love for us to play Keep It True, for obvious reasons. I would also really love the opportunity to go back to Up The Hammers in Greece. We played very early on in our time as a band and we had to do it as a three-piece because Graeme had some health issues that stopped him from flying. I feel we need to go back and really do ourselves justice!
If you look at new releases this year was really amazing. Friends of yours, Josh Winnard and Colin Hendra, released my two favourite albums of this year with their bands Dark Forest and Wytch Hazel. What are your favourite albums of this year? Any recommendations? Anything to look out for?
Kyle: You’ve just mentioned two of my favourite albums! The new Wytch Hazel is probably my top pick of this year, they’ve really outdone themselves this time. I’ve loved them ever since they put out that two-track demo way-back-when.
Cryptic Shift’s debut album, “Visitation From Enceladus” is an absolute must-listen for fans of tech-death sci-fi madness. Truly fascinating stuff.
HAIM’s latest album, “Women In Music PT.III” is another favourite of mine. For something completely different.
Last but not least, I got three wishes: number one is to travel in time, number two is being able to fly, number three is Seven Sisters touring together with Dark Forest and Wytch Hazel. How likely is it that one day one of my wishes will come true? (By the way, I know of others with similar wishes)
Kyle: Given how difficult it is to organise Dark Forest to do absolutely anything at all, I think you’ll sooner end up flying! Haha.
In all seriousness – a tour like that would be absolutely excellent. Maybe it’s something we can aim for once we are able to play shows regularly again. I can’t make any promises though! I love all the lads in Wytch Hazel and The Fozz, we’re all good friends. Colin and I keep in touch regularly. They can be difficult to organise though…
Haha. Thank you for this epic interview! I can’t wait to see you on tour when this pandemic is finally over!
Kyle: Thank you once again for having me! It’s been a pleasure. I’m sure we’ll be sinking beers in sweaty venues before long. Until then.