photo by Forrest Locke
(For this 68th edition of The Synn Report, Andy takes as his subject the discography of SoCal’s Seven Sisters of Sleep — including their brand new album due for release by Relapse on February 5.)
Recommended for fans of: Eyehategod, Acid Bath, Soilent Green
After traversing the parched, sun-beaten wastelands of Texas in last month’s edition of The Synn Report, this time we’re travelling West to the city of angels, Los Angeles, to catch up with inveterate noise-mongers Seven Sisters of Sleep.
For those unfamiliar with the band, here’s a warning. This is some nasty, unrepentantly nihilistic stuff, straddling the blood-crusted nexus point between filthy Sludge, groaning Doom, buzzing Drone, seething Hardcore, and grim Old School Death Metal… with more than a few splashes of venomous Grind thrown in for good measure. Suffice it to say, this is definitely not music for the faint of heart.
By the same token though, it never feels like the band have just mashed-up all these sounds into one big, messy Extreme Metal sundae. Rather their sound comes across like a distillation of each of these styles down to their shared essence, filtered and refined to produce pure Extreme Metal moonshine, that’s just as likely to make you bang your head and scream your guts out as it is to make you go blind… and scream your guts out.
Though the band have a fair few splits and EPs to their name, I’ve elected to stick just to the full-length albums for this edition of The Synn Report, in particular their about-to-be-released third album Ezekiel’s Hags.
SEVEN SISTERS OF SLEEP – 2011
The band’s self-titled debut begins with the menacing introductory bars of “Monasteries”, which eventually transitions into a ravenous display of raw-throated, glass-gargling screams, bone-grinding slow-motion riffs, and thick, meaty bass-lines, before the chugging spit ‘n’ sawdust swagger of “Passed Out Standing” barges its way onto the scene, looking to drink, fight, or fuck… and preferably some combination of all three.
“Tide is Rising” is all choking, cavernous bass-lines and gargantuan doom-chords… at first. But it quickly upends the table and proceeds to pummel you with a flurry of rib-cracking drum beats and aggro, left-hand-path-riffage, with the occasional dip into a slower, more bilious groove serving to allow you to spit out whatever blood and broken teeth you might have left.
“Christmas Morning” is a rocking, rolling piece of metallic hate set to a soundtrack of hook-filled grooves that sweeps you along in its wake, barreling straight into the ugly, roiling cauldron of bile and biting aggression that is “CCEC”, whose burly, thundering riffs up the ante on heaviness to another level entirely.
Refusing to outstay its welcome, the album concludes with a triple-header of death/sludge/grind lunacy, beginning with the audiopocalytpic beatdown of “Follow the Serpent”, which stomps you down into the dirt and then proceeds to kick you hard with a battery of brutalizing riffs and venomous howls.
It’s followed in quick succession by the madcap punk-metal assault of “Swamp”, which picks up the pace in gloriously antagonistic, borderline anthemic fashion, leading into the utterly merciless “Beirut”, whose massive, chugging riffs, groaning bass-presence, and murderous Metallic Hardcore undertones are reminiscent of early Hatebreed… if the band had somehow had their genes combined with some sort of monstrous, primordial leviathan of the deep.
As short and sharp a shock of pure, unfiltered hatred and adrenaline as you could ask for.
OPIUM MORALS – 2013
Once again proving that they don’t fuck around, Opium Morals kicks in hard with the lurching Death-Sludge of “Ghost Plains” – all tar-thick, choking riffs and gnarled, cavernous growls – that switches from passages of dense, devastating Doom to searing blasts of punk-fueled aggression without missing a beat, and then proceeds to bombard the listener with a noxious concoction made up of the very best/worst that the Extreme Metal genre has to offer.
The insufferably bleak “Moths”, for example, errs towards the doomier, darker end of the scale (at least at first), favouring the slow-burn, slow-build of dense, chugging riffs and solid, unwavering drums, eventually culminating in a rolling wave of brazen, irresistible grooves and primal, primitive melodic touches, before the thick, sucking sludge-metal of “The Flock” drops on you like a veritable ton of sonic bricks, swinging its bone-cracking, sledgehammer riffs with malevolent purpose and precision.
The ruthless aggression of “Grindstone” which, aptly enough, grinds and grumbles its way through a series of utterly punishing twists and turns, manages to be as catchy as syphilis whilst burning twice as hard, driven unfailingly forwards by the punchy snare and flying feet of drummer Brian Thomas. His scorching performance behind the kit also serves to punctuate the brutish, Hardcore-tinged chuggery of “Sunday Mass Grave” with unexpected surges of bristling blastbeats or coldly-calculated shifts towards almost proggish percussion.
Although “Orphans” starts off with the sort of brooding, Death Metal grooves that would make Grave nod in approval, its second half is pure punk/grind metallic madness… right up until the bowel-shaking Death/Doom which closes it on a truly morbid note. It’s followed by two of the album’s outright best tracks (not to sell the rest of the record short, of course), in the galloping, buzz-saw guitars and bruising hooks of “Reaper Christ” and the monolithic “White Braid”.
The former pushes the band even further into straight-up Death Metal territory, though without dropping the mammoth, brooding hooks or flair for gut-rumbling grooves by which they’ve made their name, while the latter brings in a touch more melody to its skyscraping riffs to balance out the sheer hatred and venom leaking from the vocal chords of frontman Tim McAlary, as well as dragging the group’s sound back more firmly into the muck and mire of their sludgy roots, somehow also seeming to get progressively heavier as the song progresses towards its inevitable end.
The album’s finale comes, as far as I can gather, in two parts. The first of which is the juddering, neck-wrecking “Recitation Fire”, which contorts itself through a series of cripplingly heavy twists and poses over the course of its 03:15 run-time, spitting up half-chewed gobbets of Death, Sludge, and misshapen proto-Thrash along the way as it jerks and spasms and twitches with barely contained fury. “Part 2”, which follows immediately after, raises the level of Doom to nigh-cataclysmic levels, crushing the listener beneath the sheer sonic weight of its giant, looming riffs and grueling, ponderous drums until everyone and everything has been reduced to a fine paste in the process.
EZEKIEL’S HAGS – 2016
It’s clear that the three-year gap between albums hasn’t dulled the band’s spirit or sapped them of any of the venom, as opener “Jones” is one of the most viscerally aggressive and unrelenting things they’ve ever recorded, driven by a nitrous canister of pure Death-Grind intensity, with McClary’s ravenous growl pulsing out of the speakers with almost physical force.
“Denounce”, by contrast, begins with an ominous, droning sub-scape of sound, that slowly coalesces into a grim, doom-laden funeral march of heaving chords and rippling drum fills – intercut with moments of brutish, weighty chugging and subtle flashes of dreary melody – before building to a suitably frenzied and chaotic conclusion.
“Gutter” is three and a half minutes of back-breaking, whiplash inducing riffs, staggeringly heavy doomery, and sudden, explosive blasts of grindcore fury bookended by eerie passages of droning noise and ambience, leading into the Crowbar-gone-Death Metal magic of “Plateau”, which is as catchy as it is utterly crushing.
“Brother’s River” kicks things up to an irresistible, galloping pace (interspersed with surprising eruptions of face-melting blastery), whilst also weaving in some unexpectedly melodic moments along the way, with the last minute or so in particular offering a masterclass in how to craft the sort of simple, yet uniquely effective, riffery that gets inside your head and refuses to leave.
Almost in response to the unexpectedly catchy nature of its predecessor, “Prey” turns the dial all the way to “uber-heavy”, combining the group’s knack for conjuring anvil-heavy blocks of toxic, sludge-soaked riffage with some of McClary’s filthiest and most hateful vocals yet, while a subsequent mauling at the hands of the sphincter-loosening Doom and gloom chuggery of “Third Season” only serves to exacerbate the damage done.
“Sacred Prostitue” is another slab of morbidly infectious Drone-Doom that’s probably heavy enough to induce a miscarriage in pregnant cattle, with a skin-stripping, Grindcore-level finale seemingly designed to finish off anything that survives the experience, while “Ud-Nun” probably encapsulates the sound made when subjecting old-school Swedish Death Metal master tapes to the extreme gravity and choking atmosphere of Venus, producing an asphyxiating torrent of vertebrae-destroying riffs and stuttering, lurching drums shot-through with ruptured veins of bleak, lung-searing melody.
Penultimate track “War Master” is as heavy and belligerent as its title suggests, part Death Metal murder machine and part suppurating Sludge Metal anthem that heaves and drags its vast, earth-shaking bulk across an auditory landscape of glass-chewing vocals and twisted, barbed riffs, leaving a trail of blood and bile and dark, doom-laden melody in its wake.
The album concludes with the 10-minute monstrosity that is “Bastard Son”, a shamelessly epic and unrepentant consummation of all that the band have done thus far, which attempts to thread together all their influences – from Sludge to Doom to Drone to Hardcore to Grind to Death Metal – into one coherent amalgamation of humongous riffs, gut-rumbling bass lines, pulse-pounding drum work, and harrowing, uncompromising vocals, building and building towards a truly frenzied climax, which serves to give the album the brutal send-off it richly deserves.
Ezekiel’s Hags will be released on February 5. It’s available for pre-order in physical form here, or digitally via the Bandcamp link below.