The promised one

-- Sister May --

David Hardy

Album genres:
progressive rock
Alternative Metal
Album artists:
Bert Goethals Vocals
Carl Vangheluwe Guitar
Wannes Desramault Bass
Stefaan Degryse Drums


I stumbled across this e-mail while I was looking for another one, but I let myself be convinced to do it because, all in all, I like the "Nine Inch Nails" industrial prog style ... and you know what, I don't regret having stopped there ... but spoiler alert, ... it almost stopped very quickly before moving on to something else. I'll explain later!
Having said that, and just before saying anything more, let me put you back in context a little: Sister May are a Belgian band who, with "Undecided Behaviour", have released their first album, which follows on from various EP and single releases and will be released on independent label on CD and digital, and on Lay Bare Recordings for vinyl on September 29 this year. I'm tempted to say "finally", as the band has been around since 2017, so it's about time for a big release, guys! 

Now that you know all that, let me tell you about my experience with this album.

To put you in the picture, we receive links to repositories where you'll find a press kit with the album in digital format and other information needed to fill you with joy and happiness, ... or not, ... but above all interesting to pretend to be professional enough. So, ... I arrive at the repository, pay no further attention and go straight to play. First track, the 8th and last, begins with Dope. The track starts well, but introduces the singer's almost solo voice -++-+-, borderline in DI and ... it reminded me a little of English pop singers with a touch of punk, ... in simple, not super-right, nasal and with a Canadian lumberjack accent! ... and now I'm thinking, ... if it stays like this ... it might not work. ... Fortunately, the song is evolving and ... and in retrospect, yes, ... I was right to stay!

In case you want some more info

The album right begins with "The floater" 
Here, everything begins more subdued, even if the remark about the lead vocal remains the same, only less obvious... You can clearly feel the coldwave and pop/rock influences of the English era... those distant guitars, those choruses, those flangers... that slightly dry bass that breaks a little into the pile, then the incursion of guitars and wawa, and effects... and the whole thing... and it's all over ... you can feel the post-punk and noise influences that awaken the nonchalance of the beginning, and it's a good starting point for this album, because it says so much and so little at the same time. It's like a little piece of bright ginger that you take with suchi and that awakens your taste buds, and it makes you want to bite into the next one, which can go off into so many different universes, each just as interesting as the next.

The second track, Headshot, kicks off with a bit of 80s pop, beginning with loops and synthesizers, neon lights and then, just before minute 1, ... bam, the drums kick in, ... then the typical drum machine, ... and it's back and forth between saturated guitar/drum rock and electro sounds, evolving more and more towards full-on rock, rock that makes you feel where it takes its inspiration from, but which detaches itself from it and does its work in ears that want more!

Following the example of the previous track, Dust Devil start off strong with electro dark wave, then quickly move into rock, and it's good to hear that bass taking the reins a bit ... and they manage to play on all the tables with a rather disconcerting ease, but frankly well done, between the "clear" voice and the "radio filter" voice, and the fact that certain instruments move in front of and behind ... Just one criticism : around minute 3, this sort of break which for me is really super random, to say the least! ... otherwise, yes, you'd almost expect a more present screamer, but this option wasn't taken up and left behind. It's a good thing, too, as it leaves the track riding the wave it's set on. The other option would have been to push the levers towards scream and trash, but this would have taken us away, perhaps a little too far, from the English electro-pop-rock of the beginning.

Guts, on the other hand, leaves us no choice: it's a rock entry with a synth "à la stranger thing" that sets a deeper, heavier tone, while the guitar stretches the string in the other direction!

Borderline begins, for once, with some excellent drum work, which is eclipsed and then reappears, .... The intro is a bit special, with the drums competing with the vocals and the bass in shadowy binder mode ... but why not, at least it's refreshing! The track explodes a little before the minute mark and the singer returns with his favorite microphone/telephone effect ... well, it's ... how can I put it ... a rather experimental track that I wouldn't really know how to classify. There are some good ideas here, and a lot of work has gone into the construction, but it's pretty uneven, I'd say!I want to tell you! I don't like the first part, I think the first break is dodgy, the second break too ... between the two, it's rather nice and punchy ... the third "break-partie-pont" is, ... more logical but a bit too soft to match what came before ... the false ending, I don't see the point ... the last part is nice and in apotheosis. Really, if I could say one thing, it's that the piece lives up to its name! 

Sworn opens with a 90s-style buzzer that the Snap! group wouldn't have turned down! But I assure you, this is the opposite of their style, ... it's groovy and punchy at the same time, with the buzzer only there to densify the tension in the background and highlight the guitar. With this track, we really get into the metal, with a heavy guitar, a drum kit whose presence is a real plus, and whose final score, moving on several toms, adds a real something that makes me say "yes sir!

After the real pleasure for the ears that was "Sworn", we're always a little apprehensive about the track that follows! Would it be as good? ... well, it starts out more pop, ... softer, before clearly exploding at around minute 30 with a good family scream, smelling of the jungle and the wild beast lurking in the shadows before popping up to devour you. 
A construction detail, the build-up of tension is just top-notch, and on the reprise at 2:20 I'd have liked something a little more brutal, as the reprise is in two parts ... but that's a detail ... for the rest, yes! The vocal part is good, the tension rises too, ... the hiccup ending leaves me unconvinced, but ... come on, it was worth a try. As for the rest, I really like this track, which pushes the horses a bit and really leans more towards metal than English-style cold pop.

The finale, if I disregard the accuracy and vocal technique at the beginning of the track... it's really nice anyway, frankly it's a little acid candy, ... quite noisy, quite stirring in waves with all the richness of their style, ... probably a little too British for me, but watch out for the arpeggiator on the 3: 20 for example, it's a little extra that seems like nothing, but is tip-top at this moment and for this track! A really great job of construction and a climactic ending! 

Sister may is a good discovery for me (but it's not a discover if you'r MetalSchredder addict). Their understanding of their musical style, the playing, the mixing, the intention, the energy, ... it's clearly above the rest! If I had to be picky, I'd say that the singer's solos still lack a little vocal technique, which may detract from the whole, and that some of the breaks/contracts/revivals are ... questionable, but frankly, for a first album, I'd sign up with both hands for a second!

You can also find previous Sister May reviews here : 

Specific message about the studio work: Bravo! A real speculoos dipped in coffee! (Yes, I love that!)

Well, now I'm supposed to give a grade. And ... yes, I'll give it to you. So it's simple, I didn't see everything as perfect, I didn't say "whow it's great in every way", I may have noticed things that seemed odd or haphazard, ... yes, ... yes but ... I loved it! So, no, I wouldn't go as far as nine, but ... clearly


seems to me the mark they deserve! I really enjoyed the subtle blending of genres, with all the instrumentalists doing exactly the right job, and this work always adds to the quality of the track. I REALLY appreciated the assembly work, which couldn't have been so easy given the different styles and instruments used, and here the happy medium is really achieved. The finesse of the composition and assembly is also a plus that's extremely rare on a debut album. No, I really enjoyed it!