Liv Jagrell fronts the band with a salesperson of the month’s determination. Like Sister Sin’s albums, Jagrell summons an impressive collage of things heard and seen many times before. She’s Doro projected through a Joan Jett lens flickering a slideshow of every songstress to pass through Therion.
Track one, “MMXII,” is 1:01 of whatever. “End of the Line” is actually track one as well as the very best song on Now And Forever. The high gloss production transparently emphasizes the superbly polished instrumental work of Jimmy Hiltula on guitar, Dave Sundberg on drums and newcomer Andrea Strandh matching every perfectly placed beat with his jazz-voiced bass. Every element fits so snugly that it’s easy to overlook that “End of the Line” is a big-time airplay candidate of carefully handcrafted old-school metal.
“The Fight Song” is an up-tempo product that starts off with a Jagrell f-bomb who then goes through the stage-strutter metal tough-girl snarl. As hard as she tries, her vocals aren’t capable of the bitchiness the lyrics demand. Her voice is a pristine alto that stays locked in that range, even when she reaches for the aggressive higher notes.
There is the tiniest glint of poignancy in “In It for Life,” where Jagrell and the boys run through yet another variation of artistes selling their souls to rock n’ roll. Amidst the choruses arranged for audience chant-backs…see the kids with the flashing camera phones waving their fists to the four-on-the-floor beat… Jagrell slides into verses that include the lines, ‘Looking back and say, Could have kids, could’ve been rich, regret the choice I made’, which she delivers with a voice steadied by something hard to identify, like unintentional self-disclosure.
Now And Forever is Sister Sin’s mid-life statement, considering most bands last less than three years even with a recording deal. They do a lot right. They do a lot with their obvious talents. What they do not do is take chances within the constraints of the kind of staid heavy metal they put out. There is nothing wrong in making music for the masses who love their metal pressed, formed and processed into three minute patties of satisfaction.
It’s interesting to note that Now And Forever ends with Sister Sin’s first ballad committed to CD. Jagrell pushes her voice into the corners of its unduly-muted strengths. The song is short, trite and arranged without a single hint that imagination was allowed anywhere close to the writing sessions. It’s fun to count the Pro-Tools takes spliced together, often with appalling timing. Sister Sin deserves credit for putting a toe into the rain outside the front door, but it’s probably not yet time to go the Rod Stewart route and record an album of Broadway tunes.
With so much polish and perfection on Now And Forever, the temptation is overwhelming to reach into the speakers and give this whole snow globe of an album a good shake just to see what Sister Sin can do while dodging the falling clichés.
(released October 23, 2012 on Victory Records)