Sistered is the personification of Pittsburgh's relentlessly inventive metal scene, a six-year-in-the-making side project of scene veterans Jesse Meredith, John Dziuban, Cary Belback and Josh Egan. The band is preparing to release its long-gestating debut album New Sky with no illusions of metal elitism, having set out to produce a sound unshackled by the preconceptions of the much-maligned genre.
"I don't think any of us planned on playing metal [with Sistered]," says lead vocalist, guitarist and songwriter Jesse Meredith. "I've listened to bands like Slayer my whole life, but you can get worn out by the 'metal' sound. If you hear an album that sounds metal but has other shit going on, it keeps your attention. That's what we were going for."
The four-piece started as a two-piece with Meredith and drummer/bassist Cary Belback, both Bethel Park graduates, back in 2004. The group gained steam over the next few years, adding Dziuban (of Wynkataug Monks and Lovely Recordings) as well as a second capable drummer in Egan. After a brief hiatus, the band got back together a year and a half ago with refreshed motivation and purpose, setting out to finally put a proper album together. With the help of Dziuban's recording skills, over the past year Sistered recorded New Sky.
"Metal can be a fairly redundant genre, but we set out to do something different every time we write and record," explains Dziuban. "I wanted New Sky to have that warm '70s and '80s vibe, rather than a modern, digital-sounding heavy-metal record."
Dziuban's production gave the guitars and vocals a much-needed edge, eroding just enough of the technical gloss of contemporary metal for a live-sounding atmosphere. The result is a restless record of shifting metal personas, experimental and hypnotically melodic in equal measure.
Sistered's range is showcased on the opening track: "Shut Your Eyes," one of the group's oldest tracks, cycles through a handful monstrous, yet decidedly diverse, guitar riffs before snapping into the devastating lurch in the song's last minute. "God Save the Child Brides" is a soaring, upbeat composition with swirling guitar pyrotechnics and an anthemic chorus that exhibits the full power of Meredith's earth-shattering roar.
The album concludes with the unlikely couplet of "Midnight Renegade," a minute-and-a-half shotgun blast of hardcore fury, and the down-tempo, eight-minute-plus epic "Blood and Fog," two songs that perfectly capture Sistered at its most dynamic. Currently, the band is working toward an upcoming tour, preparing for what it hopes will be a series of searing live shows.
"We've been going hard practicing, honing our live act, and it shows on New Sky," says Belback. "We're coming into our own right now."
SISTERED with The Fucking Hotlights and October. 10 p.m. Sat., March 26. Gooski's, 3117 Brereton St., Polish Hill. $5. 412-681-1658