Sentient Horror are one of those bands that I have had the privilege to know from the beginning and I have been keeping a watchful eye on their progress since reviewing their debut album Ungodly Forms in 2016. This was an album that was rich in the classic HM-2 sound, mixing newer influences with that of the old school death metal and creating a monster of a debut that would be tough to match.
Forward onto March 2018 and after reviewing their new EP The Crypts Below, Sentient Horror have upped the ante and created something very special for the old school death metal fan and I urge all of you to obtain a copy and find out for yourself. I caught up with guitarist/vocalist Matt Moliti who was only too happy to answer my questions. Thank you for this opportunity, Matt, and I wish you and the band success in the future.
First of all, thank you for taking the time to answer these questions for our readers at Moshville Times. Let’s start off with an easy one first: how did things with Dark Empire end and Sentient Horror begin?
You’re welcome! Well, Dark Empire was a progressive/power metal band and over the years I gradually got more and more into extreme metal. By the third album, I tried pushing Dark Empire into a direction sort of like Nevermore… like, how heavy and extreme metal influenced can I push the riffing while keeping the vocals clean? Listening back now, I appreciate what I was trying to do, but it does come across as very confused. It’s probably too heavy for the average power metal fan, and still too power metal sounding for the average modern death metal fan. Not to mention, we were having trouble keeping singers. It just made a lot more sense to start fresh with a death metal project where I could also do lead vocals. I tried a few different approaches, but the Swedish HM2 OSDM style, of which I am obviously a huge fan of, came the most naturally for me.
You must be extremely proud of The Crypts Below as you are not only making us older fans, like me, relive the glory days but establishing a fan base with new younger fans. How have the press and the metal world accepted The Crypts Below?
So far, so good! The reaction seems to be that the EP is even stronger than the debut, which is very promising, despite there being only four new original songs.
What would you say you heave learned in between your debut album Ungodly Forms and the new EP to make the new EP sound the way it does?
I’m not sure if I exactly learned anything particularly new. I think the biggest difference writing-wise is the absence of our original rhythm guitarist when we were Sentience, Tom Maher. Tom had co-writing credits on about half of the songs on the debut. I know his preferences were more in the vein of Grave and he was a big crust punk and grindcore guy. Whereas my death metal preferences are more in the Dismember and Edge of Sanity category as far as the Swedish bands go. So I guess I like things a bit faster, maybe slightly more melodic, and experimenting with time signatures and odd harmonies. So I suppose that side of our sound comes out more since I’m handling the overall vision of the band more. Our current rhythm guitarist, Jon, contributed some riffs to the song “Hell Marked”, this time around.
How often is the band able to get together and rehearse in the studio? Where do you get together and record?
We make a habit to rehearse every week, even if we don’t have any scheduled shows. Once writing starts, I’ll demo everything at home and then we refine it in the rehearsal space. We tracked drums last time at Damian Herring’s studio and then I do everything else in my home studio. Damian will then re-amp when he mixes so we get the real amps and HM2 pedals in there.
How hard has it been to juggle the touring side of things with the everyday jobs? Do you have plans to go on bigger tours and further afield in 2018?
Well this year will be the first time we’re doing a tour. My job only allows for two weeks paid vacation, so that definitely limits the amount of time we can go out for, at least as far as international touring goes. Last year we did a few weekend warrior type shows regionally. I think the next goal is to do a proper US tour after we do the European one. It would be excellent to support a larger band, but we’ll see what opportunities we wind up getting with that.
Towards the end of last year, you played a gig solely of Entombed covers paying homage to one of your major influences. How did it feel to have the opportunity to do that in front of an appreciative crowd?
It was pretty great. I wish we could have played it more than once though. Normally, when you have new material you rehearse it for a few months and then even when its ready to be debuted live, it still isn’t coming naturally or on autopilot. It takes a few shows for that to happen. So here was an entire six song set of music we never played live, save for “Supposed to Rot”, which we had been covering at a few shows prior, that we only got one shot at nailing live! I’m glad someone was able to document it. Honestly I’d love to track a studio version of “Drowned”. I think that one in particular we did really well and it suits us as a band more than any of the other songs we did.
It’s very clear that you are influenced by the Swedish death metal scene, but there are also the more traditional metal elements in your songs, especially with the solos. Who was it that inspired you the most to put the air guitar in the cupboard and get a real guitar?
You know it was actually Pink Floyd? That was my first band I obsessed over on guitar as a kid. And then I got into Dream Theater and that was the first band I was into that had any kind of metal influence, although I wouldn’t really consider them metal nowadays. Probably my longest lasting guitar inspiration, though, as far as guys I still listen to regularly even all these years later is Yngwie Malmsteen. I fucking love his playing, I probably listen to either the Alcatrazz album No Parole For Rock n Roll or one of his early solo albums at least once every week or two. Again with the Swedes, right?
Congratulations on being currently signed to labels Redefining Darkness Records for North America and Testimony Records for Europe/World. How did this come about and how has the relationship been with them so far?
They actually contacted me around the same time as one another, and coincidentally enough, they had already collaborated on a release by the band Escarnium with a similar distribution split as they do with Sentient Horror. I’m super happy with both Dennis and Thomas. Really great dudes who do a fantastic job at their respective labels. They’ve gotten us some really great promo and exposure.
There seems to be a resurgence of old school aesthetics and releasing cassette versions of EP/albums. Is this something that you see yourselves doing in the future?
You know I was literally just talking with both Thomas and Dennis about a cassette of The Crypts Below today. So it looks like it might happen…
Going back to your debut, Ungodly Forms, with Dan Swano quoting that Sentient Horror are “One of the best SweDeath projects I have come across in 20 years”, that must have given yourself a massive boost. How did you go about having the pleasure of Dan mastering Ungodly Forms at Unisound?
It was a true honour, really. Dan is, aside from Chuck Schuldiner, one of my biggest death metal inspirations. Simply, I just emailed him!
You always spoke very highly of your previous bandmates Ian on bass and Ryan on drums. How easy or difficult was it to fill the gap and find current musicians Tyler on bass and Evan on drums and how have they fitted into the band?
We found Tyler pretty fast because he plays in the black metal band Worthless alongside Ryan. I was pretty nervous about finding a drum replacement though, since that could have really held us back, but luckily, we found Evan through a facebook post rather fast. He did a video audition and then we did two rehearsal auditions. I’m really excited to have him in the band, and it’ll be great to have him on the next full length record.
Now that you have a full and stable line up, when it comes to the next record, are you looking for the other guys to input more in the song writing or are you going continue writing the majority of it?
I’m always open to what the other guys have to contribute if they want to, but for the most part, I think they like me taking care of all that. As I said, we usually refine arrangement stuff as a group, I think especially for the drums its important that the drummer is playing a part that suits their style.
So how are things progressing with the next Sentient Horror release? What are the plans for the rest of 2018?
My goal is to have our releases on at most an 18-month timetable. So I’m actually starting to write riffs for the next full length. I’d like to start going into preproduction when we return from the European tour in October, which means I’ll probably need to have the record mostly all written before the summer. We’ll see if I can keep to that, but thats the idea for right now.
How hard is it for an extreme metal band like Sentient Horror to survive in the current climate where bands have to tour non stop and sell merchandise in order to bring money back into the band?
Well I guess that depends on how big you want to try to get. Realistically, there is no way I could turn Sentient Horror into a band that tours like that. But, I think its possible to have modest success in the underground without constant touring. I think as long as the recorded output is steady, the underground metal scene is very supportive of bands they love. I have a career that I love doing (teaching guitar), so if Sentient Horror can become a financially self-sustaining thing one day, that would be a realistic goal to shoot for.
A fun question to end this interview. If you were a DJ and were allowed to bring 5 CDs to the party, what would they be?
That depends on the party! I’m going to assume a mixed batch of metal heads, so I’d play it safe and go more traditional:
- Judas Priest – Killing Machine
- Iron Maiden – Piece of Mind
- Saxon – Denim & Leather
- Mercyful Fate – Don’t Break the Oath
- Motörhead – Ace of Spades
I’d hope no self respecting metal head, no matter what sub-genre is preferred, would have any major issues with that playlist!
Any last message for our readers here at Moshville Times?
Thank you once again for the opportunity to answer some questions, and thank you to the fans who continue to support the underground!