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Sentient Horror's Matt Moliti: "…the rug just got pulled up and we were able to see exactly how much dirt was hiding there…"

Interview with Matt Moliti from Sentient Horror
by Lior "Steinmetal" Stein at 15 May 2022, 9:25 PM

There have been countless of opinions by a lot of people in regards to what the pandemic caused to the mental state of people. Other than the feeling of seclusion, being in closed doors, and alone, there were also other voices, saying that solidarity raised its head. Nevertheless, other than solidarity, there were those that their inner skin was discovered, the whole nine yards of pure filth, and possibly, evil that waited to burst out. Gladly that there were those that chose to escape in imagination, such as Sentient Horror's Matt Moliti. The band's new album, “Rites Of Gore”, shares the old school values. Steinmetal had a chance to talk again with Matt about it all.

Hi Matt, it is good to have you back with Metal Temple online Magazine for another talk in regards to the next venture of your band, Sentient Horror. How have you been?

I’ve been doing well, thanks!

Several months after the release of the band’s sophomore album, “Morbid Realms”, the pandemic hit, and it came to be a shock for the entire world, whether due to its effects or its massive spread. I noticed that you took it quite hard, what can you tell about the experience?

It did really kill the momentum we were building with Morbid Realms. We only got an opportunity to play two shows in support of it before everything shut down, so it never really got the support it deserved to get.

With all the negativity inside, and afterwards came the lengthy lockdowns, which also gave reason for thoughts of there is an end in sight, how were you able to personally combat these emotions and remain sane?

I got involved doing some guest guitar solos on some studio-only side projects. One of which being Heads for the Dead which is helmed by Jonny Pettersson and Ralph Hauber. I had been doing guest solos for the first two albums, but for the third record, I played on the whole album. I’m now a permanent member of the project as their lead guitar guy, and I just finished tracking solos for an EP they have planned for release after the 3rd album comes out, which should hopefully be by the end of the year. I also started writing the music that became Rites of Gore.

Music wise, were there thoughts of just giving up, letting your vision crumble before you due to the fact that you had no more power left to be able confront the hardships?

Never. I’m a professional musician, it's how I make my living, so there isn’t an option to give up. I teach guitar as my primary source of income, and all my students were moved online until the school I teach at was able to reopen, so I never really lost my actual day job. I was really lucky in that regard, because I have friends in bands that tour for their income and they were hit really hard.

Looking at things now, which are clearly better pandemic wise, would you say that in contrast to what you have been thinking about people being their own number one, not caring for others, would you say that your mind changed? Aren’t we all for cooperation between ourselves in order to survive?

No, I still feel the same. I don’t think the pandemic changed anyone necessarily, I think it just brought out the ugly side of a lot of people. Those videos I’d see and stories I'd read of people verbally and physically assaulting workers for just doing their jobs, those people existed before the pandemic and they will continue to exist after. So really, the rug just got pulled up and we were able to see exactly how much dirt was hiding there.

Eventually, along with the struggles, Sentient Horror remained, and your third album, “Rites Of Gore”, was conceived in a brutal fashion. Now, I know that overall the record’s philosophy is based on your emotional state during the harder times of the pandemic, yet what can you tell about the title itself, why is it that harsh? What does its brutal sense relate to?

There is no deep meaning behind it. I only tap into my emotional state to compose the riffs, the lyrics and imagery are pure horror fantasy. When I write songs, I try to come up with cool sounding song titles first and then I assign them to songs that I think fit the title, then I write lyrics based on what I think the song title could mean. So yeah, “Rites of Gore” just sounded like a cool death metal title.

What can you share about the nature of the artwork? Is that sort of preaching figure supposed to be an analogy to the actual last rites made in funerals but here with a totally different sense? Another thought that I had in mind, was that these figures below are symbols of the general public, doing what they are told, even though some of what they are being told is a lie. What is your take on that?

Juanjo Castellano did the artwork, as he’s done all of our releases since the Crypts Below EP. I knew I wanted the lyrics to be centered around classic horror. I loved the Tales From the Crypt TV show, and the Creepshow movie and series, so I wanted a figure on the cover that was supposed to be a Crypt Keeper style character. That is the direction I gave Juanjo and he did an amazing job.

Thinking about the moral basis of “Rites Of Gore”, and what the listener can garner from it, and not literally, in your view, what does the album, on its whole, present to the listener? Does it also mention solutions or mainly the problems?

I don’t write lyrics with any moral basis. Some bands are good at that, but I like my lyrics to be fiction/fantasy and an escape. All of my lyrics are essentially mini horror stories, and that inspiration comes from being a King Diamond fan. Each record I try for a slightly different take on it. Morbid Realms was more otherworldly horror, inspired by Clive Barker and HP Lovecraft, so I wanted Rites of Gore to be traditional horror inspired by anthology collections like Tales From the Crypt and Creepshow. So its about zombies, werewolves, vampires, slashers, etc. kind of cheesy, but fun, exactly like those horror shows I mentioned.

My previous listening experience with “Morbid Realms” showed me that Sentient Horror has that spiritual nature of Death’s early 90s exports, taking also examples from their sound. Nonetheless, “Rites Of Gore” appears to be a step forward, as if it forged out of new possibilities, an open mind that crafted an old school front but with a measure of freshness, and with a massive brutal intention. How do you find the record’s music as a step forward for the band?

I do think it is more brutal than Morbid Realms, but I would never consider what we do at all similar to brutal death metal. My influences are pretty squarely pure old school bands. I think that what I am getting more comfortable with is expanding what influences are coming out more. The first record was almost entirely inspired by the Swedish bands like Entombed, Dismember, Carnage, Edge of Sanity, Nirvana 2002. And I still really love that stuff, and it still forms a core element to the band, with using the chainsaw guitar tone and tuning to B standard. But I am bringing out more influence from other bands that are just as big of an influence on me, like Carcass and Death. And I’m paying more attention to what some of our contemporaries are doing. Not that I’d copy or hop onto a trend or anything, but I noticed more bands are going for a more straightforward sound, so I think that played a part in making Rites of Gore more brutal and immediate.

With “Rites Of Gore” being straightforward, but in the same breath taking a complex position in contrast to its predecessor, what was done differently within the songwriting process? What was your initial approach in order to implement ideas that served as game changers on the record?

I think the complexity, and I kind of hesitate to use that word because I don’t want people to think that it’s complex like how a tech death band gets complex, but that's that Death and Carcass vibe coming through more, I think. A huge influence on Rites of Gore was the Death album “Spiritual Healing.” There are less moments of just tremolo picking at 230 bpm on this record. There is more variety in the riffing and in the tempos, and I took those cues from that Death record.

While the songwriting process of the record took place, under which conditions was it done? How did those conditions affect the process? Did they serve as motivators or rather take you backwards?

It’s the same as it’s always been. I demo everything on my own and then send the demos to the other guys to learn. We will then flesh out arrangement ideas as a band. Sometimes Jon will contribute some riffs but on Rites of Gore I did do all the songwriting.

The new record officially presents Sentient Horror with a full lineup, including the new drummer, Evan Daniele. After being with a session player, how does Daniele’s approach lead the songs forward? Would you say that his impact on the rhythm section was immaculate?

Evan has actually been in the band since 2018. He did the tour in Europe with us supporting our EP The Crypts Below and he was supposed to track Morbid Realms, but left right before we were going to track drums for personal reasons. During the pandemic, I reached out to him and asked if he’d like to come back, and he did. Evan is a fantastic drummer and really elevates the songs with his creativity. He is also insanely fast, which makes it a challenge to keep up sometimes!

 “Rites Of Gore”, being a step forward for the band, what did it have you learn from the experience of creating, rehearsing and recording it? What are the new tricks and traps that are going to be implemented on the next Sentient Horror album?

With each new record I think I get stronger at writing, just by learning what works and what doesn’t from the previous records. I am going to start writing our fourth record this winter, and while I have some ideas, I don’t want to mention anything because I don’t want to set up false expectations. Inevitably, you get the inspiration for the idea in the moment, and you follow it. So even if you’re pre-planning things, sometimes that spontaneousness of ideas will dictate the sound more than anything.

I have always been a sucker for the early Death albums’ sound, in particular “Spiritual Healing”, and I had that feeling over “Morbid Realms” as well. With “Rites Of Gore” it has more of that early Swedish Death Metal sound, along with being slightly modern in its reach. What can you tell about the sound of the record? What made you go for a different direction than the previous?

The inspiration in the moment dictates the sound for me, and I was just feeling things out to be less melodic and more brutal. I’m also careful to not re-write songs, so to speak. So, I felt like I tapped out of a lot of those riff ideas that again, were just kind of tremolo picking over that fast Slayer beat, so there is less of that on Rites of Gore. I’m not good at the AC/DC approach of just writing the exact same style every album but always still writing good songs. I think if I did that the songs would sound boring to me, so I got to change it up a little in order to remain fresh and interesting for myself.

The album’s debut single, “Till Death Do Us Rot”, gave me a hint back in 2021 that Sentient Horror are going to sound different on their next venture. The song is delivering brutality in its finest of forms, sharing aggression in full swing. What is your appreciation of this song?

This tune definitely brings out our Carcass influence. It was written late in the writing process and was actually made from riffs that were rejected from the song that became “The Grave is My Home.” I took those riffs and sped them up and that's how I got “Till Death Do Us Rot.” I think it’s a good representation of the band, and it was a unanimous decision for the lead single and our first proper music video.

Going slower, yet deadlier, is the following track, “The Eyes Of Dread”. Nonetheless, in contrast to the other songs, it creates a kind of atmosphere around it, which time and time again displays an impressive harmony with its sheer heaviness. What can you share about the creative process that surrounded this song?

This song is unabashedly my Gorefest tribute. I love Gorefest. I think they are a really underappreciated band, and usually whenever I see people think we are influenced by a band that I don’t particularly listen to a lot, I check that band out and think “oh, they are hearing the Gorefest thing, but aren’t familiar with them.” Jan-Chris De Koeijer is one of my biggest vocal influences. Anyway, that was my intention to write a tune that had the vibe of some of their slower riffing on Mindloss and False. And the intro tapping melody was another nod to Death but was more inspired by a Mr Big song called Green Tinted 60s Mind. So, there is some of my other non-death metal influences creeping in there.

Now it is possible to actually go live and support the record, what are your plans for 2022 in light of the open option? Do you have any thoughts about Europe?

We’ve already got a good number of shows booked for the upcoming year, including an appearance at the Into the Darkness Fest in Youngstown, Ohio on July 30th and the Shadow Woods fest in York Pennsylvania on September 24th. We don’t have plans to play in Europe at this time, but the future is always open.

Matt, it was great having you again, and I do hope that now you are all well, and feeling enthusiastic, and positive. I mean, with such a good record under your belt, you have to. All the best

Yes, I am quite excited to see the positive reactions to the record and can’t wait to play songs from it live. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to be featured on Metal Temple again!”


 



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