Long gone are the days of demo releases being the lifeblood of underground metal. With the tape trading days of circulating a raw and rough cut demo to create word of mouth buzz and build street cred a thing of the past, and the digital age having firmly taken over, the format has become a fading relic in the modern metal landscape. With modern technology perks and self-release platforms like Bandcamp available, many modern metal bands simply bypass the old fashioned route of releasing music with the ‘demo’ label attached, instead releasing something a little more official or developed. One such unfashionable demo release that snuck under my skin and should please fans of old school Swedish death metal is the debut from Sentience, the one-man brainchild of New Jersey based musician and death metal wrecking ball Matt Moliti. Earlier in 2014 Moliti self-released his three track debut demo via Bandcamp, thus establishing himself as a force to be reckoned with in the crowded field of old school Swedeath worship.
Beyond the Curse of Death isn’t a game changing release by any means, but it’s a suitably rocking slab of gnarled Swedish death, which cuts an imposing figure above the bulk of bands pedaling this unashamedly retro style. Moliti’s first foray under the Sentience moniker finds the multi-skilled musician handling all the instruments on the recording (vocals, guitars, bass, keyboards and drum programming) as well as self producing the demo. Quite the impressive feat considering how tightly played and well written the three songs on this impressive debut are. Mining familiar tropes immortalized by the likes of Carnage, Entombed and Dismember during the late 80s/early 90s, Sentience manages to breathe much needed fresh air into the stagnating corpse of this incredibly overplayed and often derivative old school formula. And it’s not through any earth shattering innovation. Instead Moliti molds his passion for the style into his own vision, writing fresh and interesting riffs and melodies without shamelessly ripping off the legends he is clearly indebted to.
Cutting to the chase with the short and brutal attack of the title track, Sentience compile a compelling case from the outset through a rather simple and catchy battering of thrashy death metal chops, unbridled aggression and a delightfully shredding solo. It’s fast stabbing fury that hits a real sweet spot despite it’s simplistic structure. Thankfully the writing expands into more dynamic territory as “Dusk” and “Beneath a Bleeding Moon” both ooze malevolence and weave sinister grooves, an abundance of killer riffs, and tasteful keyboard melodies into the otherwise rabid assault of old school goodness.
Beyond the Curse of Death was mixed by Moliti and mastered by none other than Dan Swanö and comes equipped with the usual sonic trimmings associated with the style. The guitar tone has that customary rusted chainsaw tone and is suitably crunchy, while the programmed drums actually feature a bit of low end and sound pleasingly natural, if slightly one-dimensional in execution. By Swanö standards the recording isn’t as dynamic as it could be, measuring a disappointing DR 7, so hopefully he stays on deck for a full length and irons out the minor issues for a more dynamic old school experience.
Available as a name your price download on Bandcamp there’s little reason for fans of this beloved style to not jump in and give this promising release a fair shake. Moliti has already made decisive moves to push Sentience forward by fleshing out his line-up into a fully fledged band and promising a debut full length in 2015. Fingers crossed he can deliver on the promise shown here.
Tracks to Check: “Dusk” and “Beneath a Bleeding Moon”