Entering the Underground #8: Heavy Sentence Nails Classic Heavy Metal “Bang to Rights”
One of the most exciting recent bands for me that I’ve had the chance to watch grow since day one has been England’s Heavy Sentence. I grabbed the original Protector / Darkest Hour 7" as a blind buy on a friend’s recommendation and fell in love; melodic leads, gruff vocals, and swaggering riffs combined well to give something equal parts NWOBHM, punk, and Motörhead, almost like if Midnight’s more recent stuff had a bit less Venom and a tiny bit more Tokyo Blade in its DNA.
Each release since has had the same general approach and has largely delivered on the same promise that that first single had. Heavy Sentence are not only not doing anything new but are actively doing their best not to—but that’s not to say that there isn’t a robust identity and a hell of a lot of fun to be found on their first record Bang to Rights. Fiendishly catchy and ferociously regressive, Heavy Sentence are at heart an old band in a new world and each release shows that.
Though most of the lineup keeps busy between the fifteen or so other bands each member is personally involved with, they carved out the time to write some really killer heavy metal and the band’s lead songwriter Tim has also carved out the time to talk about that music with Invisible Oranges.
Good morning Tim! Thanks for doing this interview with Invisible Oranges. To start off, tell me some more about the band’s aesthetic! In a cluttered world of new bands, Heavy Sentence certainly stands out.
Thanks. We just wanted to make some gritty, unrefined heavy metal. We live in the city so maybe that reflects in our music and its presentation. For the last year, Manchester has been populated solely by ghouls. It can feel like we’re living in the front cover of the Protector single. Not that we’re attempting to ‘portray the grim realities of contemporary city life’ or anything. It’s bigger than real life. It’s heavy metal.
Who drew the album’s cover?
The album cover is by an artist called Tin Savage based in London and I think he got it just right.
What led to working with Mr. Savage, and where did the art concept come from?
Bry (drummer) suggested him as someone who could get the vibe of the band just right and he did.
How did you guys decide on using Gareth’s rougher vocal style?
That’s just how Gaz sings. It’s probably the heaviest instrument in the band. And it goes well with the kind of music we play. It wouldn’t suit heavy metal wailing - and there’s already plenty of that knocking about already. Vocally, the album is more tuneful than previous releases but the grit is still there.
Do you write the rhythms with him in mind, or put together songs and let him go at it afterwards?
A bit of each really. I had half an idea of what it would sound like with vocals. But because we weren't a proper band yet (I played all the instruments on the first 7 inch) we didn't really know how it would sound until we got to the studio and Gaz started doing takes. It was a bit of a leap of faith for both of us but I knew he'd do something good because he knows what he's doing.
Were there any advantages to doing the band as a two piece that you miss?
No it's much better being a proper band. We couldn't gig as a two piece, for one.
What’s the band’s lineup looking like these days?
It's a five piece with two guitars, bass and drums and Gaz singing. I'm on one guitar, Jack on the other. He also plays in Eliminator and joined after we lost Mike in 2019. Ed (bass) plays in Wode with me. Bry on drums also plays in Rat Cage and Stray Bullet.
Was it difficult at all to get the lineup together, especially given that the new guys are also busy with other bands?
The only slight problem was getting a drummer. There aren't any in Manchester and that's probably because of gentrification. But after the 7 inch came out, Bry was into it and we started jamming. He's from Sheffield so we'll sometimes practise over there so it's fair.
The new album is split between Dying Victims Productions and Crypt of the Wizard. How did you get in touch with both and decide to work together with ‘em?
I’d been in contact with Dying Victims since my other band Aggressive Perfector released some stuff on the label. Florian at DV had expressed interest in releasing the album early on. Charlie from Crypt we met at gigs and in his shop. We would play London regularly and Charlie would often be there and was always keen to put something out. We wanted to work with both labels so a split release made sense. Coordinating a split release takes a bit more organising but when it’s two good labels like Crypt and DV, it’s worth it.
Prior to working with both you did a couple 7”s via Night Rhythms Recordings. How did that come about?
Gaz posted the track on a forum and Night Rhythms were onto it straightaway. A couple of emails later and the release was nailed on.
Had you always intended for the first single to be a 7”, or did that just come about because of the label emailing you after that forum post?
Yeah we thought those two songs would make a good 7. And we want to get it done in a single studio day so we didn't want to bite off more than we could chew. Two songs seemed doable.
Both you and Gaz are in about 50 bands. How do you guys manage your time between them all?
It can be hectic at times but all the bands tend to work in cycles (write - record - tour) so it is doable if you do everything in synch. Aggressive Perfector and Heavy Sentence toured together so that killed two birds with one stone for me. We might do that again.
Do you think you could have made Heavy Sentence work in the first place without the experience from those other bands, or is it a kind of separate thing?
It all helps I think. The more music you work on, the easier it becomes. It's like anything else.
What inner need does Heavy Sentence fill that your other bands weren’t?
It's just a different style that we all like playing. Also, I get to play guitar which is way more fun than lugging a drum kit around. It's the easiest instrument to play in a band. You can walk around on stage and no one notices if you mess up.
What’s next for Heavy Sentence?
Nothing else to say really. Like every band, we want to be out there gigging it. We'll have to see on that one...
Cheers for the interview!
Bang to Rights releases on May 28th, 2021 via Dying Victims Productions.