Accessible Elegance: A Conversation With Matt Knox of The Silver (Horrendous, Crypt Sermon)

The newly formed unit establish a worthwhile baseline that is honest, raw, and boundless.

the silver
Photograph by Scott Kinkade

Words by Luis (@luis.hoa):


As the idiom goes, life is no walk through a rose garden. With every step towards growth comes a new set of challenges that will test you physically, mentally, and emotionally, perhaps even driving you towards failure and repeated struggle. It's an intersectional aspect of life that we as people share, albeit in a unique fashion as we continue a search towards finding our passions and purpose in life. This where the arts and its many forms become a conduit for meaning.


Consisting of brothers Matt and Jamie Knox of Horrendous fame, Enrique Sagarnaga of Crypt Sermon, and Nick Duchemin, The Silver is a newly founded band that aims to please a wide set of creative ambitions distinct to that of their established projects. This week's arrival of their debut offering, Ward of Roses, is the musical embodiment of the aforementioned saying, exploring life's trial and tribulations as an inevitable quest of self-exploration. Sonically, it's a maelstrom of black metal, goth rock, and classical passages that establish a firm duality of life's dark beauty. On the visual end, it comes adorned by the art of Paul Romano, who so gracefully captures the emotions riding on every passing track of Ward of Roses. There's much to feel, much to uncover, and much to enjoy for what The Silver do here is nothing short exemplary and true to their character. Gilead Media have a gem on their hands and with this only being the foundation for band with plenty of promise, we as listeners stand to benefit.


We welcome Matt Knox (V) of The Silver to a conversation regarding the record's visual component, the accessibility of the themes, camaraderie, outlook, and more:

‘Ward of Roses’ is nearly here and with it comes new life, a new entity that explores the boundless nature of The Silver. Aside from the expected musical distinction to that of Crypt Sermon and Horrendous, what does The Silver allow for you to do as musicians and as people that you perhaps couldn’t otherwise do, especially with the record being experience driven?


Knox: Musically, I think The Silver allows all of us a space to experiment with sounds and genres that don’t really fit into our other projects. More broadly, I think this was also a space for all of us to start fresh in a way; when you’re in a band that’s been around for a while and has an established sound, oftentimes you are trying to expand the boundaries of what you’ve already created and perfect the vision that is already there. With The Silver, we were all able to start completely from scratch again. There were no expectations of what the band should sound like, and there was a sense of freedom there to let the songs evolve into their own entities without worrying if certain elements didn’t quite fit the ‘sound’ of the band--there were no restrictions and no limitations.


Lyrically, the record allowed us all to reflect more directly on our lived experiences. Though I’d argue that Horrendous also creates space for these more introspective musings, there’s still a wall of sorts between the lyrics/persona of the band and the actual individual beneath--as with a lot metal bands, the lyrics are coded and draped in imagery of the grotesque or fantastic in order to fit the mood of the music. With The Silver, everything is laid bare--we wanted the lyrics and the experiences they describe to be more emotionally raw.


That's really where I've found beauty in 'Ward of Roses'. It explores a vulnerability and there's messages riddled in every melody, the likes of which of course are elaborated upon artistically. Your music strays from the conventionalities of black metal in ways that explore your own creative ambitions. Is it at all freeing to be able to come into this debut without any predetermined notions of what The Silver should sound like?


Knox: Yes--a new project allowed us all to start completely fresh in a way. There was no foundation upon which to build, and we could truly dive in and explore possibilities that aren’t always an option in our other projects. I think this approach had an enormous influence on the final project. To me, the record sounds incredibly free and boundless--it almost flows and develops as one listens to it, and each song has its own character and possibilities and yet it all sounds like a cohesive whole.


Spot on, and it encourages repeated listening and further immersion, as most great records do. For the cover, Paul Romano was tapped to depict a rose bouquet that is representative of the album title of course, but more than that, it symbolizes the heart from the more gentle passages on the record. There’s a noticeable dripping beneath the bouquet, in addition to a bird carrying the weight of roses. Visually, what were you looking for when approaching Paul for the project?


Knox: We approached Paul primarily from a place of friendship and a trust in his work rather than a specific artistic goal. We wanted everyone involved in this record to have a space to explore the same themes we were broaching both lyrically and musically, and wanted this process to feel more like an extension of the record’s self reflective nature rather than a job we dictated to an artist. In line with this, we gave Paul free reign to create as he saw fit--we sent him music and lyrics as they were completed and fully trusted him in creating his own vision for the material. I think all we ever really discussed was the color scheme and some basic ideas for images/themes.

Cover Art by Paul Romano

That said, where do you feel that the artwork aligns with the band’s lyrical intentionality?


Knox: To me, the artwork is a centerpiece of sorts that captures the beauty, pain, serenity, horror, etc of the album’s music and lyrical content. It’s as if each flower in the bouquet is a different expression of these recurring themes, each with its own unique shape and shade of pink/red--much like each song on the record describes a distinct human experience that is ultimately rooted in love, loss, and personal transformation.


That's powerful, and all incorporated into what appears to be a mere rose at the surface level. Having spoken to Paul on various other instances, it’s evident that he has a vested interest in all of his works and really tries to understand a band and their records when taking on a particular painting. How would you characterize the collaborative process throughout the way, especially as it pertains to finding a common ground in how you’d want your music illustrated?


Knox: As I said above, the collaborative process was entirely based on faith and trust in Paul’s artistic vision. I remember having dinner with him as a band (an incredible vegan meal he cooked for us!) and discussing the ‘mission’ of sorts of our endeavor--everything from our music and lyrical content to the aesthetics and general spirit we wanted to achieve with the project. He seemed completely in tune with what we had envisioned, and as we began sharing music and lyrics, his ideas transformed alongside the music. It was amazing to see how the musical and aesthetic side of the band evolved together, seemingly on the same path regardless of the fact we were working in separate spaces--perhaps some type of psychical connection?


I wouldn't doubt it. One needs only hear the record in its entirety while gazing at the cover to experience the synchronicity of it all. After multiple listens, it’s evident that you establish a duality of sound so well. There’s serenity, there’s aggression, there’s complex instrumentation. All in all, there’s much for audiences to love and it came about organically. How does it all come together so seamlessly? There’s a variety of goth and black metal influence that is audible here.


Knox: I think the cohesion is largely a result of the sense of musical freedom we established while writing the record. It was an open ground for experimentation; we never really restricted any ideas or lines of thinking, and instead of saying no to something outright, we found a way to make it work--even if it required endless rounds of trial and error to make it fit into the larger sound of the band. This helped us arrive at a place where wildly disparate elements still sounded like they fit together--we just filtered them through a lens that made sense with the rest of the music.


That's really why The Silver Came about too, to tap into different avenues of expression that weren't predetermined to what Crypt Sermon and Horrendous are best known for. What role did the camaraderie between you all play in the record’s development?


Knox: I think our collective friendships made the process pretty seamless. One of the more difficult aspects of being in a band is figuring out how to balance everyone’s desires, personalities and visions for the music, and, fortunately, we were all already on the same page there. In addition, I already had experience with playing with everyone; I have, of course, been playing music with my brother my entire life, but I’ve also been involved musically with Enrique and Nick in projects before this one (for those who don’t know, I filled in on bass for Crypt Sermon many years ago!), so it didn’t feel like we had to get over that initial hurdle of working together.

Photograph by Scott Kinkade

It all just came together so seamlessly then. Lyrically, your approach touches greatly on introspection, but more so from a universal perspective that is accessible to all who hear it. As you note, people are shaped by the flames of their distinct experiences, akin to silver and its metallurgical processes. Though artists compose for themselves, is there an intended effect you wish to have upon those who engage with the material?


Knox: I’m glad you noticed a desire for a more universal perspective in our lyrics. While the band was initially formed for us, as individuals, to process our own life experiences, I pretty quickly shifted my perspective to be more cognizant and inclusive of our audience once the songs started coming together. I wanted to invite the listener to the table to experience these songs through the lens of their own experiences rather than just bearing witness to my own. I feel there is an emotional heft and significance to these songs, and I hope that the listener is at least willing to open themselves to what’s there.


They'd be doing themselves a disservice if they didn't. Touching a bit further on the impact of the record, the pandemic brought the world to a temporary halt that allowed for many to sit back, reflect, and engage with media and its many forms in a different manner. Lyrics, artwork, liner notes, instrumentation: all of these layers become more apparent when you sit and let it unfold. With ‘Ward of Roses’ being a record of riding high on emotion, do you feel as though this can often be lost in the contemporary fast paced world where music sometimes tends to be background noise?


Knox: I do think some of that magic is lost, unfortunately. I remember being a kid and working my way through something like Iron Maiden’s catalogue and just being completely astounded by the entire package--the art, the pictures, and just how larger than life everything was. I would devour the CD, then, at the next opportunity, buy another one of theirs I didn’t have yet. It was all so exciting, and I think the absence of streaming and having to actually spend money on physical copies made the stakes higher; I wanted to fully take in everything the album had to offer and I took my time digesting it. There’s so much out there now that I think people don’t have the same time to fully immerse themselves in the music, which is a shame because we are often only hearing a small, surface level version of the fully realized work of art that’s in front of us.

Artwork by Cold Poison

Agree completely, hence the importance of approaching the art, layout, and physical package as a whole so intentionally. You had Cold Poison do some great shirt artwork for you too! In closing, Matt, ‘Ward of Roses’ benefits greatly from a conscious approach to each aspect of the record. Would you say that The Silver is more than a side project, but rather an entity that you wish to expand upon in the months and years to come?


Knox: Yes! We decided from the outset that this band wouldn’t be just a side project for us. We wanted it to be fully developed with its own distinct character, and wanted to forge something that we could really invest ourselves and our energies into. In addition, our other projects sometimes have restrictions when it comes to the amount of time they can tour, and having everyone together in Philadelphia has opened new possibilities for us to consider as we look ahead to what the future could hold for the band.

Ward of Roses arrives October 15th via Gilead Media. Pre-order your copy HERE.

paul romano
Cover Art by Paul Romano