In March of 2012, the thrashy, progressive metal act Dark Empire released their first full-length in almost 4 years. From Refuge to Ruin came out to positive reviews and showcases the band in top form. I was fortunate enough to catch up with guitarist Matt Moliti to discuss the one piece of gear he uses to obtain his signature sound. Here is how the conversation went.

What one piece if gear do you use to obtain your signature sound?
Matt: I’d have to say, even more so than the guitars I play; it would be the pickups I use. Those would be Dimarzios, and I’ve got a D Sonic 7 in the bridge and a PAF 7 in the neck.

What about it makes it so important to you?
Matt: I used active pickups for years and it got to the point where I really felt like I wasn’t truly hearing what I was playing with those. The Dimarzio pickups that I use are high and medium-high output, so you’re hearing the actual tone of the guitar and your hands more. It definitely makes you a better player, because you become more aware of the dynamic nuances that would otherwise be compressed by an active pickup.

What are the major pros and cons?
Matt: The D-Sonic is ultra-tight and very sharp sounding, which is what I like in a bridge pickup. I tune my 7 strings down a whole step to A, so it’s important that the bridge pickup be able to stay tight and defined. My absolute favorite, though, is the PAF in the neck. Its tone is really round and transparent, and it’s perfect for getting an ultra-smooth lead sound. It’s also nice and warm for vintage Les Paul style clean tones. Cons? None at all!

How long have you had it, how do you use it, would you ever change it?
Matt: I’ve been using the Dimarzios in my Schecter ATX C-7 for the last two years, and I used that guitar to track all of the leads and secondary rhythm parts on our new album, From Refuge to Ruin. I also used it for the primary rhythm guitars on the songs “The Cleansing Fires” and the album’s title track. As much as I love this particular pickup combination, I think it’d be fun to experiment with different Dimarzios as well.

Any final thoughts or comments on the gear?
Matt: After many years of actives being the major trend in metal, I’m starting to see more and more guitarists switching to passives. I even have guitar students that have never even played through a passive pickup before. So, for anyone out there currently using actives, if you would like to finally hear the true tone of your fingers and the guitar’s wood, and start to realize all the subtleties and nuances in your playing, I would without hesitation recommend Dimarzio.

Check out the live song: “Dreaming in Vengeance”