Released: 2007, Metal Blade
The Black Dahlia Murder (TBDM from now on) defy any sort of superficial categorisation. They look like Avenged Sevenfold or Killswitch Engage, but they wear Entombed T-shirts. They’ve been embraced by the emo/metalcore kids, but they play…dare I say it…proper death metal. Yes, death metal tinged with Gothenburg-ish melodies, but proper nonetheless. As in they have a drummer who actually thrashes the hell out of those double basses and utilises more than just his snare. As in they have a singer who shrieks and growls and grunts with the best of them. As in they have proper riffs that crush, that cause an invisible hand to push your head forward and backward, up and down, whether you like it or not.
This is a solid death record, less –core than their debut UNHALLOWED, and possibly not that much of a progression from MIASMA, their second album. But nevertheless, this band continues to defy the naysayers who look no further than their short hair and image. The riffing is as sharp and as tight as any reputable death band you could point your finger at, and although I wouldn’t call them technical or technical-minded at all, there’s still enough in the music to take them out of “comfortable” or “simplistic” zone. Sure, it’s nothing groundbreaking, and they may have taken a hint or two from their labelmates Job For A Cowboy (another much maligned band) in terms of sound, but damn, modern DEATH METAL!
Singer Trevor Strnad appears to have toned down the growling, which is a pity considering he did a fine throat-rattling job on the first two albums. He concentrates more on that tortured shriek that sounds vaguely black-inspired, but which indeed fits the music quite well. Nothing standout in terms of guitars, it sounds like your average death riffing, but where they’ve picked up is in the leadwork. In the previous two albums they couldn’t write a solo to save their life, the solos lacked any sort of purpose or direction. A solo has a number of purposes in a metal song (progression, break, bridge, showing off, crowd involvement etc) and TBDM never seemed to be able to do anything with their leads other than noodle. Now in NOCTURNAL, the solos are fast, aggressive, pretty unoriginal but at least they’ve got something to them. The drummer however is nothing short of impressive. He runs the whole gamut (this should be qualified by the fact that I’m not a drummer) of death chops – blasts, rolls, some great bass drum control and definitely it’s the drumming that drives the songs. The only real downer is the closing song “Warborn” which is repetitive and boring, and is a poor end to quite a good 30 odd minutes.
In short, look past the short hair and love-in from the metalcore crowd. This album is pretty damn good, and that’s damn good METAL, in case you’ve persistently misunderstood me on purpose so far.