Most likely unbeknownst to them, their fans, or the sane people in the community of extreme music listeners, The Black Dahlia Murder is a band that probably stirs up more controversy than any other within the true metal community. There are a large group of metalheads that for whatever reason, just hate this band to its very core. This is all and good I suppose, as there are many "true" metal bands out there that I can't stand either. You should know that personal opinions finally carry some weight with me once we are safely within the realm of metal truth. It makes much more sense to me to favor some good music over other good music, as opposed to liking fake metal or anything that's not metal. Which, as I have thoroughly educated you to already know, sucks and isn't worth anybody's time. Period. However, sometimes there are dimmer metalheads that confuse their personal taste with the black and white philosophy of "true" and "false". Case in point: tons of you guys hate Pantera. Fine. But they're definitely a metal band, so shut your fucking face about me writing a "Violation" about them.
We find ourselves in a very similar situation with Michigan-based melodic death metal band, The Black Dahlia Murder. I'll say that again. Melodic death metal band. The Black Dahlia Murder. Love or hate the band, that is truly in fact, what they are. They're not deathcore genius, shut your suck hole. Even though I kept their music at a pessimistic arm's length with their earlier material, they have proven to me time and time again with every release that they have the death metal chops to be here, and more importantly, be respected. Haters take note: Ritual is definitely their most powerful release to date, with spine-tingling highs, devastating lows, furious guitar solos, catchy hooks that will tenaciously stick with you, punishing double-bass beats, and grooves guaranteed to make your head bang if you just let it happen. Ritual is TBDM doing what they do best and even better than before. It is a truly amazing album, and easily earns this cynical metal douchebag's seal of approval.
Former Arsis guitarist Ryan Knight made his TBDM debut in 2009 with the album Deflorate, and took the band's music to technical grounds they had yet to achieve, (along with garnering them a bit more true metal street cred). Meanwhile, not getting so lead-crazy that he would compromise the band's blunt and heavy underlying death metal sound. In Ritual, however, the chains come off, and Knight holds nothing back. Rhythm guitarist Brian Eschbach said about recording Ritual with Knight, "It's been more collaborative than it's been in years... The last two albums I wrote most of the music and this one it's almost a 50-50 effort between me and Knight." It's immediately clear that Knight holds no qualms in strutting his epic Arsis-level guitar mastery on Ritual, and proceeds to melt faces with blistering sweeps, hair-raising leads, whammy-bar powered vibratos, and more tapping than River Dance. He is like an extreme martial artist, and the Ibanez guitar is his violently flailing nunchakus. I love this guy's style as a guitarist, and I'm hard pressed to tell you that Ritual is worth a listen for at least its guitar work, if you find nothing else to enjoy about it.
|Playing Ouija like KVLT mother fuckers. (I think...) The limited edition Ritual box set comes with such a board.|
So easily the most common complaint I've heard against TBDM lies in the vocal work of Trevor Strnad. Certainly there are no issues to be heard from anyone regarding his low gutturals, and on Ritual they sound as brutal as ever. His highs, however, are what seem to turn people off. He has, for the lack of a better description, a sort of Gollum-esque screech and gurgle to his higher snarl, and it has been abhorred by many a metal fan since he firmly established it as his signature vocal style in Miasma; as we only start to hear the beginnings of it in Unhallowed. I personally find no issue with it, but won't deny that it's a characteristic that greatly sets TBDM apart from other death metal acts, and might alienate some people. I consider his vocals a blood-curdling fit to their gory/blasphemous lyrics and blackened death metal style. TBDM just wouldn't be TBDM without him. Strnad does an excellent job on Ritual of matching the highs and lows of each song's progression with the appropriate vocal tone, and although it may be musically different from previous albums, he doesn't sound the least bit out of place here.
Ritual is also more artistically progressive than previous TBDM releases. From the sound effects of long ships crashing against icy waves, to the use of orchestra instruments. Instruments reserved for the symphony when taken and utilized for awesome metal songs is always a surefire way to get my musical boner fully engorged and raging. Oh baby, is that some violin and cello? Jesus Christ, yes. Fucking stroke those strings. Make me feel sophisticated:
Knight also busts out an acoustic guitar for the intro in the track Carbonized in Cruciform. What? Acoustic intro in a death metal song? That's called a "calm before the storm", fool. Just when you think you're chilling out with your hippie friend, Ryan Knight at a camp fire and he's strumming his dreadnought and everything's cool, you realize that he's actually holding an Ibanez Prestige, Shannon Lucas is pulverizing his drum kit behind him with precision beat-making mastery, and the bonfire is actually your face consumed in flame from the unbridled brutality. In heavy metal, that's how you do fucking art.
If you were or are one of the purist metalheads who stuck your nose up at The Black Dahlia Murder, I'll tell you right now, with an album as supreme as Ritual, and especially considering how I'm a way more celebrated, revered and an eternally greater purist metalhead than you, I'm having a very difficult time understanding where you're coming from. I grew up listening to extreme metal genres, forged in the fires of death, black and melodeath bands of the truest nature. TBDM easily resides and belongs in these halls, regardless of what you might think of their name, fashion sense, vocal style, country of origin, or the like. I'm convinced that if TBDM were from a Scandinavian country, had a one word name you couldn't pronounce covered in umlauts, a bunch of lanky, leather jacket wearing, blonde long-haired swedes for members, and formed five years before they did, we wouldn't even be having this discussion.
Ritual is a truly great melodic death metal epic and quite possibly a strong contender for the best album of 2011. It's more powerful musically, progressively, lyrically and vocally than any other TBDM release to date, and I think the band has finally found its perfect equilibrium in utilizing the skills of all its musicians, new and old. Even if you weren't too huge on them before, I think Ritual just might make you into a believer, and if the trend of increasingly better albums continues, I'm excited to see what else The Black Dahlia Murder has in store for us in the near future. Until then, I'm going to put on "The Raven" and try not to commit homicide during the chorus.
- Brenocide \,,/
- Brenocide \,,/