Four full-lengths behind them, Michigan-based The Black Dahlia Murder are no strangers to the heavy music scene and the legions of bands they have spawned in their ten year wake. With the lapse of another two years though, we should expect to have a new Black Dahlia Murder record on our hands – a seemingly clockwork proceeding for the band since their Metal Blade debut Unhallowed dropped in 2003. Yet, a decade’s worth of touring, writing and what-have-you has brought us a fifth full-length by the name of Ritual. Back are the blastbeat-infused shred sessions laced with Trevor Strnad’s growl and screech vocal attack that have made this band a cornerstone of the underground death metal scene. Yet, Ritual is anything but a phone-in by the band, as we hear them more coherent and consistent than ever before. The result is an album that ropes you in for track after track of searing melodies and second-natured songwriting that makes Ritual one hell of an album.
Wasting no time building an ambiance, the opening string movements of album starter “A Shrine to Madness” set up the hauntingly memorable melodic spurts this track boasts between fits of Strnad’s vocal-cord shredding words on Halloween – though his description of the celebration is much more over the top and grandiose than describing the trick-or-treating mishaps of his teenage years. Shifting lyrically towards the feelings of being a werewolf, “Moonlight Equilibrium” kicks into high gear with another helping of sharp melodies and kick-drum fury to push this track over the top. Album closer “Blood in the Ink” injects moments of strings back into the mix as the band apexes musically with a blistering assault of drums and fretwork that drives this album to the haunting end.
But even when you think this band is just rehashing the rehashed, they find ways to keep themselves fresh even as this record is concerned. “The Window” features some interestingly produced melodies to kick off the festivities of Strnad’s grotesque storytelling, while “Malenchantments of the Necrosphere” pulses off-kilter rhythmic blasts that turn into the anchor for this crunchfest. Everything isn’t breakneck speed on Ritual either. “On Stirring Seas of Salted Blood” channels a Dethklok timbre in sound and title, boasting sludgy guitars and unwavering drums amongst a mid-tempo backdrop. It gets a bit too repetitive for its own good near the end, but some of the arrangements here groove hard without losing any ferocity. Still, from track one to twelve, the Black Dahlia Murder succeed at being more focused on their craft – and pushing it too the limits – than we’ve ever heard them before.
As far as shortcomings go, Ritual steers clear of becoming overly corny with its varied lyrical topics, going right for the jugular (“The Window”, “A Grave Robbers Work”) when needed – all while showcasing impressive poetic work from Strnad. It might go a little too far, but in this genre we'd just be splitting hairs if we faulted lyricists for being too graphic. The placement of guitar solos is rather formulaic as far as songwriting is concerned, as they all seem to make way for them to happen and fall into place in similar sections as far as the music is concerned. This doesn’t make them unwelcome at all, but it tends to get a little old when most of these tracks boast such sections for our ears to feast upon.
Ritual surely doesn’t find the Black Dahlia Murder in a rut or simply treading water – it finds the Michigan natives at the top of their game as musicians. If anyone thought this band’s standing in heavy music was in jeopardy in recent times, Ritual more than cements the band’s legacy for beautifully brutal compositions.
2. Moonlight Equilibrium
3. On Stirring Seas of Salted Blood
4. Conspiring with the Damned
5. The Window
6. Carbonized in Cruciform
7. Den of the Picquerist
8. Malenchantments of the Necrosphere
9. A Grave Robbers Work
10. The Raven
11. Great Burning Nullifier
12. Blood in the Ink
The Black Dahlia Murder is an American Melodic Death Metal band from Waterford, Michigan, formed in 2000. Their band name is derived from the unsolved murder of Elizabeth Short, often referred to as Black Dahlia. Their music is a combination of metalcore and melodic death metal guitar riffs with deathcore vocals.... read more