Artist: The Black Dahlia Murder
Genre: Death Metal, Melodic Death Metal
Release Date: August 21, 2015
Publisher/Label: Metal Blade Records
1. Receipt - 4:02 6. The Fog - 3:50
2. Vlad, Son of the Dragon - 2:56 7. Stygiophobic - 3:14
3. Abysmal - 3:41 8. Asylum - 3:38
4. Re-Faced - 3:50 9. The Advent - 3:42
5. Threat Level No. 3 - 3:46 10. That Cannot Die Which Eternally Is Dead - 4:29
Abysmal is the seventh album by Detroit, MI melodic death metal band The Black Dahlia Murder, released on September 18, 2015. The Black Dahlia Murder has been long known as one of, if not the most consistent melodeath bands on the market since their label debut in 2003, because, although their style hasn't changed a bit, it hasn't kept them from keeping their material fresh. This album is the highly anticipated follow-up to 2013's Everblack. With Everblack being easily their most popular album (hitting 32 on the Billboard Top 200 as a non-mainstream metal band), it's an excellent album to draw stylistic references and parallels to, especially given that two of the members jumped on board with that project.
To start with vocals, Trevor Strnad is as on point as ever. He shares a quality with Adam Biggs of Rivers of Nihil and a few other death metal vocalists, in that I can actually very easily tune into what he's saying without much time invested into listening. This is, in fact, a great strength to Strnad especially, as his lyrics walk the line between very brutal and almost cheesy, but he always seems to consistently know where to draw the line. For example, the first track, "Receipt", discusses suicide in a fairly off-the-cuff manner, with the lyrics notfocusing on pain or self-pity, but rather on the bare act of suicide and provoking the listener to question if they could ever go through with it. Strnad tosses a bit of pretty dark humor on the end, his character telling his parents that they should have "kept the fucking receipt", so they could refund the costs wasted on him.
Track 5 ("Threat Level No. 3") is another vocally strong track that is very similar to the first track on Everblack, each with Strnad taking the role of a criminal. "In Hell Is Where She Waits For Me", the Everblack track, puts him in the shoes of the Black Dahlia murderer, basking in the (highly sexualized) glory of the kill during his victim's funeral. Meanwhile, "Threat Level No. 3" puts him in the place of a rapist, where he revels in the punishment the world has handed him for his crimes, relishing it in the same way that serial killers seem to when given media exposure. It gratifies and glorifies their actions, in their mind, giving them further pleasure and encouraging them, which is likely Strnad's point. Strnad delivers some of his most interesting vocal stylization on "Threat Level No. 3", with the first half of the chorus seeing him "ride" the lead guitar rhythm, so to speak, a la Iron Maiden's new song "The Red and the Black" , from Book of Souls. This not only catches the ear, but shows that he has some serious chops as a vocalist, given the large number of death metal vocalists that struggle to growl three or four words before needing a breath.
Instrumentally, the band is as tight and heavy as ever. Some might argue that lead guitarist Ryan Knight's solos might feel out of place on a track or two, with promo single "Vlad, Son of the Dragon" having caught a fair bit of flak when it was released. However, I personally enjoy Ryan's work and think that the solo on that song is actually pretty damn solid, with the tone blending the transition into the solo very well. He manages to give both tech lovers something to chew on without losing the melody that he creates through his main riffs. In turn, the riff work on each of the songs is absolutely phenomenal, never ceasing to impress.
Alan Cassidy, who has been on-board since Everblack, has really kept his drumming tight and forceful, keeping up with the work that Shannon Lucas put down before him. His work on "Asylum" is some of the best and most brutal playing on the whole album; fast, frenetic, and heavy as hell. Max Lavelle's bass also manages to impress, albeit in much more subtle ways. His bass is what really gives Ryan Knight and Brian Eschbach's (rhythm guitar and backing vocals) heavy riffs of the verses the meaty slug of their punch, making the chugging that leaves most bands feeling limp and lazy instead pound through the speakers in an extremely satisfying way.
The album is fantastic, and if you're a fan of the band, or looking for an entrance into melodeath, here's your album. Most bands can't pull the AC/DC/Motorhead thing off in the long term, but with each release, The Black Dahlia Murder proves more and more that they can continue to rip ass furiously, even as the years go on.
Verdict: Buy this album. Please.
Standout riffs: Abysmal, Re-Faced, Threat Level No. 3, The Fog, The Advent
Standout drumming: Receipt, Asylum, The Advent
Standout vocals: Receipt, Threat Level No. 3, The Fog, That Cannot Die Which Is Eternally Dead