The Black Dahlia Murder, whose upcoming tour will bring them to Montreal September 23, fit the 21st century heavy metal mold to a tee. Loud, tight and virtuosic, with a seemingly indefatigable monster-movie vocalist, the drums blast, the guitars are tuned low and the production is as slick and shiny as Marilyn Manson’s pants. Still, they can command the attention of even the most jaded metal fans.
On their new album Deflorate, released this past Tuesday on Metal Blade, BDM demonstrates how modern metal can evolve without eschewing tradition. They take elements from new and old-school metal sub-genres and make them work together without feeling forced. “Writing for us is a really natural thing,” guitarist Brian Eschbach tells me over the phone as he packs his bags.
The tour, as well as the new album, feature new guitarist Ryan Knight, whom Eschbach is thrilled to talk about: “Ryan is always raring to go, and has tons of ideas to contribute.” While previous releases were written mostly by Eschbach, Deflorate was more collaborative, which likely contributed to its eclecticism. Not to say that the album is unfocused; it’s cohesive and impressively succinct at thirty-four minutes. But in those thirty-four minutes a lot of ground is covered.
The moment the opening riff of “Black Valor” tears out of the speakers, you hear it: thrash. Far from the insincere sounding thrash revivalists stinking up metal shows these days, Black Dahlia Murder’s riffs morph into death and black metal while drummer Shannon Lucas sneaks old-school metal grooves in between machine-like blast beats. When the guitar solos kicks in, your mind is filled with images of great poodle-haired guitarists of yore. “Marty Friedman was definitely a name that was thrown around a few times,” says Brian. Melodic guitar pyrotechnics make appearances on every track.
Though thrash, death and black metal are the most prominent, numerous other metal sub-genres are represented. The driving “chug” of down-tuned guitars, a modern metal hallmark, is put to good use on “Denounced, Disgraced”, while “Christ Deformed” displays prog elements, with odd time riffs outlining strong harmonic movement. The whole thing is revved up with the blistering energy that occasionally leads to BDM being mislabelled as a post-hardcore band.
The secret that makes it all work, however, is so old-fashioned that it’s been all but forgotten by most extreme bands: songwriting. “We’re trying to keep the tradition of the song,” Brian explains. “There are a lot of heavy bands out there right now who write a lot of great parts, but you don’t always feel like you’re listening to a song. We try to keep each part focused and write parts that are going to complement each other.”
Don’t let this fool you though. The Black Dahlia Murder doesn’t expect to be hitting the mainstream any time soon. “It’s great that the genre can be seen as legitimate in the artistic world, because it wasn’t for a long time. […] But I don’t think it will ever go fully mainstream. A lot of people still aren’t ready.” Nonetheless, there’s no denying that their popularity is on the rise, and it wouldn’t surprise me to see them replace Lamb of God as the extreme metal party band du jour (especially with dramatic tracks like “I Will Return”). Get a copy of this disc for one of those kids with the DragonForce shirts who hangs out at Steve’s Music, and watch his mind get blown.
The Black Dahlia Murder’s current tour has them sandwiched between Skeleton Witch and Children of Bodom, and hits Metropolis Wednesday, September 23. Be sure to check them out – and if you’re not sick of Children of Bodom’s hyper-clean lead guitar and new wave synth sounds by now then, hell, stick around for them too.
Check out the bonus DVD track on their new CD Deflorate, now available in stores.