The Black Dahlia Murder is without a doubt a Top 5 band for me. I honestly don’t know when it happened. When I started listening to them I never considered them to be that special, they were head and shoulders over the melodeath glut that was being puked out in the early 2000s, but a Top 5 favorite band? I didn’t see that coming. Still, they always had workmanlike consistency and solid writing that I admired. With time, however, their albums have stuck to my playlist. When I was bored with new music, I would throw on Miasma or Nocturnal; good, solid, addictive songs with great playing and intensity. Albums like Miasma and Unhallowed were albums I loved, but it was around Ritual that these Detroit natives hit the next level going from great to excellent. Adding Ryan Knight—who unfortunately left the band prior to the recording of Nightbringers—was an incredible addition to the band. With their game elevated, they crafted the platonic ideal of modern melodic death metal: fast with sick riffs, amazing solos and refined compositions that even TBDM hadn’t exhibited earlier in their career.

The operative question, then, was “What will Nightbringers be?” At first blush, it reminded me of Miasma more than any record since. While it thankfully doesn’t share the production, it is a short, brutish affair, packed with Alan Cassidy’s ball-crushing blasts, Trevor Strnad’s trademark alternating screams and growls, and more trem-picked melodic leads from Eschbach and new kid Brandon Ellis than you can shake a an inverted cross at. There’s a relentless feel to Nightbringers which differentiates it from its predecessors. The whole thing clocks in at a remarkably speedy 33 minutes, which is a perfect ADHD-sized bite for an Angry Metal Guy with a lot on his mind and a dwindling stash of Adderrall.

As is their way, The Black Dahlia Murder drops riff after riff after riff upon the listener. Nightbringers features some of the sharpest riffs in the band’s career. The opening trems on “As Good as Dead” rip fiercely, while closer “The Lonely Deceased” features an Amon Amarth opening so sharp that it will make the Viking warriors check their war chest to see if they were raided by a raging horde of Detroitians (Detroitites? Detroitans? Detroitistas?1). Hat-tipping Miasma, the album’s epic closer “The Lonely Dead” even features a borderline black metal blast that’s hard not to love.

It’s cool to hear the kind of intensity that you don’t expect of a band on its 8th release. While Nightbringers walks some familiar paths—the sound is definitely classic The Black Dahlia Murder—it’s surprisingly fresh. Be it “King of the Nightworlds,” which features a medieval jig-worthy melody that I’ve been whistling for weeks, or the opener “Widowmaker” which evokes the band’s earliest albums in composition and performance, Nightbringers is an intense, brutal ride that demonstrates what pros these guys are. This album is tight, fast, blasty and polished. But because of the perfect balance sharp riffs, gonzo intensity, and just enough dynamics to keep listeners on their toes, the pieces just seem to fall into place.

The Black Dahlia Murder 2017

The album’s biggest problem is that after Everblack and RitualNightbringers has a sound that feels a bit passé. While no one performs this sound better than The Black Dahlia Murder, their foregoing records saw them challenging their compositions and playing in ways that I think went underrated by the metal scene. Knight’s loss looms over the album, particularly on solos where his genuine virtuosity is irreplaceable. While Brandon Ellis is a great player who is more than capable of shredding, his solos are not the pure, outside-the-box art that I have come to associate with TBDM’s most recent work. This isn’t an indictment of Nightbringers; this material is first-class melodeath and a worthy addition to the band’s discography. I just can’t help but feel the tiniest bit letdown.

Nightbringers makes me miss the ‘90s: when men were men and melodic death metal was heavy. This album reasserts once again that melodic death metal isn’t dead, and that it can barrel along at breakneck speeds, be heavy, and engaging as hell. If you love melodic death—or melodic black metal—this album is certainly one of the best you’re going to get this year. Nightbringers is chock full of awesome songs and sick riffs that will affirm your faith in one of metal’s premier bands once again.

Rating: Very Good
DR: 6 | Format Reviewed: v0 mp3
Label: Metal Blade
Websites: theblackdahliamurder.bandcamp.com | tbdmofficial.com | facebook.com/theblackdahliamurderofficial
Releases Worldwide: October 6th, 2017


By: Dr. Wvrm

Halloween, 2008. A pre-med Wvrm’s first show. Children of Bodom, in prime form. Obituary, aging but still legends. Between the Buried & Me, just emerging as juggernauts. Any of them could have stolen the show. The band that did, however, did so not because of their high-energy performance or Scooby Gang costumes, not because their frontman sported thick-rimmed specks just like mine, but because, in 30 minutes, they dismantled what I thought modern melodic death metal should be and showed me what it could be: not simply a slick keyboard delivery system or somber sadboy outfit, but something gruesome, despicable, and, best of all, fun. The following decade would witness The Black Dahlia Murder summit the American metal scene, but that night, their panache and pit-hound mentality would matter more than the bone-rattling riffs and exploratory songcraft that would become their legacy. Nightbringers is a testament to that legacy, a hit in a catalog of hits and TBDM‘s best work since Nocturnal.

The Black Dahlia Murder 2017

The bulk of TBDM‘s work – Nightbringers included –  fits neatly under the same sonic guidelines: a suffocating blanket of non-stop riffs, melodic enough to be memorable but never without death metal swagger; an unflagging drum performance that only adds to the crushing atmosphere; Trevor Strnad’s star-maker vocals, conversely dynamic and disgusting. Opener “Widowmaker” hacks and slashes its way through a song that fits neatly under that umbrella. Strnad’s performance easily bounces between a wonderful balance of pugnacious shrieks and gruesome gutturals. Brian Eschbach and new lead man Brandon Ellis (Arsis) build their riffs around an heightened sense of urgency, even compared to previous efforts. Alan Cassidy beats the skins like a pro wrestler who wandered into his UFC octagon. On its surface, Nightbringers could easily be chalked up as yet another solid odd-year eruption from melodeath’s Old Faithful. That would be a mistake.

Since Nocturnal, The Black Dahlia Murder have seemingly made a point to continuously expand their abilities. The Michiganders sank time and effort into ensuring their technicality and breadth of influences never stagnated. The result produced albums imbued with individual identity despite ostensibly similar offerings. Nightbringers is no different, but what sets it apart here is its execution. Eschbach and Ellis clearly brought their A-game, as each riff seems stronger than the last. Ripper “Matriarch” throws things back to Nocturnal2 with its breakneck pace and single-worthy riffs. The pulsing rhythm of “Nightbringers” melts faces from its first bar, paired perfectly with technical gang-shouter “Jars.” The monstrous deathcore drop of “Catacomb Hecatomb” might scuffle under less capable supervision, but Strnad’s gruesome pukes and the band’s willingness sell the moment turn it into a true backbreaker. The composition is lithe and nearly immaculate, excising filler and diversion from 33 minutes of metal as trim and focused as they come. The result is the rare release that not only leaves me wanting more, but compels me to flip it back on immediately.

Those concerned after the departure of fret maestro Ryan Knight (ex-Arsis) need not worry: Brandon Ellis proves himself as a more than capable replacement. His solos eschew wankery without sacrificing technicality, slotting in so well that they often feel like extensions of the core direction. His riffs extend the Arsis influence further than Knight’s ever did, ensuring that the album’s frantic nature never becomes too dominant. Ellis’ Arsis background is never as apparent as on the hefty grooves of “As Good as Dead,” but “Kings of the Nightworld” deftly incorporates it into riff and solo both. Strnad’s preternatural ability to flow in and out of verses with just the right cadence and vocal texture elevates the latter track to highlight status. Yes, Strnad’s vocals, like Max Lavelle’s bass, could stand to be clearer in the mix. Yes, the strength of “lengthy” five-minute finale “The Lonely Deceased” wanes compared to the rest of the album. But it’s hard to quibble with a result this strong so deep into an already accomplished career.

As TBDM have gained fans, so too have they gained momentum. However, after Abysmal‘s short-of-great showing, I wondered if that sucking sound was Angry Metal Guy‘s Law of Diminishing Recordings™, vacuuming up all joy and wonder in the world. Instead, we get a next level performance from a band that was already a cut above. Nightbringers is the culmination of a decade’s worth of experience and innovation, the climax of a career that continually defies even the loftiest of expectations. The year end conversation was already crowded. The Black Dahlia Murder just blew the whole damn thing up.

 


Rating: 4.5/5.0
DR: 6 | Format Reviewed: v0 mp3
Label: Metal Blade
Websites: theblackdahliamurder.bandcamp.com | tbdmofficial.com | facebook.com/theblackdahliamurderofficial
Releases Worldwide: October 6th, 2017

Show 2 footnotes

  1. Whatever, it’s only two guys who are from Detroit anymore anyway…
  2. Speaking of which, the return of Necrolord for the single color album art is long overdue.