Make it Habitual
The Black Dahlia Murder have released five albums since 2003, one every two years like clockwork. With each release they grow a little more, separating themselves from their influences—a good way to ensure longevity, and keep fans guessing and wanting more. With their latest, Ritual, the evolution continues to be evident in their songcraft and tight ensemble performance.
The Detroit death metal quintet sound like they belong in Scandinavia and look like a bunch of guys you play football with in your neighborhood: stocky, short-haired, only slightly menacing. As much as they have been influenced by their European counterparts, 2009’s Deflorate and now Ritual (2011) show real growth.
There is a hint of melody in Trevor Strnad’s formidable growling and screaming—not enough to mistake the music for pop, but enough to keep you hanging on. The real stars on the album are guitarists Ryan Knight (who replaced John Kempainen in 2009) and Brian Eschbach. Together, they weave precise, intricate, Testament-like riffs that are so impressive, you wonder if Strnad’s perceived melody lines are aural illusions. Standout tracks with even more oomph and forethought include “Moonlight Equilibrium,” “The Window,” and “The Raven.”
However, there is an unfortunate error in judgement in the final mix. The aforementioned beautiful and distinct guitars are drowned out by Shannon Lucas’ blast bass drum and by Strnad once his vocals come in. Overall, Ritual delivers; no song on here is weak. The Black Dahlia Murder have already proven that they possess the talent to play with the big boys, and after almost a decade, they’ve become some of the big boys on their own.