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ALBUM: The Black Dahlia Murder – ‘Absymal’
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ALBUM: The Black Dahlia Murder – ‘Absymal’

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It is not with ear-shattering shrieks and speedy guitars that The Black Dahlia Murder begin their seventh studio album ‘Abysmal’ but with an ominously-building set of classical strings. Nothing stays soft for long, though, as the track ‘Receipt’ explodes into a careening cacophony of fiersome double-bass, ever-changing rhythms and energetic melodeath riffs.

Following the experimental assault of ‘Everblack’, ‘Abysmal’ is just as aptly-titled – It is a depth-filled, dark adventure into the fantastically insane and brutally bizarre. What more could be expected from a band who wrote a song about masturbating to the idea of homicide? TBDM are one such band who are some seriously incredible songwriters but when it comes time to cover lyrical topics NOTHING is off-limits. Mad-as-a-batter vocalist Trevor Strnad’s interest in historical murders and all things death has been a big part of what sets TBDM apart from their peers, aside from their incredible skill-set. His Olde-English vocabulary is just as intriguing and gives the band’s calculated sound even more dynamic.

Dynamic is certainly a big part of ‘Abysmal’, perhaps moreso than any of the band’s past releases. Finding the perfect balance of catchy melodies, ridiculous story-telling and brute force, songs such as ‘Re-faced’, an ode to a rather unfortunate soul who gets their face torn off and replaced with another’s, are just as hummable as they are intense. In particular this track’s bridge is one of the band’s most immediate pit-starters and the build-up to this is anything but cautious. Circle-pitters have plenty to be excited about from a song like ‘Threat Level No. 3’ while more analytical metal listeners will adore ‘Asylum’s ascending guitar-work. ‘The Fog’s near accessible melodicism screams more AC/DC than At The Gates and ‘Stygiophobic’ wants nothing more than to pummel someone, anyone into the dirt with heaviness.

Not only is every song fun to listen to and varied, but the flexibility is backed by a consistent group of talented instrumentalists. Specifically drummer Alan Cassidy fits like a glove with the band’s sound, despite this only being his second rodeo with TBDM. ‘The Advent’s sense of groove provided by Mr. Cassidy’s playing is simply brilliant and makes the huge melodic bridge that much more contrasting, which is where Brian Eschbach and Ryan Knight’s street-cred comes in. They are quite simply a brilliant guitar duo, as menacing as they are masterful. ‘That Cannot Die Which Eternally Is Dead’ may be redundantly titled but the pure evil to be heard throughout this track is no joke. When the solo arrives it is slow-burning, much like any amount of time spent in
Hell we imagine would feel like. And when you hear ‘Re-faced’s ripper of a guitar shredathon, the title of the song may describe your current necessities.

As a whole it is to be argued that The Black Dahlia Murder stand as one of the most reliably great bands in metal today. Having played this sound for ten years they have refused to change with the trends and instead focused on being the best damned musicians they could be. That’s why when Trevor Strnad screams “I am but a shadow of what was!” in ‘Abysmal’ you believe him, and when Ryan Knight decides to shred a good long one you feel it. With this specific album if TBDM aren’t finally hailed into the pantheon of great songwriters, with their tasteful usage of tempo changes and death metal drama, someone somewhere isn’t giving them their full due. The few line-up changes have aided in the band finding their identity and becoming more cohesive. They’ve come a long way since ‘Nocturnal’ and the early days. At this point when a Black Dahlia album drops it is assuredly a solid death metal release and ‘Abysmal’ is no exception.

Matthew Powers I write reviews for CaliberTV and enjoy the existence of music.

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