REVIEW: The Black Dahlia Murder – Ritual
Band: The Black Dahlia Murder
Label: Metal Blade
Genre: Melodic Death Metal
The Black Dahlia Murder have always been labeled as the ‘black sheep’ of the melodeath metal family. Although mostly fitting into the genre, their music was never accepted by the veteran metalheads due to the other portion of the fanbase (namely, the scenesters). Although their previous release Deflorate was good, it was clear that new guitar-wielder Ryan Knight stuck out in the band with his technical solo-style. Now, the band are a much more cohesive unit, with Eschbach announcing the music as a 50/50 split between him and Knight.
In their 5th album Ritual the choruses are catchier like on “Moonlight Equilibrium”, the riffs are more technical, but they have certainly not forgotten their darker side, as can be seen in “On Stirring Seas Of Salted Blood”, where Williams’ bass is actually audible for once. Lucas is a beast on the drums, keeping things interesting while Knight weaves his way through Arsis-like solos. There is a large amount of variety in the songs, and some surprise appearances: the piano and acoustic guitar in “Carbonized In Cruciform” and strings in “Blood In The Ink” work surprisingly well in spicing up an already diverse album, while the band’s bash at grindcore in “Den Of The Picquerist” is miles better than “Death Panorama” was.
Trevor Strnad has finally succumbed to a weed psychosis; there is no other way to explain the utterly insane lyrics on Ritual. “Moonlight Equilibrium” marks a return to lupine themes, when “you’ll feel the pull of the moonlight equilibrium/pitch-black transmission of the soul/instincts within me rise”, whereas “The Grave Robber’s Work” depicts a mischievous sense of humor with the lines “the grave robber’s work is never done/it’s up all night and sleep all day/the hours are shit with hell to pay”. Each song is a very distinctive ritual, from celebrating Samhain to raising a golem. Strnad vocals, often a dividing factor in the band’s work, have not changed much since Deflorate, but he utilizes more of his brutal lows which should please some fans, and the shrieking highs sound more maniacal than before.
Ritual marks a shift for the first time from 10 tracks to 12, and unfortunately there are two sub-par tracks here. Coincidence or not, “Conspiring With The Damned” and “Malenchanments Of The Necrosphere” are markedly weaker tracks than the rest; the former contains a pointless slowed-down section with some spoken-word and the latter is a grooving chugfest which is then redone in better quality in “Great Burning Nullifier”. Also, although “Blood In The Ink” is a good track, it’s the first time in TBDM history where the final track has not been jaw-dropping for me, and ultimately is a little unfulfilling as an album closer.
All in all, Ritual is set to truly make a name for themselves on both sides of the divide, whilst also being their most experimental and technical yet. For those who were reluctant to fully try The Black Dahlia Murder, there is no better time than now; the album feels fresh and in a new direction, one which I hope the band pursue even further next time.
Song to try: