Review Summary: A decent debut album that manages to overcome its array of flaws, to an extent.The Black Dahlia Murder
. Never have I had such a mixed bag of emotions revolving around a band. When I first heard of the band, the people that I associated with it were common scenesters who worshipped the likes of Parkway Drive
and As I Lay Dying
. So before even listening to the music, I immediately filed the band away as generic garbage. This was short-lived however, because I got my hands on Unhallowed
, and had a listen. I was instantly taken aback. Fast, furious, and in a way melodic, the album really got my attention. After a period of listening to it off and on, I concluded that although the album was initially good, and still provided a good listen, it did not have any real longevity or groundbreaking aspects to it. I still occasionally like to put on the album, but it isn’t in any danger of being worn out.
The first thing you’ll notice as the intro track ends and ‘Funeral Thirst’ begins, is that the music is very aggressive. Even so, the band still manages to incorporate a lot of melody in their songs whilst still sounding incredibly heavy. By melody though, do not expect there to be acoustic interludes, or mellow moments at all on this album. It is just straightforward beating your face into the ground, albeit in a melodic manner, similar to that of Slaughter of the Soul
. What I liked most about the album was the dark and brooding feel it had. Even though it was void of atmosphere, it still managed to portray a sense of evil through the music.
Musically, the album has its highs and lows. A lot of the riffs are very good, and I really enjoyed a lot of the songs on here due to the catchy yet heavy riffing. The solos, on the other hand, are really simple. Other than adding a little more melody to the songs, the solos are not really anything spectacular. The bass, like far too much metal these days, doesn’t really do anything but add to the guitars. You can’t really hear it at all. All you’ll notice is how it makes the guitars and drums sound a lot deeper, and heavier. Finally, the drums are one of the good points of the album. I’m no expert on drums, but I was generally impressed with all of the drumming. Relentless blast beats, quick fills, it was definitely a major factor for me in liking this album. However, while the drumming is good, the vocals are a very hot topic. I’ve had many discussions with friends about the vocals, and there is a lot of variation in opinion of the vocals.
Trevor Strnad is the vocalist, and he has a unique approach to harsh vocals. He continuously switches between high pitched screaming and a very low growl throughout each song. To be honest, Unhallowed’s
vocals will either make or break the album for you. A lot of people are put off the band because of the slightly different vocal formula, while others like it. Objectively, Strnad is decent enough, but there are definitely flaws with his voice. His high-pitched screaming seems to break every now and then, like on the track ‘Elder Misanthropy’ (during the chorus I think it was). However, other than the occasional break, the high pitch works well with the music. The real flaw though is with the low voice. I do not really mind it, and it isn’t so bad, but it really lacks any sort of grunt behind it. Compared to any other established death metal vocalist, the growls on this album are very weak.
In terms of the songs, there aren’t any real shockers on the album. Most of them are good, with a select few rising above the rest. The two songs I enjoyed the most were ‘The Blackest Incarnation’ and ‘Thy Horror Cosmic’. The only flaw about the songs overall is that it’s hard to distinguish between them. Before I had become reasonably acquainted with the album, I would not be able to tell which track I was listening to just from the song. So in that respect, you could say that the entire album is a hit or a miss. If you do not like a particular song on the album, you’ll most probably not like any of the others. Conversely, if you like a song, you’ll probably like the rest.
Overall, the album is definitely an enjoyable listen, and a good effort for a debut LP. I do think that this album is better than both of the following albums, Miasma
. In light of that, it probably isn’t a good sign to see that the band’s albums are getting progressively worse. Nonetheless, I enjoyed this album and I do recommend it.
- Nice balance between aggression and melody
- Not really any ‘filler’ songs
- Unique vocal style
- Solos aren’t anything special
- The vocals have prominent flaws
- It doesn’t hold interest for very long
The Blackest Incarnation
Thy Horror Cosmic
When the Last Grave Has Emptied