Review Summary: Cannibal Corpse Meets the Wolfman
The Black Dahlia Murder have never unleashed a horror the likes of this before. Despite having released only three full albums, the BDM have already reached the peak of their melodic death metal perfection, and it's name is this, Nocturnal.
Nocturnal is The Black Dahlia Murder's third release through Metal Blade records, and it's a landslide, two hurricanes, and a Godzilla attack ahead of it's two predecessors (2003's Unhallowed and 2005's Miasma). A good bloody chunk of the progress goes to vocalist Trevor Strnad, for polishing his previously raspy high scream into a sleek screech comparable to Robert Plant channeling Gollum. Strnad's schizoid approach to vocal acrobatics couples his shriek with a low growl that can only be described as belching.
Backing Trevor Strnad's throat-ripping, is a monstrous hell-beast consisting of guitarists Brian Eschbach and John Kempainen, bassist Ryan Williams, and drummer Shannon Lucas. The fretwork of Eschbach and Kempainen is nothing short of crunching. Their ever-shifting style of melodic mini-solos, dropping into string-crushing low chords creates a drooling, jagged-toothed maw of a wall-o'-sound. However, the true cornerstone of the BDM and head of the beast is backing man Shannon Lucas. Throughout the album he pummels the tar out of his set and shifts unrelentingly into machine-gun blast beats.
Even through their technical mastery, the Murder bring something else to the table: melody. It's an odd word to find in an extreme metal album, but on Nocturnal, main writers Strnad and Eschbach really pull out the melodic part from melodic death metal. The songwriting is exceptional, and each song is easily distinguishable from the next. From the armageddon screamer Everything Went Black, to the disturbing, metal-style love song Deathmask Divine, each song is a gem to be admired. The first single, What A Horrible Night to Have a Curse, is as good as it gets. Strnad screams his larynx out and Eschbach and Kempainen bounce melodic chord progressions as Lucas busts holes with his sticks. At the end, Trevor layers shriek after shriek into a climax worthy of being bellowed from atop Dracula's castle tower. The title track brings the sum-total of the album into a churning cauldron of brutality and melody. The opening guitar pounds on your eardrums almost as hard as Shannon rips on his drums. Trevor Strnad spits syllables a mile a minute before falling into his demonic low growl.
What truly makes Nocturnal a disembodied head above the rest, is the fact that it puts everything good about The Black Dahlia Murder, and puts it all in perfect place in only ten tracks. While Unhallowed and Miasma were spitting, hissing heaps of insane dual vocals and instrumental work to kill us all, Nocturnal is more precise, more polished. Mature, if you will. With Cannibal Corpse Meets the Wolfman lyrics, and hammering melodic death metal, the BDM have perfected their sound, and in an astoundingly short time. This is The Black Dahlia Murder at their absolute best.
Recommended: Everything Went Black, What A Horrible Night to Have A Curse, Virally Yours, Nocturnal, Deathmask Divine, Climactic Degradation.