Review Summary: The Black Dahlia Murder run out of ideas and try the style over substance approach.
One of the most common grievances I’ve heard from critics of Black Dahlia Murder is that their lead parts all sound the same. This is a valid point as John Kempainen seemed restricted to minor harmonic exercises, (although to Kempainen’s credit most of the lead parts did fit the mood of the tracks they featured on). Therefore the announcement of Kempainen’s departure and his subsequent replacement with former Arsis shredder Ryan Knight earlier this year raised the hopes of fans and critics alike that the band’s forthoming fourth release Deflorate
would breathe some fresh life into the band’s songwriting.
Strangely, it seems that Knight’s addition to the band has actually shifted the lead work to being the focal point of most of the tracks on Deflorate
and used to cover up the lack of any new overall song writing ideas. The band still relies on rhythm guitarist Brian Eschbaum’s tried and tested single note Gothenburg riffing and black/death tremolo picking hybrid song writing style, but it is this reliance on a formula that has been used since the band’s debut album Unhallowed
that ultimately makes the majority of tracks blend together and become relatively indistinguishable from each other. The only area of the guitar work which provides some variance and identity to the tracks is Knight’s lead work. With a mixture of scale types, two handed tapping and apreggios unused by the departed Kempainen, Knight provides an interesting lead section throughout the album, but while these lead sections provide a new novelty to listeners for the first few listens, there is the eventual realisation that without the lead work the guitars are simply nothing but average. However, the album’s closing track “I Will Return” does well to combine the two guitar areas, with Knight also providing two of the most enjoyable solos on the album and the strongest track in terms of replay value.
Vocalist Trevor Strnad’s lyrics have always been a strong point in the band’s music and he fails to disappoint on this album. Over the album’s course Strnad’s poetic, loquacious style covers a wide range of morbid topics ranging from deformity and suspended animation to cities of the dead. The vocalist has also stated that for this album he took a goofy, shock satanic approach to the lyrics and this approach has provided some interesting and fun lyrics that listener’s know aren’t serious but still work well in creating an evil tone for the band’s music, making it a fun listening departure. Strnad has made a slight change to his delivery; his highs still remain but his gutturals have become, well, less guttural and he also tends to stick with one style for longer periods. This approach may aid in making the band more accessible to those who couldn’t enjoy the vocalist’s more schizophrenic performance on the band’s previous releases, particularly 2007’s Nocturnal
. However it should be noted that Strnad’s delivery has become more noticeably strained (a trait which first reared its head on the aforementioned album).
also introduced fans to new drummer Shannon Lucas (formerly of All That Remains) and his technical approach to the kit helped to provide one of the most entertaining drum performances of the band’s career. Lucas’ performance on this album is slightly reigned in but there are still the occasional machine gun double bass triplet sections and skin breaking drum fills scattered through the tracks and Lucas’ performance still commands the listener’s attention and provides a solid backbone and metronome for the guitarists to work over. Bassist Bart Williams resumes his normal role of following the guitar lines and occasionally stepping away to provide his own innovations to the tracks but his overall purpose is to work with Lucas’ drums in providing a solid low end backing for the guitarists.
Jason Suecof again returns to the producer's chair and he does a decent job; ensuring that all the instruments are well balanced with Strnad’s vocal mixed highly and also manages to maintain a low end solid enough to test listener’s speakers. However, no matter what how well he mixes the instruments together, Suecof cannot cover up the uninspired songs they are performing.
In short, Deflorate
is an average start with their new recruit for The Black Dahlia Murder, providing just enough to warrant limited re-listens but lacks the impact that its predecessor, Nocturnal
, had. This results in an album which adds more lead variation but poorer overall song writing ability, providing nothing that isn’t already available from other bands within the genre. Deflorate
almost comes off as a Nocturnal
v1.5 with added solos. It also suggests that the band’s next release could go either way. I would suggest that the band try to branch out and add some variation to their song writing in order to prevent stagnating any further and provide a more engaging listen and enough to differentiate themselves from the current metal crowd. I would urge new comers to the band check out Unhallowed
and avoid this as it is an example of a band who have attempted to add some diversity to their sound through a new guitarist and ended up treading water.