Review Summary: Anniversary of a modern metal milestone2 of 8 thought this review was well written
I distinctly remember when The Black Dahlia Murder’s (TBDM) debut hit the metal scene back in 2003. At the time, metalcore and deathcore had yet to become the established genres they are today. The metal press was baffled by the intensity of Unhallowed and wasn’t quite sure what to make of this new band. First it was labeled it as Gothenburg metal. Later it was categorized as melodic death metal, metalcore and deathcore. The fact of the matter is that TBDM performs TBDM metal. There is never any question about whose music you are listening to when TBDM is on. And how many bands can honestly say that they cemented their own distinct sound with their debut album. I can’t think of any. Anyhow, one immediate response to the release of Unhallowed was the dividing of the metal community. Either you loved this new exiting band, or you absolutely loathed it. It’s unnecessary to underline which group yours truly identifies with, suffice to say that it has become one of the most devoted fanbases in modern times.
If asked to describe TBDM's sound, I would perhaps call it a hybrid of melodic death metal and deathcore. The melodic vocal lines and intense instrumentation leads me to conclude that TBDM has one foot in each camp. Returning to my first impression of the album, following the promising buildup from the intro the band unleashed the floodgates with Funeral Thirst. The blending of frenetic high pitched screams and guttural growls was the first distinction that hit me. I had never heard anything like it, either before or after, and the song still stands as one of my TBDM favorites. The vocals weren’t the only thing which grabbed my attention though. The intense instrumentation and brutality of it all was like the best out of two worlds. The melodies were borderline melodic death metal, while the technicality was borderline old school death metal. How anyone could not be blown away by this opener was beyond comprehension.
Other favorites from the album are Elder Misanthropy, When the Last Grave has Emptied and the incredible Closed Casket Requiem. Unhallowed might not be the perfect TBDM album, but as a debut it is undoubtedly impressive. Compared to later albums by the band, I’d rank it a top three next to Nocturnal and Ritual. In hindsight, the only downside with Unhallowed today is the production, which really doesn’t do the material justice. Already on their sophomore album Miasma, TBDM had upgraded their production values considerably. In a perfect world the band would re-record their debut to commemorate the 10 year anniversary of the album. What better way to honor their roots than to present their career’s spark with the band's current production standards.
As mentioned above, not many bands have paved the way for their own distinct sound like TBDM. Wheather you love them or hate them doesn’t really matter, as their sound is so incontestably unique. Yes, they may not have changed the formula much over the last decade, but TBDM deserves all fame and accolades coming their way. Granted the albums and songs might seem repetitive if compared to each other, but then again, when the quality of the material is consistently high, there is really no reason to complain. AC/DC has done it since the 70’s, Manowar has done it since the 80’s, and Amon Amarth has done it since the 90’s, so what’s wrong with TBDM doing it from the 2000’s. These are all bands that cemented their sound, either on their debut or a few albums out, and now are the kings within their respective genres. TBDM is a modern metal phenomenon whether you like it or not. Recognize!!!