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Latecomers are often wont to being the subject of derision, as many like to think that originality is the only good thing that can come of new adherents entering the scene. Nevertheless, the less original a band is, the more difficult it becomes to overcome said handicap with quality of execution. There is a particular scorn that comes to any band associated with the metalcore scene, in part because of the blatant musical devices borrowed from the Gothenburg melodeath scene, itself seen as being derivative of older practices stretching back to the early 80s in some respects. The Black Dahlia Murder had the unfortunate disposition of being lumped in with the likes of All That Remains, As I Lay Dying and company, perhaps understandably so given their entry into the field coincided with most of them, but their sound is actually far closer to the original Swedish approach of the mid to late 90s than the rest.
This is a band that largely accomplishes a distinctive sound by merging the relentless aggression typified by The Crown with a lot of the methodical melodic devices heard out of In Flames, resulting in something that is both catchy and chaotic. Normally this approach would prove to be masterfully effective in much the same way that "Deathrace King" or "Crowned In Terror" would, but insofar as this band's sophomore offering "Miasma" is concerned, the results are not as potent. Part of the issue lay in an overly predictable songwriting pattern which is actually only slightly more intricate than a typical metalcore album, but free of the stylistic devices that would make it sound like All That Remains, such as whiny clean vocals and weak chorus sections where the thrashing elements are stripped away and a slow plodding, limp-wristed stream of chords ensues like a less than tasteful nod to mid-90s Machine Head. This is definitely more along the lines of a crusher when in comes to character of sound, but it sort of rides at full speed in short bursts of roughly 3 minutes a piece, with few surprises.
But for the lack of anything out right groundbreaking, this is by every measure a competent reaffirmation of what was going on in Gothenburg between 1997 and 2001. Particular fits of catchy goodness with a truly wild streak can be found in "I'm Charming", "A Vulgar Picture" and "Spite Suicide", each one loaded up with high octane thrashing and digitally precise blasting at warp speed. The vocal work has sort of a 2-dimensional approach, largely mixing in a decent impression of Tomas Lindberg's higher pitched shouts with a deeper, barking character that's a bit punchier and more hardcore sounding than John Tardy, but has some elements of Obituary's front man as well. Similarly the lead guitars take a short but sweet approach, showcasing an ability to be just flashy enough to grab the ears for a few seconds, but generally avoid becoming heavily indulgent. For any comparisons in terms of high tempo and extremely ambitious drum work to that of Dragonforce or Children Of Bodom, the same can not be said for any overt guitar noodling.
It is definitely understandable why The Black Dahlia Murder has a fairly strong following, especially in the U.S. as we have few truly great melodic death metal bands to speak of and a heap of half-assed metalcore to burn. However, this doesn't really get into the same league as the grand offerings of The Crown or At The Gates, and it works off an idea set that is pretty limited and doesn't quite carry the album through the entire 33 minute duration. It's name speaks to an olden idea of disease being transmitted through a sort of air-borne noxious poison, almost akin to a death-mist of some sort. To steal a concept from Rob Reiner's classic 80s adventure/comedy "The Princess Bride", this is the sort of album that will leave you mostly dead, but not all dead.
After the impressive debut that was 2003's Unhallowed, melodic death metallers The Black Dahlia Murder released Miasma in 2005. This is a huge step up from that album, but they still aren't quite reaching their full potential.
Continuing in a similar vein to Unhallowed with more songwriting and structure sensibility, the guitarists John Kempainen and Brian Eschbach play solid and catchy tremolo picked melodic leads and impressive but not overzealous solos. The riffs in songs The tone is also pretty unique for the genre. The riffs themselves range from fast, almost thrashy pieces to some slower parts. Now when I say slower, I don't mean chuggy breakdown slow (they aren't deathcore, they weren't deathcore, they never will be deathcore).
The drums once again consist of blast beats and double bass abuse, but Zach Gibson incorporates other elements as well, such as fills. The bass is actually there, but it doesn't do anything particularly notable, unfortunately. Once again, Trevor Strnad is showing everyone his range of throaty death grunts, but his shrieks sound much less raspy this time around, and he can still switch between the two styles effortlessly.
The production is also better this time around. Much less raw and clear, which is probably why the bass was more noticeable here than on Unhallowed.
This is an improvement from the debut on all fronts, but it still doesn't show TBDM's full potential as musicians, so I wouldn't start here if you're looking for somewhere to begin with this band. Get one of the next two instead.
Highlights: A Vulgar Picture, Flies, I'm Charming, Miasma
The Black Dahlia Murder seems to get bunched in with the metalcore scene, which unfortunately is not correct in the slightest. They have some metalcore to them, but they are mostly solid melodic death metal. Their second album Miasma is similar to their previous album Unhallowed but improves on it what if failed at, and that was the drumming and the song structures both of which are majorly improved. Miasma is a breath of fresh air in my music library, breaking me away from the typical 3-chord punk from the 80's, the d-beat filled crust bands, and the tremolo picking blast beat inspired old school death metal that I love.
The major improvement in this album really is the drumming, it isn't just blast beats and half blasts, there is creativity with the bass drums, fills, and snare hits. I feel blast beats are a major cop out, and fortunately the blast beats used in this album go well with the riffs and aren't just some filler beat used. The riffs aren't overly melodic and have a really nice sound. There are some great tremolo picked riffs as well as a few cool "slower" riffs. The solo's work really well, not too flashy, but not boring as hell which is what I look for in a solo. The only thing I don't like is that the riffs change a bit too fast, and it is hard for me to remember how songs go. The vocals go from rugged low grunts to wicked snarls, for some reason I like the vocals on Miasma more then Unhallowed, but the difference may be very little. The production on here is as clean as a whistle which is a good thing after you've been listening to lo-fi grind, punk, and metal for a few weeks in a row.
Some people have a problem with modern metal, saying it doesn't have soul, is too technical, or is just boring. Whenever I find a modern metal band that I like, I stick with them. Finding old school metal is easy as hell, it's already out there, and the bigger bands stick out like sore thumbs. With the modern stuff, looking can be tiring, and can sometimes end up with lackluster results. Luckily, Black Dahlia Murder is a great modern metal band and are pretty popular at the same time. I love old school death metal, but if this kind of music were to replace it I wouldn't feel to bad because this is great stuff on its own.
I do not think that this album should be considered metalcore, and if so, it is some of the best metalcore you can find. With vocals staying in the scream or growl range, multiple guitar solos, and insanely fast blast beats throughout, it is hard to find anything emo about this album. With that in mind, I would like to give this album a high rating for its originality and listen-ability.
Technically, the album isn't the greatest work ever; the songs have similar structure and sound, but can be told apart at points. This is probably the greatest downfall of this album, its pretty much one song. The guitar riffing switches between fast tremolo picking, 16th note triplets, or some combination of the two. The drums, while maybe not the most creative sounding beats, are definitely very tight and well done. The speed alone is enough to knock somebody off their feet. The guitar solos, while sounding similar, are a very nice, melodic break from the fast, intense vocals and riffing. They are played cleanly and fluently and do not leave much to criticize.
The vocals on this album work well with the instrumentals. The harsh screams portray more pain to me than a lot of other metalcore vocals, it really sounds like Trevor is blowing his vocal chords. The death growls are relatively par and provide for a nice change every once in awhile. The lyrics to the album are actually pretty cool and with lines like "the laws of science abandon" and "no we don't wanna work, we just wanna fuck" they convey no emo-ish or metalcore influences, this band likes to write about cool things and partying.
Some mentionable tracks on the album are, A Vulgar Picture, I'm Charming, and the title track, Miasma. These songs sort of stand out from the mesh of other songs and can be much more easily recognized. Miasma is a personal favorite of mine mostly because of how powerful the intro is.
I think that this album is above much of the straight metalcore out there these days; it has much more elements of melodic death metal, and should not be considered a -core album at all.
Here we go again. The Black Dahlia Murder not only serve us another slice of their brandname Deathcore, but show us how they have been able to improve their sound overall.
I must say that BDM has evolved a lot in two years. Everything on this record sounds different than 2003's "Unhallowed", however it is still nonetheless a great effort. What bothers me though however is I just simply do not understand at all (as I again say) how people put this band down! I mean it is just beyond my comprehension. I don't understand it, and I probably will never. Maybe it is because BDM have had some commercial exposure which has now made them mainstream sellouts, or maybe it is because emo kids are starting to buy into the "heavy" music scene (which is really gay, poser shit, because are starting to reap our music) but even so, I just don't understand how they can be put down.
As I continue, BDM has not at all even soldout on this record. I find there is a lot less melodicism on this record than "Unhallowed" which is a good thing, yet somewhat odd, because they normally fuse melody with heaviness, so I was surprised when I bought this record.
The band definitely sounds a lot tighter on this record, and the technicality has been upped many levels. The guitars sound good, and there are actually many more solos on this record than the past one, which is something that made me a lot happier. They got a new drummer, and he just bring the record up a notch with his drumming. More blastbeats are incorporated and thrash-esque elements are incorporated, which up the heaviness. The vocals have somewhat changed in my opinion. This time around, the High-Pitched Screams sound a bit more nasal and the Death Growls sound more pronounced, which aren't a bad thing. Again what brings this record down is the bass. There is none. Absolutely none. Again and again, we ask for a clearer more friendly bass, however we barely ever get this wish in extreme music, which disappointing over and over.
If you haven't heard this band and are wishing to get into Melodic Death Metal or Deathcore (either), then pick up "Miasma" and give it a listen. You should be satisfied. However if you tend to put bands down because they have had commercial exposure, then don't pick this record up, because you're probably an ignorant dickhead who doesn't like giving chances to great bands.
EDIT (6/607): My original rating was a little high, so I fixed it.
So I ended up getting this album three days late (the 15th, when it came out on the 12th). I think I can forgive myself.
Anyway, it's awesome. I know that the band's name and some of their song titles (see: "I'm Charming," "Spite Suicide," "Dave Goes to Hollywood") might lead one to believe they are an emo, hardcore, or metalcore band (I know I jumped to that conclusion when I first heard of them), but that assumption proves to be completely unfounded once you give them a listen. They play a style that sounds like melodic death metal (a la In Flames) mixed with true death metal (in the vein of Morbid Angel), mixed with a bit of thrash...in the Exodus sense of the term, not the Metallica sense. The vocals alternate between a black metal shriek and a deep death growl, and complement the energetic sound very well. No attempts at clean singing here.
So how does Miasma compare to 2003's Unhallowed? Well, I've only heard a few songs off that previous release ("Contagion" and "Funeral Thirst," plus some when I saw them in concert last May, "Elder Misanthropy" among them), but it seems that Miasma doesn't stray too far from that formula, but there are enough differences that Miasma doesn't end up being Unhallowed II. First of all, there's Trevor's vocals. His growls remain pretty much the same, but the screaming sounds slightly more maniacal and out-of-control. Needless to say, this only helps the sound. Also, Miasma just sounds less melodic than what I've heard from Unhallowed and more punishingly brutal. That's not to say there's no melody here, though...songs such as "Dave Goes to Hollywood" and the title track have some riffing that is downright catchy.
All in all, it's an awesome album. The only problem I have with it is that the tempo changes very little from song to song, causing them all to sound very much alike at first listen. A few more spins and you can differentiate between songs, but I still would have liked them to vary up the speed a little. That, and it's a bit too short for my tastes, clocking it at just over thirty minutes.
A great disc, nonetheless. Pick it up if you've got some spare cash.