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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 alone 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.