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A True Return To Form - 83%

AllPowerToSlaves, April 22nd, 2010

Before cracking into the reasons why this album is so great, I'd like to address a few common problems I've noticed among metal listeners. It's seems that group consensus is the name of the game here; if the majority of listeners find a band/album too different or experimental it is quickly deemed "blasphemous", "amateur at best" or other such derogatory, immature terms. The Black Dahlia Murder is one such band who suffers from this barrage of criticism from the "true" metal community. People are quick to point out flaws in production and vocal style to the utmost detail, calling the music "pretentious" and "predictable" while almost ALWAYS using a completely separate album to base their opinion on. Now, I could be mistaken here, but isn't clinging to group consensus based upon genre/sound of a band rather than formulating your own INDIVIDUAL opinion of the work both pretentious and immature?

Arguing that one style of metal is superior to the next is both obnoxious and juvenile. This elitist standpoint permeates the majority of metal listeners, and almost always steals the attention away from the music itself. It's as if "the official rules of metal" require you to leave your intellect and personal opinion at the door in favor of safe hive-minded behavior. It's sad to think that those who rebel and reject the mainstream for lack of integrity among music ironically parallel the same value system. And you were calling this band unoriginal? But alas, on with the review!

Right out of the gate, "Deflorate" pummels you with the opening riffs to "Black Valor". Double bass flows in abundance here, so those seeking a speedy rhythm section need not be worried. It should be noted that the musicianship of this band has only grown with each release, an element that is unfortunately overlooked due to their apparent "metal core" tag. Those who manage to see/hear past the social stigma will be heavily rewarded with a solid, well rounded metal release.

"Necropolis" starts with a catchy palm muted/chug riff that opens up with a powerful scream from Mr. Strnad. His vocal style has seen constant ridicule, ranging from "intolerable" to "underdeveloped", but I personally find his hybrid style extremely refreshing to the scene. I liken it to a combination of Chuck Schuldiner on "Symbolic"/"The Sound of Perseverance" and Frank Mullen on more modern Suffocation releases.

At this point I'd like to discuss a criminally underrated aspect of any band, that being lyrical content/execution. As with "Nocturnal", Trevor Strnad has gone all out making sure each line conveys imagery beyond the words they are encapsulated in. It is truly rare to find a gifted metal lyricist, especially one in extreme metal. I will always stand by my claim that Brett Hoffmann of Malevolent Creation is far superior in his lyrical writing than a good 95% of his peers, but Strnad proves he did his homework. This of course gives this band a massive edge over the countless drones of similar acts attempting the "revival".

The guitars are some of the best overall sounding in modern metal in my honest opinion. Punchy, down-tuned riffing coupled with fast-paced chord exchanges make for a highly memorable listen. The "At The Gates" influence isn't as prominent as it was on "Nocturnal", and I think this is due to the fact that the band is starting to evolve their own sound while using the elements from the bands we all know and love. I think of their sound more as a melodic approach to Suffocations method of riffing, with the European influence dipping its head in from time to time. The bass playing isn't exceptional, but in this case it really doesn't have to be in order to get the job done. The mix is overall stellar; everything can be heard clearly especially with a good pair of studio headphones.

Ryan Knight of the band Arsis joins this time around on lead guitar. This was a great move by the band, as I felt the leads on "Nocturnal" were too sterile sounding; they lacked depth and creativity. This problem was quickly solved once they swapped out lead players. His leads in "A Selection Unnatural", "Denounced, Disgraced", and "Throne of Lunacy " are excellent. He took the time to make each lead speak as much as possible while being careful not to detract from the rhythm underneath; something I think more lead players should pay attention to.

This brings me to the exceptional drumming performance; Shannon Lucas deserves credit for blasting away with the best of them. Every track delivers well placed beats and rhythms, tailor fitting the riffs in such a way that one can almost visualize an audial steam roller crushing everything in its path. There are a couple stop-go parts throughout the album, but nothing will top the intro to the albums closing track "I Will Return". It's also important to note this bands ability to create atmosphere on a whim; this song proves that. Some of the best riffing on the album is featured here, and the outro lead is among the best on the album (If I'm not mistaken, it was a guest lead by a friend of the bands).

So in conclusion, do yourself a favor and use your own judgement before succumbing to the stereotypical cynical metal head response. Look past the stigma of this band and you will be heavily rewarded with an excellent experience. "Deflorate" will continue to impress you again and again if you give it the chance.