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Continuing the evolve ever so slightly. - 85%

Subrick, June 12th, 2013

The Black Dahlia Murder are one of those bands you can always expect to release quality music with every release they put out. For the past decade they have been doing nothing but making albums, touring, and building upon their past records by injecting new ideas and influences into the mix without it overtaking their melodic death metal base. Having proved themselves as more than just another melodeath band with Nocturnal, the band have since put out Deflorate, an album that I really only liked two or three songs off of, Ritual, which to me is their best and hardest hitting album, and the subject of this review, Everblack. Despite my still preferring Ritual at the end of the day, Everblack shows that the band are still evolving, still shifting ever so slightly with each album, and, most importantly, still making great extreme metal.

A major change I noticed on first listen is that the Gothenburg-style riff work the band has based most of their songs around since their inception is in the least supply here of all their records. It's still there in songs such as "Raped in Hatred by Vines of Thorn" and "Control", but this is easily the least Swedish sounding Black Dahlia album yet. The guitar work is still very melodic though, never reaching true death metal brutality throughout the album's 44 minute run time, although to be fair to the band that's not their intention at all. The band have never been about being the most brutal or craziest band in death metal; they've always put legible, interesting songwriting first and instrument gymnastics a far, far second, a trend that has thankfully continued on Everblack and, thankfully, does not seem like it'll be going away anytime soon. Building their songs around mostly traditional structures as they always have, there's also a very noticeable black metal undercurrent coursing throughout much of the record. This is most prominent in tracks like "Goat of Departure", "Every Rope a Noose", and "Into the Everblack", the latter of which features an excellent keyboard break in the middle of the song that builds up the proper anticipation needed for the song's guitar solo. One thing that I will say somewhat disappointed me is that the songs don't have the same edge that the ones on Ritual did. On that record, you had tunes like "A Shrine to Madness", "Carbonized in Cruciform", "Den of the Picquerist", and "On Stirring Seas of Salted Blood" that served as the perfect musical punch to the face that you want from death metal. The guitars being more melodic has caused a lot of that edge to be lost, and while the songs are still quite good, it does feel like a little bit of a letdown considering just how ruthless Ritual could be. The tracks mostly have their own identity and are distinguishable from one another, which is all the more good since many death metal albums tend to have numerous tracks that just run together no matter how many spins you give them.

On the performance side, each member, as expected, puts their all into it and doesn't disappoint. Brian Eschbach and Ryan Knight hold down the fort on rhythm and lead guitars respectively, with Eschbach never missing a note throughout the whole record and Knight's lead work remaining a staple of the band's sound ever since he joined in 2008. The man knows how to properly balance showing off and reigning it in, something becoming all the less common in modern death metal. The bass work of Max Lavelle is fairly audible, if a little bit too underneath the guitars, although you're still able to tell that the former Despised Icon member is playing his socks off, even if he is mostly just following the guitars. The biggest misconception I've seen regarding the addition of new drummer Alan Cassidy is that his style of drumming on this album is significantly different from Shannon Lucas's. Those people must not have listened to the same album I did, as the drums, while differing in places such as fills and rolls, still very much sound like something Lucas would have written had he stayed in the band through this album's recording process. It probably helps that Lucas already wrote most of the album's drums before he left. Cassidy's feel is much different from Lucas's, but the style is still very much the same. Trevor Strnad's vocals still sound like a wheezing cat, but I don't mind them. He's obviously caring and not just going through the motions, plus his voice is incredibly unique and easily recognizable, so he gets a pass from me. I will also say that the album's production is, for the most part, fantastic. It has a very natural tone to it, the drums in particular sounding like actual drums and not samples pulled from an electronic kit's module. It's never too loud and everything is at the proper volume, save the bass which, as mentioned, could be turned up a little bit.

If Ritual didn't already do it, then Everblack should be the album where all of The Black Dahlia Murder's detractors realize that the band is not just some two-bit At the Gates rip off, as they have very much shed away that label ever since Nocturnal was released 6 years ago. They have their own identity and sound now, and I expect their future offerings to show them continuing to evolve and making slight adjustments to their music with each passing album. As mentioned many words ago, I still overall prefer Ritual to Everblack when all is said and done, but this in no way significantly diminishes the great music found on this album, and it is a must have for any extreme metal fan.