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Misunderstood - 97%

EzraBlumenfeld, January 26th, 2018

For all the hard work The Black Dahlia Murder put into their groundbreaking Nocturnal, they sure only get a fraction of the respect they deserve from the metal community. A large part of this is due to the fact that the band emerged around the same time as much of the deathcore scene, so they are often lumped in with the likes of Whitechapel and Suicide Silence. However, they greatly prove themselves as mainstays of modern melodic death metal on this, their third album, although many of the snobby "old-school fans" that are actually 24 years old former scene kids have overlooked it.

Now I understand why someone might mistake this for deathcore if they weren't listening carefully; there are plenty of blast beats and deep growls. On the other hand, the blasts are less archetypical and actually somewhat creative, if such a thing can exist in the world of blast beats, because they are very intricate and involve complex layered polyrhythms and other intense musical ideas. As for the vocals, mastermind Trevor Strnad has said he was mostly inspired by the back-and-forth high-versus-low style of Jeff Walker and Bill Steer in the early days of Carcass. If you listen closely, you can actually hear the similarities, although less so on this album than on the ones that followed it. I've also read several reviews comparing Strnad's high screams to Dani Filth, whom they like to portray as the epitome of metal-gone-wrong. But from my perspective, on this album he sounds nearly identical to screaming protégé Chuck Schuldiner in the later days of Death. As for the guitars, they are heavy and whatnot, but more importantly the riffs are creative in a way that is not often heard from newer bands: they beautifully mix melody with technicality.

Every song on Nocturnal is an ear-splitting, heart-pounding work of art. From the classically melodic "What A Horrible Night to Have A Curse" to the unmatched brutality of "Deathmask Divine," this album is like a gallery of all the best things present in death metal. Each riff is infectiously catchy, no matter how sophisticated it is. The rhythmic aspect of the vocals is also very cool, and will very easily get stuck in your head.

Nocturnal is by far the best album The Black Dahlia Murder have ever released, and I have serious doubts that they will ever make another of such premium quality. This album is the perfect introduction to the band, especially for high-and-mighty elitists who think that they're either wanna-be Gothenburg melodeath or deathcore or just straight-up "posers." Records of such a high caliber of creativity and musicianship are rare in the world of metal these days, and it's important to hold on to the few keepers that pop up here and there. Of the albums that have been released since the decline of death metal, this is among the very best.