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The Black Dahlia Murder has never been better! - 95%

deatmetaljunkie, October 25th, 2008

The Black Dahlia Murder has enjoyed steadily increasing popularity and a reputation as on of the rising stars of American melodic death metal. Their two previous full lengths, Unhallowed and Miasma, combined the all too familiar Gothenburg riffs with aggressive drumming and the charismatic vocals of Trevot Strnad. While these albums drew mixed reviews from many people, I thoroughly enjoyed both, but preferred Miasma more. The band’s well written and performed material, along with their electrifying live show have helped distance themselves from an oversaturated scene. Then along came Nocturnal, their third album and my favorite so far. I’ll say it now, The Black Dahlia Murder have never sounded better.

During the recording of Nocturnal the band members described Nocturnal as their trademark style with a darker, more European feel this time around. Some members mentioned that the tracks had some parts reminiscent of Swedish legends Dissection, and they were dead on. The influence of the late John Nödtveidt and company can be felt throughout the album. Necrolord, who also created covers for Dissection, Emperor, Sacramentum, Antestor, and many more bands, did the cover art. While Nocturnal is not a timeless classic like some works of the aforementioned bands, it is a damn good album that deserves attention and one of my favorite albums of 2007.

Going along with the artwork and sound of the album, Trevor’s lyrics have returned to his dark, horror filled fantasies. Some topics include black magic, vampires, apocalypse, and of course, necrophilia. Quite a change from Miasma’s lyrical content and cover art (which is a nighttime picture of Las Vegas).

The first thing that grams my attention besides the cover art is the production. Nocturnal simply sounds huge and powerful. The guitar sound is thick but very sharp, allowing everything from solos to palm muted chords to be heard clearly. The drums are also mixed very well, taking on a more natural and slightly less trigged sound. This is the best sound that a Black Dahlia Murder album has had so far.

Another thing that jumped out at me was new drummer Shannon Lucas’ outstanding performance. I liked his performance on his previous band All That Remains’ Fall of Ideals album. I also knew that he would have super sized shoes to fill considering his predecessor was a monster known as Zach Gibson. Shannon fit his shoes perfectly and is a plays a huge part in TBDM’s forceful sound. All of his skills are on display here; he can blast beat and slam the double bass pedals like there’s no tomorrow, but restrains himself from overpowering the rest of the band. His fills and cymbal work are tasteful and he avoids reverting to similar sounding parts throughout the album.

The guitar work of Brian Eschbach and Jon Kempainen continue to be another strength of the band’s attack. On Nocturnal, they have pushed their aggressive yet melodic and structured style even further. Their compositional skills have greatly matured since Unhallowed as well as their technical proficiency. The more European influenced sound shows up in their guitar riffs and how they arranged the songs, with Dissection being the most obvious influence on Nocturnal. The guitar solos have improved on this album, offering a little bit of everything while maintaining the somber and horror themes of the album.

The first song that was released from Nocturnal is entitled “What a Horrible Night to Have a Curse”. This track a good representation in what the new sound is like. The track opens like a more traditional BDM song, but the Dissection influence pops up in the excellent chorus. Trevor uses his high voice for most of the song, introducing his lows after the guitar solo.

The title track is my personal favorite of the album. The dark tremolo picked melody line over blasting drums during the verses clearly illustrates the Dissection sounding feel of the album. Trevor utilizes both voices to great effect here, equally employing highs and lows on the verses while doing the Glen Benton style multi-tracking on the chorus. The band lets up on the speed momentarily to reveal yet another excellent guitar solo.

The next song, the furiously paced “Deathmask Divine” is another favorite. The sped up Gothenburg riffs, blasting, double bass, and vocals typical of a BDM song are all there, but it is such a well-written song that is deserves a special mention. The guitars shift from melodic death riffs to a Dissection-like chorus riff and feature another well done solo. Shannon also shines on this track, creating some interesting bass drum and blasting patterns.

The last two songs on Nocturnal, “To a Breathless Oblivion” and “Warbon” both posses the most European influenced sound of the album. The former is a slower song (relatively speaking) whose somber, marching verse and guitar solo brings to mind Dissection again. “Warborn” is a slower track also, starting off with a more traditional Black Dahlia sound before returning to the Euro sound in the chorus. The tremolo picked riffs along with the melancholic guitar melody evokes the icy feel of Dissection quite well before the track fades into darkness.

While I highlighted a few tracks, there are no bad or even average songs on Nocturnal. Each song has its own distinct feel and flow. The Dissection influence runs deep throughout this album, and for me has been a huge plus for the band. I think that the more European influenced sound has made their music more interesting and more mature sounding. The addition of Shannon Lucas to the fold has only helped the band push its melodic death metal onslaught forward. While both of their previous albums were great, Nocturnal is their best and most complete album by far. As I’ve stated earlier; The Black Dahlia Murder have never sounded better, and if you have any interest in melodic death metal or Dissection you should give this album a spin.