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Modern classic, massively influential - 100%

grimwinter13, April 20th, 2018

The Black Dahlia Murder, currently 17 years old as of this review, is truly one of the most important bands in modern day extreme metal. Hugely popular, undeniably talented, and appealing to a wide variety of metal fans, there's no arguing that they're one of the few bands who've lasted this long and never fell off the wagon even once. Eight albums, all of them so unique and having their own merits, their own personalities, and picking a favorite really comes down personal taste. A case could be made for every Black Dahlia album, and it's a tough choice...but in my honest opinion, Nocturnal easily takes the cake.

Black Dahlia's origins lay in metalcore and heaps of At the Gates influence, and to be fair it took them two albums to really craft a style which they could call their own. Nocturnal is where they find the Black Dahlia brand of melodeath we all know and love today. From the ghastly, catchy riffs to the ever-changing dynamics and intelligent sense of rhythm, this album is where the band figured out how these elements could be mixed together in a way that put them aside from other bands. It worked incredibly well, considering that now Nocturnal is hailed as a modern classic. But I won't spend an entire review ranting about 'cred' or legacy, let's talk about the music.

The opener, "Everything Went Black" is an immediate, burst-through-the-gate ripper of pivot riffing and consistent blast beats, presenting one of the speedier pieces right from the start. It's not the shortest track on the album, but the pacing and quickly transitioning song structure gives it a short-but-sweet feel. It's an incredible start, especially since it's so incongruent with the following track, "What a Horrible Night to Have a Curse" - a song which to this day is still a fan-favorite and live set staple. "Horrible Night" catches the listener off-guard after the opener with its 3/4 grooves and chunky, palm-muted grooves. The opening riff is impossible to not headbang to because it's so heavy, but the song also manages to keep it interesting with a passionately melodic chorus.

This trend of contrasting dynamics repeats itself throughout Nocturnal's runtime, and it never become monotonous or uninteresting - something Black Dahlia seemed to struggle with on their previous two releases. The melodies also are much more interesting, as before they took after metalcore's attitude of using the same minor key every damn song. Rather here, Black Dahlia steps out of their comfort zone and tries out a wider range of scales, many much more complex and often utilizing modes and some hints of chromatic, technical weedling (the latter often present in the faster and heavier slices of songs). Brian Eschbach, who's hands-down one of my top 3 guitarists right now, improved his soloing ability immensely. "Everything Went Black" and "Deathmask Divine" say it all - they're much more interesting and memorable in nature.

Songwriting takes great prominence and becomes Nocturnal's strongest weapon. Most of the songs follow a straightforward two-chorus structure, emphasizing the verses with faster tempos and letting the choruses ring out loud and proud with chanted lyrics and catchy rhythm. Of course, there is some deviation such as in the very brief track "I Only Worship What You Bleed", which seems to come and go so quickly you don't get the chance to fully digest it, but in no way feels like a filler track. It's rather a quick punch to the gut to make sure you're on your toes before the anthemic title-track kicks in. Some of Black Dahlia's best riffs are featured here, the aforementioned "Deathmask Divine" 's speeddemon verses being my favorite. Pivot riffs are king on this album, and I can think of few other bands who utilize them nearly as efficiently or uniquely as Black Dahlia.

The album closes with "Warborn", a song which rightfully sums up everything heard in the nine previous tracks. It combines just about every other idea presented before into one solid piece of closure.

Trevor Strnad also improved on Nocturnal. His high screams, which were before very pained and kinda irritating with their squeakiness, are now absolutely wretched and raspy, almost black metal-esque in style due to the intensity and just how sinister they sound. He blends his signature screams very evenly with standard death growls. From this point on, you know immediately it's Trevor screaming because his vocals are so signature to him.

Nocturnal is hugely influential in modern day extreme metal. It'd be fair to say that the good majority of deathcore bands post-2007 listened to a lot of Black Dahlia. I mean, listen to anything by As Blood Runs Black, Carnifex, or Lorna Shore and you'll hear it. As one of the most popular bands out there today, it'd be hard to say Nocturnal wasn't the album that skyrocketed Black Dahlia.

So yeah. I really don't have any quirky, clever way to close this review. All I can is, if you live under a rock and haven't heard Nocturnal go listen to it right now. The music speaks for itself, and there's something in there for all brands of extreme metal fans. Incredibly important album.

Best Tracks: "Deathmask Divine", "Everything Went Black", "What a Horrible Night to Have a Curse"