REVIEW: THE BLACK DAHLIA MURDER – “Nightbringers”
It’s been two years since The Black Dahlia Murder released ‘Abysmal’ and, like clockwork, it’s that time for a new record from the melodic death metal titans. Though a strong album, ‘Abysmal’ failed to reach to success of previous records, focussing more on a grinding, raw sound and swapping the melodies and hooks signature to The Black Dahlia Murder’s style for an extra dose of brutality. Indeed, ‘Abysmal’ almost felt like an offering from a different band when comparing it to ‘Everblack’ or ‘Ritual’. The Black Dahlia Murder’s eighth album, ‘Nightbringers’, is an entirely different beast, however – bringing back their signature sound and focusing on hooks and sweet-sounding production.
In many ways, ‘Nightbringers’ feels like ‘Nocturnal’ 2.0. Though a slightly superficial comparison, the artwork in particular draws immediate comparisons to their 2007 breakthrough album. Drawn by Kristian Wåhlin – also known as Necrolord, and the man responsible for the ‘Nocturnal’ cover art, the two pieces are remarkably similar. Though some of his pieces share similar aspects, it isn’t outside the realms of possibility that this is by design rather than a happy accident. More importantly however, it seems all the work The Black Dahlia Murder have been doing this year to celebrate ‘Nocturnal’s‘ tenth anniversary has rubbed off on the songwriting, with some of the tracks immediately bringing “Warborn”, “Deathmask Divine” and ‘Nocturnal’s‘ title track to mind.
Part of The Black Dahlia Murder’s modus operandi is kicking off each record in style, with one of the best songs the album has to offer. Similar to ‘Deflorate’s’ “Black Valour” and ‘Everblack’s’ “In Hell Is Where She Waits For Me”, ‘Nightbringers’ opens up with the devastating “Widowmaker”. Opening proceedings with a super-catchy riff and Trevor Strnad‘s instantly recognisable vocals, The Black Dahlia Murder prove they are back with a vengeance. Complete with a stunning solo from their new shredder, Brandon Ellis, and a visceral final scream from Strnad that continues after the music finishes, “Widowmaker” is the best opening track the band have penned in a long time.
An aspect of The Black Dahlia Murder’s sound that has always been impressive is the lyrics from Strnad. Though he challenges subjects that are not uncommon in death metal, Strnad’s ability to write incredibly dark, though memorable, poetry to match the music is unparalleled. A perfect example of his excellent lyricism is the first single from ‘Nightbringers’, the title track. Tackling the almost stagnant subject of Christianity, Strnad somehow makes the lyrics feel refreshing, and at no point does it feel like The Black Dahila Murder are just going through the motions. “Nightbringers” is also one of the most hook-filled tracks on the record – many of the riffs and vocal lines will be getting serious airplay in your mind long after you’ve stopped listening.
Alongside the punishing opening song and the supremely catchy title track, The Black Dahlia Murder deliver a brutal double-punch to add to the list of album highlights with “Kings of the Nightworld” and “Catacomb Hecatomb”. “Kings of the Nightworld” is the biggest competitor the title track has for the hookiest song on ‘Nightbringers’, with an almost sickeningly catchy chorus. The simply awesome guitar work from Ellis and Brian Eschbach coupled with the hooky nature of “Kings of the Nightworld” would make it a perfect addition to The Black Dahlia Murder’s live set. Offering up another stupidly catchy chorus, The Black Dahlia Murder bring a touch more speed and brutality with their saga of a demonic spider, “Catacomb Hecatomb”. At this point in ‘Nightbringers’, you should be prepared for another blistering solo from Ellis, and he doesn’t disappoint. Another welcome addition to the setlist, “Catacomb Hecatomb” joins the growing list of near-perfect tracks ‘Nightbringers’ has on offer.
Similar to their strong opening songs, The Black Dahlia Murder’s have a habit of delivering an absolute monster of a closing track. ‘Nocturnal’ had one of the best songs in their catalogue, “Warborn”; ‘Everblack’ had the euphoric “Map of Scars” and ‘Abysmal’ had “That Cannot Die Which Eternally Is Dead” – possibly the best track from the album. ‘Nightbringers’ follows suit and then some with album highlight “The Lonely Deceased”. Brandon Ellis’s leads carry a sinister feeling throughout much of the track, and his dive-bomb solo is one of the best of the album. Around the half-way point, The Back Dahlia Murder let up on the aural carnage for a moment, with a short section of soft guitars leading into a relentless close to ‘Nightbringers’.
Any Black Dahlia Murder fans who were apprehensive of youngster Brandon Ellis joining the fold can put any doubts to rest. Given his tenure in tech-melodic death metal titans Arsis, there is no doubt he can shred with the best of them. And though long-time guitarist Ryan Knight left some pretty big boots to fill, Ellis holds his own with his jaw dropping solos and enticing melodies.
The Black Dahlia Murder have come far from their roots. With their Swedish melodic death metal meets Morbid Angel sound, they have won over many of those who wrote them off at the start of their career and become one of the most respected bands in the modern death metal scene. The band they have been on the cusp of major success for a few albums now, and ‘Nightbringers’ feels like the album to push The Black Dahlia Murder further than they have gone before.
Though stylistically rooted in the classic sound they are known for, with ‘Nightbringers’, The Black Dahlia Murder harness more refined songwriting and tighter musicianship than any previous album, and have truly crafted their magnum opus.