Thursday, July 14, 2011

The Black Dahlia Murder Unleash Ritual

Detroit’s The Black Dahlia Murder first assaulted our senses back in 2003 with their debut album Unhallowed. The band began crafting and soon established their uncompromising style of melodic death metal with that release. The band is set to release their fifth full length album Ritual and to also take their game of melodic brutality to a whole new level.

The band lost longtime guitarist John Kempainen before the recording of 2009’s Deflorate and saw Ryan Knight join the ranks. While that album was an epic release for the band, I don’t think Ryan’s full impact has been felt until now. A respected musician in his own right, Ryan has pushed the band and gave them a sense of comfort to try some new things that have been mere thoughts and ideas up until this point.

Admit it, if you are a long time fan of The Black Dahlia Murder, did you ever think that you would hear a string section or a piano on one of their albums? Well, unless they were blowing it up or torturing it? The opening seconds of the lead off track “A Shrine to Madness” will have you thinking you popped the wrong CD into your player. It opens with a dark and somber string section that erupts into the brutality we have come to know and love. The second track “Moonlight Equilibrium” jumps back into more of the classic sound that the band has established for themselves.

“Conspiring with the Damned” is somewhat of an interesting track. It’s a bit more melodic for the band, especially with the breakdown midway through. “Carbonized in Cruciform” shows experimenting again and this time it’s with a piano intro. It is short and a bit odd, but it works. Don’t worry though; I think they destroyed the piano shortly after this intro for it is not heard anywhere else on the album.
My personal favorite track on the album is one that shows a lot of growth for the band and really opens the door for continued expansion. The song is “Malenchanments of the Necros” and it may be the most complex and progressive piece that the band has ever attempted up to this point. A melodic change of pace with some very interesting guitar work, yet it still remains true to the aggressive nature of their sound.

“Blood in the Ink” closes the album and it is another complex number. I think this is another standout number for the band in which they stretch and go just outside the box a bit without alienating their longtime fans. The string section, found in the opener “A Shine to Madness”, is back, but used in a different way. The strings are interwoven throughout the song and are beneficial to the song in a major way. It adds depth to the song and helps to transcend it to a new level and shows that the band is more than just one dimensional.

Is there anything that I can say negative about this album? Well, I am sure that there will be some hardcore fans who do not take to the introduction of a piano or a string section. I applaud the band for trying something new and I also think that it really adds to the songs. The dueling guitars of Ryan Knight and Brian Eschbach are tighter than ever and sound refreshingly hungry on this album. Drummer Shannon Lucas has stepped up his game big time and sounds better than ever. The underrated bass playing of Ryan Williams is just as solid as ever and Trevor Strnad’s vocals have not lost a step in their brutal onslaught.

Ryan Knight has definitely brought something to the band that has re-energized them, not that they needed it, and pushed them to a new level. It is more apparent on this release then 2009’s Deflorate and that may be because the band has been together longer in this formation and become tighter as a unit. Lead singer Trevor Strnad said in a press release that this album was “the most focused Black Dahlia Murder strike of all time” and one listen should prove that sentiment to all of the fans.

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