Reliability is a rare thing amongst metal. Few bands can produce increasingly more ambitious releases each year in an increasingly stagnating genre as time progresses. We’ve seen what happens when bands attempt to take things in leaps and bounds, with nought but the jeers and jokes of the metal community to comfort them. Morbid Angel will forever bear that cross, so it seems. While in other places we see bands releasing the same album year in and year out. While still a solid album, Nile’s most recent studio effort does nothing but saturate their discography with yet another stale collection of Nile songs, rather than provide a unified album experience.
But when it comes to reliability, one need not look much further than the AK-47 assault rifle and a good old Black Dahlia blast-a-thon. With Everblack hot on the heels of 2011’s twisted Ritual, TBDM’s two year cycle swings back around with a fresh and meaty hammer-blow to the raging melodic death metal archetype the band has so eloquently forced down our throats for the last ten years.
Opening with a shout-out to the band’s moniker, the senseless slaughter of the beautiful Elizabeth Short, In Hell Is Where She Waits For Me kicks off the album with ferocious style. Already it’s clear that vocalist Trevor Strnad, previously noted for his ridiculous range, is not fucking about this record. The visceral screams mark the return of a raw and volatile Black Dahlia Murder, following the groovier feel to Ritual.
Two tracks in, and speed machine and recent music video subject Goat of Departure is throwing the band back to their black metal tinged days during the Nocturnal sessions. The title track brings forth a more traditional death metal feel with low-end tremolo disciplines ruling the riff-work.
Musically, this album is far more technical than TBDM’s previous output. Guitarist Ryan Knight, previously of tech death ensemble Arsis, brings to his third Black Dahlia record a razor sharp set of shredding skills worthy of particular note. While on Ritual, Knight focussed on an extremely legato style, implementing large amounts of multi-finger tapping arpeggios. This time round, his style draws far more from a dark classical atmosphere, burning through alternate picking runs with extreme ease, such as on album closer Map of Scars. The guitar solos play a much larger part in the band’s sound this record, which complements the music expertly. The added lead work shakes up the song structures TBDM have grown so used to overusing over the past few years, particularly on tracks such as the subtly titled Phantom Limb Masturbation and Control.
However, recently Black Dahlia have been subject to several line-up changes. While the addition of fretboard abuser Knight is no recent news, the departure of longtime members drummer Shannon Lucas and Ryan “Bart” Williams, replaced by ex-Abigail Williams percussionist Alan Cassidy and former Despised Icon bassist Max Lavelle respectively, has left the band a new slate on which to build a darker, angrier foundation.
In terms of drum performance, Cassidy steps up to Shannon’s huge empty space with true gusto, providing a fresh approach to the churning dynamics of TBDM’s auditory assault, particularly on tracks such as Goat of Departure and Control. While bass has never been a huge part of the bands sound, Max’s input compliments the record excellently.
The production this time around has a lot more “beef” to it in comparison to Ritual. The guitars are raw and edgy, without any annoying fuzz to distract the listener. The drum production is wide and clear, with the perfect balance between snare and bass pedals. The only downside to the drum production would be Cassidy’s apparently massive china cymbal. Because of the mix job, the china can seem slightly distracting because of its deep metallic tone in comparison to the gloriously sharp bite of the crash cymbals.
This album showcases a rare thing in metal these days; a band performing a formula crafted over a decade of hard work to an exceptional level, and yet the sound remains fresh throughout. Black Dahlia are one of the few bands going nowadays who know how to deliver a release to stun.
Everblack is very special album. Very little can be said to tarnish its performance. The ten tracks provide one of the most exquisite blends of soaring melody and sheer auditory violence ever put to press. Be it the twisted dischords of Every Rope a Noose or the grooving major melody behind the chorus to Raped In Hatred by Vines of Thorn, the band covers every aspect of their well-honed sound in one single 45 minute missile of unadulterated sonic hatred. Highly recommended for fans of overwhelming ridiculousness and being repeatedly punched in the face. – Henry
Everblack is available for purchase via Metal Blade Records’ official site.
You can listen to the first music video from Everblack, entitled ‘Goat of Departure’ here: