REVIEW: The Black Dahlia Murder – Nightbringers [2017]

Artist: The Black Dahlia Murder 

Album: Nightbringers 


Whenever things look grim, it’s only a matter of time before someone hits you with the old adage: it’s always darkest before the dawn. Sure, at one point, this was probably helpful—to someone, somewhere. Nowadays? It’s worn out, overstayed its welcome, and, when it comes to the bleak, dismal and devastating breed of metal put on display by Detroit-based death metal deviants The Black Dahlia Murder, it’s simply untrue. In a discography that started in varying shades of black and has only grown darker, Nightbringers is one of the band’s most brutalizing and intense experiences to date. Relentless percussion, riffs that segue into dazzling solos and dissonant, grueling portions of dirgy, thrashing aggression—and of course, a phenomenal vocal dynamic with lurid lyrics to boot—Nightbringers is a lesson in heaviness that demands to be heard, especially in an era defined by low, slow breakdowns and monotonous, hum-drum grooves. A long-standing act with a reputation for bringing innovation and heaviness to the extreme ends of the metallic spectrum, The Black Dahlia Murder’s 2017 release is absolutely no exception. Holding down the speedy, sinister, razor-sharp end of the death metal spectrum with an iron gauntlet, with Nightbringers, The Black Dahlia Murder prove that things don’t get any brighter once the night seems to be at its darkest—they only get darker. 

One part huge, bleak, atmospheric and dread-laden with several parts scathing, infernal and intense technicality, Nightbringers is everything an avid fan of The Black Dahlia Murder has come to love with even more visceral attitude to spare. From the lightning-fast fills and frantic footwork that defines rip-roaring tracks like “Jars” and the titular “Nightbringers,” yet during the slightly more roomy and brooding “The Lonely Deceased” (and I do mean slightly), percussionist Alan Cassidy is a force that stands to rival mother nature. With ungodly speed and unholy precision, Cassidy crushes everything in his path, from the dizzying drumming on “Matriarch,” through the blast-beat laden annals of “Kings of the Nightworld” and to the very last seconds of “The Lonely Deceased,” Cassidy refuses to let up, bringing the same energy to every song yet making each one thoroughly unique. What’s more is how Cassidy works with bassist Max Lavelle. While Lavelle’s bass can periodically get lost in the chaos that Nightbringers is, he adds heft and punch to Cassidy’s kick drum, contrasting his sharp snare and splashy cymbals—bringing a low end into the mix that makes “Martiarch” and “Of God and Serpent, Of Spectre and Snake” heavy in a way that only The Black Dahlia Murder can be. Even as immense as Cassidy’s percussion is, and with the slaughterhouse-style meat brought to light be Lavelle’s bass, the real joy of The Black Dahlia Murder’s instrumentation is hearing how everything comes together with the unfathomably talented writing and playing from guitarists Brandon Ellis and Brian Eschbach. With Ellis’ monstrous technicality and Eschbach’s surreal skill combined, there’s not one second of The Black Dahlia Murder’s latest album (or really any album, frankly) that isn’t both fun and soul-shreddingly horrifying to listen to. The duo’s furious fretwork is like listening to your worst and most vivid nightmares sped up and condensed into forty minutes of pure fear. Almost every track–“Matriarch” and “The Lonely Deceased” are to name a few—sees a stellar solo and mind-numbing riffs aplenty from the duo, with some focusing more on speed with a skin-shredding candor and others a little less speedy and moodier, The Black Dahlia Murder’s instrumentation is nothing short of stellar, from start to finish. 

Amid the intense instrumentation and absurd intricacy brought forth by the pummeling percussion, break-neck speed and dismal atmosphere, frontman Trevor Strnad’s practically—no, truly—world renowned vocals bring the last piece of the puzzle to Nightbringers disastrously heavy dynamic. With everything else in place, Strnad’s vocal element adds the final furious pieces into a pulverizing collection of soul-smothering tracks. With hellish howls and ghoulish, ghastly growls aplenty, divided by rare moments of belted, pitched yells and raw mid-range screams, Strnad’s diversity takes his previous works and steps it up several notches. With a dazzling narrative (granted, a dazzling narrative of depraved and devilish lore) on songs like “Martiarch” and “Of God and Serpent, Of Spectre and Snake is absolutely second to none. His work throughout the magnificent and epic closing number, “The Lonely Deceased” also deserves praise—for his lyricism, dynamism and, this time, endurance to boot. Strnad’s grisly and visceral vocals take the malevolence of the musicianship and complement it in a fashion both beautiful and brutal.  

The Black Dahlia Murder have never skimped on sinister content, energy, intensity or aggression—this is just as true now as it’s always been. While there is no single huge change in Nightbringers compared to their previous record, their 2017 release serves as another step skyward on the rungs of a ladder defined by progression, refinement and true mastery of all things metal. Murderous from start to finish, excellently written in prose penned with blood and pure darkness, eviscerating and pummeling, Nightbringers is everything one could want from The Black Dahlia Murder as they continue shaping contemporary death metal. Stopping at nothing to bring pure evil to the ears and heart of the listener, Nightbringers is one pitch black, moonless midnight that the listener will never want to end.  



For Fans Of: Carcass, Morbid Angel, Dying Fetus 

Connor Welsh