I actually remember a time when it wasn’t cool to like The Black Dahlia Murder. Nowadays it seems a little out of place, but death metalheads at the time were simply unwilling to let their name be associated in their circles. But they’ve been around for almost 15 years now and have become a bonafide staple in the metal community, for good reasons. They have put out great album after great album with each one having a varying degree of change and growth. They’re one of my favorites for sure, and I have had high hopes for a while to be able to review their newest release, Abysmal.
I have to admit that I wanted to review this album specifically because of how much I love BDM. However, I also know that I can’t let that get in the way of making a fair review and critique. So, I immediately attempted to look for the negatives. I got as nitpicky as possible on my listens, and tried to find anything and everything that wasn’t possibly a compliment to the album. And I’m sorry, but apart from one little thing, I can’t really find much negativity to talk about at all. This album is pretty damn good, as expected.
What’s not to love about a band that changes their sound a little from album to album while still being completely recognizable? BDM have been achieving this since the very beginning, and that definitely continues in Abysmal. Their particular brand of melodic death metal is established right at the starting gate with “Receipt”. But actually, this is the closest to the “classic” BDM sound as Abysmal gets. The rest of the album is definitely a very fresh take and continues to display the band’s growth as musicians and songwriters.
The main thing that stood out to me on Abysmal was the speed. There are a lot of songs on this album that are faster than we have ever heard BDM go. A lot of that could be credited to drummer Alan Cassidy and his blistering blast beats. The title track, “Abysmal” starts out moderately paced only to switch into overdrive right in the middle. “Asylum” and “Threat Level No. 3” are also stinging slaps in the face of double picking and blasting that just leave you wondering what took the band so long to write songs like this. And yet, throughout each of these speed changes, it never sounds like anything else than BDM. A prevailing melody in the guitars is always is the predominant force, and Trevor Strnad’s dual vocals are perfect cherry on top to their signature sound.
Other songs like “The Fog” and “That Which Cannot Die Is Eternally Dead” succeeds to push their envelope a little more. It continues some of the feels and ideas that sparked in their previous album, Everblack, that add a good variation from the songs like “Receipt.” But, in regards to Everblack, that is something that Abysmal probably could have done a little better.
In my opinion, the band has two different phases of sound (so far). The first one spans from Unhallowed to Deflorate, and the next from Ritual to now. From Ritual onwards, BDM definitely took on different feels and different sounds in their composition, and it paid of nicely. It wasn’t anything dramatic, but it was enough to be noticeable. Everblack was a great mix of the sounds we’re accustomed to hearing, with some of the new things we heard in Ritual. And I just wish Abysmal could have been a little more like Everblack. Not that the two albums are completely different, or that one is better than other, but this was just the only thing I wished we could’ve had. The faster paced songs of Abysmal are just enough to separate it from their other albums, which may disappoint those who felt Everblack was their best yet. It definitely doesn’t make it bad at all, it’s just a personal preference that other fans may or may not have as well. Does it sound like I’m scraping the barrel here? Just a little bit, but that’s how hard it’s been to find even a little something negative to talk about in this review.
But don’t misunderstand me, Abysmal is really really good. It is easily a solid contender for one of the best albums of this year. And it just further proves how amazing this band is. I don’t think a single album The Black Dahlia Murder has released could ever be described as bad. People have their favorites over others, but none of them are bad. And Abysmal continues their winning streak in a good way. By now, it’s probably impossible that you haven’t heard a single song from them, but if that’s truly your case, let Abysmal be your introduction to one of the best metal bands around today.