For a variety of reasons, The Black Dahlia Murder was once a pariah to many self-styled "true metalheads", who tied them to the metalcore trend of the mid-2000's and declared them as "fake" or "formulaic". Without a doubt, this was always a load of knuckle-dragging, elitist bullshit. It's been good to see the band get more recognition and wider acceptance as one of the world's premier death metal bands. They are a rarity among death metal bands: they manage to make brutal, punishing death metal without being cheesy. You can actually take BDM's music seriously, and yet respect the band as people for not taking themselves too seriously. For me, they embody what modern death metal should be: immediate, ferocious, and wrapped in a coffin of awesome riffs. And that's exactly what you get on the band's fantastic new album, Everblack. With all the signature BDM elements in place, the riffs, the high and low vocals, and excellent song composition, Everblack is, well…music to my ears.
Actually, I shouldn't just say "high" and "low" here, as Trevor often employs an almost Obituary-esque mid-range snarl here as well. From the beginning, his ability to vary his vocal delivery has always been one of BDM's biggest strengths. Along with the tempo-changes, sudden breaks, and crushing riffs, these alternating vocals help keep the listener interested and engaged. The rest of the band is in excellent shape here, including long-time guitarist Brian Eschbach and that shiny new rhythm section of Max Lavelle on bass and Alan Cassidy on drums. I know a lot of fans miss Shannon Lucas' drum work here, but Alan seems to have injected the band with a healthy dose of youthful energy: absolutely brutal and commanding without being too flashy.
The first three songs are an instant 1, 2, 3 sledgehammers in your face, especially the opener and title track. In a world where the kick-in scream seems so ordinary, Trevor's shriek at the beginning of "In Hell is Where She Waits for Me" is absolutely perfect, like a mainline of adrenaline through the ears. Both "Goat of Departure" and "Into the Everblack" are packed with crushing riffs and are brilliantly paced so that the guitarists and rhythm section play off each other.
Without a doubt, the biggest highlight for me on this album was the haunting, black metal-laden "Every Rope a Noose." From its dramatic and ominous start, a dark, menacing aesthetic paints a rich picture of death and doom. In one sense, the song sounds like what I'd imagine Goatwhore would sound like if Trevor was the front-man…or perhaps the other way around. I also pick on this song because it doesn't quite sound like anything the band has done before, and yet bears the unmistakable stamp of their sound.
Otherwise, there is the hilariously titled "Phantom Limb Masturbation", which like the aforementioned "Every Rope…" sees the band stretch its sound out a bit more than usually with an excellent mid-section laced with some of the best solo work on the album. Aside from this, Everblack does plateau a bit and there are a few songs here that sound like factory-made BDM songs. But even then, whatever filler is present here easily destroys the "highlights" of other bands out there.
And besides, if the factory makes good products, who am I to complain about it? So while the album is not necessarily picture-perfect, there is very, very little to complain about. The chanting on "Blood Mine" was probably not necessary, and some of the guitar solos are more memorable than others. But these are minor quibbles, and are not nearly enough to prevent Everblack from easily being one of the best metal albums of the year. It's definitely their best album since Nocturnal, because it manages to recapture the same crushing power that their two previous records seemed to lack, great as they are (…though for sentimental reasons, Unhallowed is still my personal favorite).
So with that said, I cannot recommend this record enough: embrace the darkness, enter the Everblack.
Favorite Songs: "In Hell is Where She Waits for Me", "Goat of Departure", "Into the Everblack", "Every Rope a Noose"