The Black Dahlia Murder have, for many years now, impressed me with their ability to write Death Metal without falling into common writing ruts stylistically. Their seventh studio full length entitled Abysmal showcases those exact traits and then some. Abysmal offers exactly what you’d expect from the American Death Metal stalwarts: Blasting, guttural vocal delivery, tremolo picking and palm muted riffing that is par for the course and definitive for the genre. While many American DM acts are passed up due getting caught in aesthetic rut, The Black Dahlia Murder seems to avoid this by referencing classic DM and grind acts such as Carcass and Dissection. The connection being that Abysmal, by all rights, is an incredibly melodic record. An uncompromising, incredibly heavy record but leans heavily in a vast quantity of angular, non-traditional riffing.
Trevor Strnad, (Vocals) and Brian Eschbach (Rhythm guitar) have been the mainstay members of The Black Dahlia Murder, while the band has had a plethora of other members since the bands inception, this lineup has held strong for a few years now. Previous efforts by the band have always been worthy of a listen but with the addition of Ryan Knight (Lead guitar), the band certainly was able to begin writing much more technical and genre warping songs. Knight’s lead work seems to be the centerpiece of Abysmal, creating a great juxtaposition to the often unorthodox guitar work. A great emphasis have been placed on harmonization between Eschbach and Knight, a technique that has always been a staple in their writing but hasn’t been executed as precisely until now. Nearly every track on the record goes through a myriad of tempo changes which makes for a varied listen with any aggressive band, especially like DM which can easily move into realms of monotony. It certainly does not seem to be any mistake that the record opener, “Receipt,” exemplifies all of these qualities.
Abysmal’s drum work is certainly worthy of credit. Alan Cassidy’s drumming reflects a wonderful amount of restraint and tact. He delivers exactly what the riff calls out for, nothing more, and nothing less. Impressive, well timed fills that accent the song as a whole and build a cohesive experience. “Threat Level No. 3” is a fine example of this. Smooth transitions, flurried fills with plenty of attack.
Of course, one of the most prominent features of The Black Dahlia Murder has always been Strnad’s ranged vocal delivery. This record is no exception, his often grating vocals often make one wonder how it can be sustained for such long periods of time live, which he does flawlessly. Again, his delivery is heavily reminiscent of Death Metal/Grind legends Carcass, especially that found on Heartwork.
Although the band has made an obvious effort to move into a more melody-driven manner, there is no shortage of heavier moments. Laced in are blunt, masculine, palm muted riffs. “Re-Faced” one of the highlight mid-tempo tracks is built around a trademark Black Dahlia breakdown, something very reminiscent of Unhallowed-era Black Dahlia. Perhaps the breakout track of the record or rather the most surprising is “Asylum.” A track found at the tail end of the record which relies heavily on a crescendo effect, building up into a uncharacteristically strummed, rock beat driven chorus. At first this can be a bit off-putting, but in the grand scheme, this track has become one of my favorites, simply because it is so different, not only for the record, but the band. With that in mind, it still compliments the record as a whole.
Abysmal is a welcome addition to an already overflowing catalog of material. Since getting a hold of it, it hasn’t left my rotation and I suspect it won’t be replaced for some time.