THE BLACK DAHLIA MURDER’S NOCTURNAL: A TRUE TESTAMENT TO THE POWER OF GREAT GUITAR DUOS
What the fuck am I supposed to say about the latest release from The Black Dahlia Murder? Like all BDM albums, Nocturnal is chock full of melodic death metal that takes more than a few tricks from the Heartwork and Slaughter of the Soul playbooks; if that sounds appealing to you, it’s hard for me to imagine that you wouldn’t enjoy this album, because BDM do what they do pretty well. Vocalist Trevor Strnad (how the fuck do you pronounce that dude’s name?) slip slides between a black metal yelp and a death metal growl, and new drummer Shannon Lucas (late of All That Remains – and, really, who isn’t?) is just as good as Pierre Langlois and Zach Gibson and any of the other dudes who’ve hit the skins for this band (I do wish they hadn’t lost Kevin Talley to the inferior Daath, but c’est la vie). At this point I imagine everyone knows this band and knows how they feel about them; Nocturnal probably won’t do much to change anyone’s opinion.
But I do think that special attention needs to be paid to guitarists Brian Eschbach and John Kempainen. Eschbach’s searing solos have the clenched-fist tight structure of a great story, with actual peaks and valleys in place of mindless shredding, while Kempainen compliments him with parts that, if they were to be played note-for-note by an orchestra, would make awesome scores for a horror film. On “Everything Went Black,” you can actually hear Eschbach and Kempainen’s fingers gliding along the fretboard, like the best work by Jerry Cantrell and Slash; and their elegiac, angry-bumblebees-unleashed chorus for “Deathmask Devine” elevates Strnad’s otherwise typical gore-schlock lyrics to a genuine sucker punch of raw emotion. It is nothing short of beautiful – and that’s not something you can say about a lot of death metal. Eschbach and Kempainen’s performances alone justify whatever you pay for Nocturnal, and we should all sit up and take note.
(four out of five horns)