THE BLACK DAHLIA MURDER’S RITUAL: IT HURTS SO GOOD
What makes The Black Dahlia Murder the cream of metal’s crop is that, while never abandoning their face-ripping ways, they refuse to just spin their wheels from album to album. The dudes started out good, and they keep getting better. No amount of flowery verbiage myself could back that statement up more than just one listen to Ritual will. Because just one listen is all The Black Dahlia Murder needs to grab you by the throat, beat you senseless, and leave you lying on the pavement like some ninety-pound moron who just picked a fight with Georges St-Pierre. But, being the sadistic little fuck you are, you’re gonna pop right back up and listen again, aren’t you? Damn right you are, because this is hands down one of the most vicious slabs of metal we’ll get this year.
Where 2009’s Deflorate was a spike to the temple of those who thought we had heard all TBDM has to offer with Nocturnal, Ritual is a much, much bolder statement. The addition of former Arsis guitarist Ryan Knight has proven to be the best move of the band’s career, as his presence helps TBDM take melodic death metal to heights previously thought unreachable. Aside being two of metal’s most skilled stringsman, the duo of Knight and Brian Eschbach has done a remarkably impressive job in the songwriting department. There a thousand bands out there with schooled shredders that can riff until the cows come home, but these two deftly work their arsenal of blistering and breakneck riffs into songs that stick to your ribs. Not an easy feat when you’re moving at 250 mph, which is about the average pace on Ritual.
Songs like “The Window” and “The Raven” (to name a couple) remind me of the masterclass in complexity taught by Dave Mustaine and Marty Friedman on Rust In Peace, while “On Stirring Seas Of Salted Blood” shows an ability to add stark atmosphere to even the most inherently brutal of tunes. The inclusion of acoustic guitars and piano on “Carbonized In Cruciform” adds a nice dynamic to an otherwise gymnastic piece of music. Similarly, the symphonic elements on “Blood In The Ink” bring a welcome twist to the song. Had the strings sounded forced or added in after the fact, this tune would have easily been passed off as a cheap Cradle Of Filth impression. But TBDM pulled this adventurous little move off flawlessly.
Tempting as it is to focus the entire listening experience around the album’s stellar guitar work, there are three more pieces to this puzzle that are equally deserving of your attention. Drummer Shannon Lucas and bassist Ryan “Bart” Williams get to have their own bit of fun with the punkish, distorted bass intro to the otherwise molten death metal ditty “Den Of The Picquerist.” Hell, this is quite possibly a career-defining performance for Lucas, as the dude blasts and slams like frontman Trevor Strnad was holding a gun to his head during the tracking process. Then again, as vicious as Strnad’s growls are, he probably doesn’t need to pack any heat.
In short, Ritual is a fucking great release. It’s rare that a band can produce twelve tunes that are as technically impressive as they are aesthetically pleasing and sonically accessible. This is an album that demands complete attention from the opening seconds, and doesn’t waste your time with any filler. Well done, boys. You just made it a lot tougher on everyone else out there.
(4 1/2 out of 5 horns)