March is Metal Month: The Black Dahlia Murder’s Trevor Strnad Discusses All Things Death Metal with MetalSucks, and Shares His Personal Spotify Death Metal Playlist!

Photo by Steve Lars
Photo by Steve Lars

March is Metal Month! For the fifth year in a row, MetalSucks is teaming up with a variety of other outlets to offer great deals on metal albums, songs and merch throughout the entire month of March. Throughout the month, MetalSucks will interview a celebrity metal musician about the subgenre in which he specializes — AND we’ll be featuring a Spotify playlist put together by that musician, focusing on the subgenre in question!

You won’t have to pay a darned thing to listen to these playlists, but you will need to have a Spotify account. Spotify is available to all for free — but if you pay a measly $4.99 monthly fee, you won’t have to listen to any advertisements, and a $9.99 “premium” subscription also increases audio quality and allows mobile access, which is well worth it if you ask us. Sign up for Spotify now if for some reason you haven’t yet.

Below, check out our third celebrity interview and playlist: vocalist Trevor Strnad from The Black Dahlia Murder!  Trevor’s playlist, at the bottom of this post, has fifteen deviant death metal songs on it. We just know you’re gonna love it. Enjoy!

As the wise man said, let us begin at the beginning. How did you get into death metal in the first place?

I was drawn in by the cover art I saw around and the macabre elements of it.  I had been into role playing when I was a little kid, and then metal came along and me and my seventh grade friends were all about the Big Four bands [Metallica, Slayer, Megadeth, and Anthrax] as well as Pantera and Sepultura.  I was kind of scared of death metal at this point… I had built it up in my mind to be something that it wasn’t.  Looking at those early Cannibal Corpse artworks and songs names at the record store was some of my first exposure to death metal, and it was at that moment that I decided that it was some kind of contraband I was not ready for, and that people who liked it must be some kind of deviants… it had a snuffish weight to it, so to speak, on my morale scale.  I was young and still coming to terms with atheism (I was still wondering if I would be struck down for listening to “Hell Awaits” and brother, this shit was way worse).  I kept this feared music at arm’s length for a while, and it wasn’t until I read a review of Suffocation‘s (then) new album Pierced From Within that I really wanted to check it out.  In the first paragraph of the review, the critic listed a few bands that I ran out to check out immediately, citing them as the bands left that were doing something fresh and relevant in death metal (this was 1995)… Fear Factory, Death, and of course, the mind bending Suffocation.  Upon the first few listens to Pierced, I was taken aback by how insane it was.  I had never heard anything like it.  I began to really dig it and ended up checking out Death, Carcass, Obituary, Deicide… all of the basic big names for the time.  I picked up a compilation of bands from both Nuclear Blast and Relapse Records that was two discs chock full of underground awesomeness.  The comp featured Illdisposed, Dissection, Konkhra, Dismember, Blood Duster, Embalmer, Meshuggah, Kataklysm (when they were crazy), Deceased, Gorefest, Brutality… that was an exciting time for me.  I used to comb the thank you lists in all my CDs for cool sounding band names… this was far before the internet simplified everything.  When you found a cool album, it was very exciting… you didn’t take it for granted like kids do now.

What differentiates death metal from other genres of metal? Are there things that make it better than other genres? Worse?

In my experience, death metal is thought of as trash by the majority of society. It’s for a small niche of people that “get” the macabre humor that is interlaced with the ultraviolent themes.  I think other genres of metal are more friendly to the common person’s ear. It is probably the least accessible of metal’s subgenres.

I think death metal’s will to survive is one of its most admirable attributes.  Whether it is popular at the high school kid level or not, death metal keeps on plugging away in basements across the world.  For the most part, if you were to look at the death metal genre as a whole, most of it is operating on a total DIY level; it’s done completely out of love.  [The Black Dahlia Murder] have a VERY lucky set of circumstances that allow us to stay out on tour and sustain ourselves as far as living situations go, but most death metal bands won’t ever see a dime for what they do. Hell, a lot of them go into the hole to record their albums and the labels go into the hole to put out records.  I look at extreme metal as something of a secret world, or secret knowledge; once you really find it, it’s a very fruitful and satisfying kind of music to be into.  It is written without rules, without expectations of any kind of stardom. It’s all about the metal.  It’s exciting to see how many great bands there are out there that do it just for sheer love of extremity.  As someone who is really into the underground and buys a shit ton of albums and keeps his finger to the pulse, I am really largely disappointed with the scope of bands that young people are listening to nowadays. There are just so many great bands out there that will remain under the radar because most metal heads are content to check out only what the magazines tell them to. They are more or less too lazy or just too naive to its existence to discover the underground for what it is.

One of the key characteristic of death metal is that the lyrics are generally about, well, death. Do you feel limited by this – like, “Ugh, I am out of ways to express horrible violent (mostly imaginary) events, I just wanna write about how bad it sucks that my girlfriend left me” or whatever?

I don’t really mind writing within the confines of what is considered to be death metal.  I look at it as a duty, especially since this band reaches so many young people who are probably just getting into this kind of music. I want them to be attracted to the same elements that made it fun for me [and] that still keep me coming back. I’m still an avid death metal head.  I enjoy the fantasy aspects of it, I use it as an outlet for some kind of horror story, and that’s fun for me.  It has become challenging to keep things fresh over the years, but I stand by my mission statement and make it work. There’s a whole evil world out there to inspire you.

From your perspective, how has death metal evolved over the years?  

I think its overall popularity is in constant flux in the States; right now it’s at a high point, mirroring when death metal was popular the first time, in the early nineties.  In terms of the way it is played, I think a lot of ground has been broken in the last ten or so years. There is a lot of technicality displayed, and there are a good number of bands out now — it’s become a big part of the culture.  Death metal is a musician’s music, some of it can be extremely hard to play. The challenge of it is part of what makes it appealing to musicians.  There has been something of a race by bands to be the fastest, heaviest, or most technical band on earth.  Sometimes songwriting has taken a back seat, unfortunately, to this Olympian wankery.  There are still a lot of killer bands out there determined to not only be brutal, but to write a coherent song, too, and some of the ones that don’t are still fun anyway.

Is there a particular regional scene of death metal that you think is/was particularly interesting?

Sweden and Finland have always had an amazing legacy, but I really watch the whole of Europe for the great bands that pop up.  Italy has some killer shit right now with Fleshgod Apocalypse and Hour of Penance, but there’s also Unbirth, Putridity, Anthropofagus, The Sickening, Septycal Gorge.  Germany has Cytoxin, Defeated Sanity, Tombthroat, and Necros Christos.  There is so much great stuff out there; the Internet can be such a valuable tool.  It has turned me into a neurotic death metal librarian Rain Man.

Death metal is one of the subgenres of metal that has its own subgenres: melodic death metal, brutal death metal, blackened death metal, deathy death metal, etc. What do you make of the way the genre has splintered into so many subgenres? Is there one, or ones, that you find more interesting than others?

I think it’s really cool.  I find myself bouncing around the many subgenres of metal to keep my interest.  My excitement for, and the constant pursuit of, said music leads me in so many directions. The underground is really a vast spectrum of sounds.

Besides The Black Dahlia Murder, who do you think are some of the best death metal bands of all time?

Pssssh, don’t be ridiculous.  Surely you jest.  Autopsy, Morbid Angel, Grave, Entombed, Immolation, Asphyx, Pestilence, Demigod, Vomiturition, Convulse, Death, Cancer, Brutality, Pungent Stench, Vader, Incantation, Bolt Thrower, Benediction, Monstrosity, Malevolent Creation, Loudblast, Dying Fetus, Demilich, Gorgasm, Cryptopsy, Massacra, Carcass, Gorefest, Dismember, Disgorge, Deeds of Flesh, Disavowed, Anasarca, Aeon, Iniquity, Internal Bleeding, Cannibal Corpse, Konkhra, Lord Gore, Malignancy, Mercyless, Necrophobic, Spawn of Possession, Morgoth, Gorguts, Centurian, Panzerchrist, Carnage, Cemetary, Disincarnate, Edge of Sanity, Embalmer, Brodequin, Broken Hope, Capharnaum, Ripping Corpse, Sentenced, Skeleton of God, Therion, Torchure, Unleashed, Vile, Adramelech, Amorphis, Anata, Goddefied, Necrophagist (Yep.  It was that good.  Think about the impact of this record on modern extreme metal… crazy!), Severed Savior, Deceased, Pyrexia… as you can see, I can go on forever.

8. Best Death Metal albums?

I’ll try to keep this short since my last one was so long winded.  These are the absolute essentials:

Entombed – Clandestine
Morbid Angel – Blessed are the Sick
Cannibal Corpse – The Bleeding
Grave – You’ll Never See…
Obituary – Cause of Death
Carcass – Necroticism
Incantation – Onward to Golgotha
Immolation – Here in After
Gorefest – False
Sinister – Hate

Not that you dudes are so old or anything, but are there any younger death metal bands out there you think are doing a great job of carrying on the genre’s good name?

Soreption, Obliteration, Diskord, Dead Goats, Severed Crotch, Beneath, Spearhead, Defeated Sanity, Temple, Father Befouled, Mordant, Ulcerate, The Cleansing, Vengeful, Condemned, Pyrrhon, Disentomb, Arkaik, Chaos Inception, Fallujah, and Konkeror (from Detroit, MI… check them out!!!).

Last question! What’s up next for The Black Dahlia Murder?

We have a new album coming out in June, and we’re playing the Vans Warped Tour this summer. [Get dates here! – Ed.]


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