With a career Spanning over 16 years, 8 Studio Albums, 4 EP’s and relentless touring of the world you might think that The Black Dahlia Murder would be starting to slow things down, luckily for fans of the band this couldn’t be further from the truth. This is probably in part due to the addition of Brandon Ellis on guitar, who at a mere 25 years of age brings incredibly mature and tasteful solos whilst also dropping jaws with his technical prowess on the instrument which when combined with the undeniably exciting writing style of founding guitarist Brian Eschbach has produced explosive results.
As Nightbringers unfolds and “Widowmaker” starts to play we’re greeted by a haunting synth based soundscape which conjures up mental images of bleak 80’s fantasy/action movies like the Terminator 2 or Blade Runner before the band suddenly hits and launches into distinctly Dahlia riffage, known to be intricate and technical but still bouncy and catchy, before vocalist Trevor Strnad brings things together with a ghoulish shriek and the album begins in earnest.
Next up is “Of God and Serpent, Of Spectre and Snake” which immediately unfurls with aggressive and punchy riffs, accompanied by frantically fast vocals hurled at the listener. True to the spirit of the band they’re very recognisable and melodic rather than onslaught of notes some of the more technical bands in the scene are responsible for. Halfway through the song things suddenly change pace, the dense wall of distorted guitars and thundering bass opens up sonically as vocalist Strnad delivers crushing and slow vocal lines. Drums move to ride cymbal patterns and tom fills which slowly increase in intensity before everything falls still and all that’s left is a cutting lead guitar which delivers a quick but searing solo before the chorus comes crashing back in to bring this song back home.
Somehow despite delving into many styles and niches of death metal The Black Dahlia Murder manage to retain a very unique and recognisable sound, a feat unattainable by many bands and one strongly showcased throughout not only the back catalogue of the band but on Nightbringers as well. Whether it be the outrageously quick and choppy intro riff in “Matriarch”, the steady anthem-like pulse of “Nightbringers” (title track) or the slow melodic passage throughout “Catacomb Hecatomb” there’s a distinct vibe of ‘Black Dahlia’ running strong and as such the album feels like a very complete package. Even though songs may deviate stylistically from each other, they don’t ever feel out of place or added on.
Speaking of a complete package, one small detail which is important to the release is the way which the band have tactfully created variations to keep the listener engaged and minimise the possibility of becoming numb to the relentless onslaught of metal. Subtle but powerful little twists include gang chants throughout “Jars and “Nightbringers” (title track), the distant and spacious intro to “Kings of the Nightworld” or the acoustic interlude (yes, real grandpa guitars!) in the middle of “The Lonely Deceased”. Serving to break up the steady flow of breakneck blast beats and add a dimension of dynamic ebb and flow.
Whilst Nightbringers doesn’t redefine or shatter the conventions of modern melodic death metal, it is executed with an incredible level of finesse and restraint. Indeed it would seem that the band have placed more of an emphasis on strong songwriting than churning out riff after riff, which has in turn generated even catchier and more memorable songs than ever before as well as leaving plenty of room for the vocals to have space to tell their story.
While Strnad explores a variety of themes and ideas with his lyrics, they are united by the album’s title, which embraces a tenet that has been central to The Black Dahlia Murder’s output since the very beginning. “Death metal and nighttime are synonymous to me,” Strnad explains. “We are the rulers of the darkened hours that the Christian good fears. A lot of archaic ideas that are still upheld – such as marriage and monogamy – came from Christianity, whether people want to acknowledge it or not, and to me, death metal has always been bucking that. It’s ‘being-the-villain music’, because we’re the enemy of Christianity, the enemy of all that is good and traditional. Death metal is for free thinkers, it’s for showing people the path to inner strength and operating on your own will, instead of being told what to do and living in fear, and songs like the title track and ‘Kings Of The Nightworld’ are about leading a legion of awakened minds into battle.”