The 2009 release of Deflorate from Detroit’s The Black Dahlia Murder, laid waste to the opposition at the time and set a bench mark for all melodic death metal bands to try and emulate. It also set a definite marker for the quintet’s follow-up to match up against as it set up the unavoidable prospect of comparisons to its high quality for its follow-up release. Released via Metal Blade Records, the new album Ritual has not only matched up but in many ways has taken things further and again set new levels for others to look at in awe.
From the opening haunting orchestral quiet that leads ‘A Shrine To Madness’ into a focused sense of organised chaotic intensity, a direct purposeful energy permeates throughout Ritual. Vocalist Trevor Strnad states that the album is “the most focused Black Dahlia Murder strike of all time.” and it is impossible to disagree. He also added with regards to the content of the album that “every song that got brought forth was exciting and more three-dimensional, more twists and turns, more surprises. There’s more ups and downs and taking people on a journey this time.“
Whereas the opening track is strong without setting fires alight its successor ‘Moonlight Equilibrium’ declares the validity of his words. The song snarls like a rabid wolf, biting hard and refusing to let go as it pulls the flesh away, the vocals of Strnad screech and growl as they seek the deepest corner in the listener all the while supported strongly by the darker vocal tones of Brian Eschbach. The guitars of Eschbach and newest member Ryan Knight create their own world of glorious sound, their ingenuity and inspired play a joy that shines through the onslaught. The addition of Knight seems to have given the band’s music a boost in some way, whereas before it was still all about intensity coated in creative and satisfying melodies now there is a new kick to it, a fresh vibrancy that flows without losing any of their senses squeezing power. In reference to his fellow guitarist, Eschbach said “The last two albums I wrote most of the music, and this one it’s almost a 50-50 effort between me and (Knight). He lifted what we were doing on the last album so much from what we’ve done before, his different techniques and stylings that he knows how to wield. It’s really exciting for us to have that be part of the band now.” Strnad also added that Knight “is an educated musician, and he’s brought that kind of aspect into the band, too. We came to him having higher expectations, and he’s exceeded all of those.”
Throughout Ritual the tracks stir up the senses, the creative ideas and their realisation is at times welcomingly surprising but always awarding. Tracks like the imposing ‘Carbonized In Cruciform’ with crushing drums from Shannon Lucas, the swift attack of the brilliantly disturbing ‘Den Of The Picquerist’ complete with wailing woman, and ‘Malenchantments Of The Necrosphere’ where the bass of Ryan Williams brings a deep resonating tone, show a band at its full height though one sense there is plenty more to come from the band ahead. If there is one niggle about the album it is that the bass of Williams is often lost in the colossal sound and only intent searching within a song reveals the talent the man has.
There is not one moment on Ritual that does not keep up the highly impressive standard but the track that really shines above all is the closing ‘Blood In The Ink’. Fusing classical elements into their black metal artillery the result is an immense and wonderfully gratifying piece of music. There is a sparkling beauty that holds its own against the power and is maybe an indication of the emergence of a new detour in their sound, one that hopefully they will explore more in future releases.
The Black Dahlia Murder have always set the trend and heights to which other bands aspire to, with Ritual they have concreted that standing and moved the bar up yet again.
Pete RingMaster 06/07/2011