The metal world has seen many bands who have been unfairly categorized for one reason or another. Unfortunately for these groups, it is often hard to break through that perception. The Black Dahlia Murder is a band that I have seen consistently written off, to the point where even I avoided them despite having no idea what they actually sounded like. One listen to “Nightbringers” made it clear that any pre-conceived notions I had of their music were totally wrong. The Black Dahlia Murder toe the line between melodic death metal and more traditional death metal, and do so quite effectively.
The band is admittedly modern in their approach, with a full production that would scare away anyone looking for something raw. This is definitely a clean, and well-executed effort, but “Nightbringers” still has plenty of brutality. The drum performance in particular features an impressive barrage of rhythms, incorporating thrashy beats, tons of double bass, and blast beats. Fortunately, The Black Dahlia Murder doesn’t overwhelm with the amount of blasting they use, as they’re able to mix it in fairly tastefully.
The real treat on this release is the quantity and consistency of the riffs. The previous nod to melodeath was because a lot of these riffs can get thrashy. There is a tinge of melody to the way the band writes riffs, but they ultimately tend to provide many high-speed downpicked riffs. This isn’t the only way the guitar playing shines, however, as there are plenty of guitar solos, many of which are virtuosic efforts that also show melodeath influence. The band only occasionally uses actual melodies over top of the riffs, which differentiates them from most melodeath groups who seem to focus more on leads than riffs.
If there is one clear weakness of “Nightbringers” is would be how overwhelming the vocals are. Trevor Strnad is an excellent vocalist: he can hit all of the highs and lows, and has no shortage of energy. The problem is that there’s almost no opportunity for the music to breathe. Several of these tracks feel like novels with how many words they can fit into 3 minutes. And since so many songs are just 3 minutes long, there isn’t a lot of room for the other instruments to shine. There are bands that excel at this sort of rapid-fire approach, but it tends to work best when the music is only about speed. To The Black Dahlia Murder’s credit, they have a lot more to offer than just playing fast, so providing a greater opportunity to showcase these riffs would be effective.
Though “Nightbringers” is unlikely to be an album I’ll be jamming on repeat, it definitely deserves accolades for its competence. Fans of death metal that can handle some modern influences should enjoy this release. To me, it pretty much all sounds the same, but that’s not a bad thing given its short run time. The Black Dahlia Murder hits hard and fast, and if “Nightbringers” is any indication of their back catalogue, then their previous releases are probably worth exploring too!
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3.7/5 or 74%.