The Black Dahlia Murder – Deflorate
The Black Dahlia Murder are a band that gets a lot of criticism from death metal elitists. Many claim that they are hardly even death metal; the dreaded deathcore moniker is thrown around a lot at the band’s expense. It isn’t entirely unfair, if you consider the band’s entire catalogue. What is unfair, however, is that the band still hasn’t pleased a lot of the death metal crowd after 2007’s phenomenal output, Nocturnal. The band’s first two full-lengths did show some deathcore tendencies (although were hardly deathcore by today’s standards, when bands labeled as such have very little ‘death metal’ at all), but the band did go through a huge transition before the arrival of Nocturnal; the addition of drummer Shannon Lucas and bassist Bart Williams. The change in their sound was noticeable; to call them anything other than death metal now would only show ignorance and denial. Other than losing a guitarist – but adding one that is just as strong, if not better – the band has almost entirely stayed the same since. And while the shift from Miasma to Nocturnal was drastic as a result of new band members, Deflorate finds the band perfecting the sound they discovered on Nocturnal.
With that in mind, it is easy to notice the similarities between the two records. However, instead of feeling like a copy of its predecessor, most of Deflorate sounds like Nocturnal on steroids; Shannon Lucas’s drumming is even tighter (and the drums sound more organic, which is a plus), Trevor Strnad‘s vocals have become even more versatile (menacing lows, shrieking highs), Bart Williams’s bass skills have improved immensely (Deflorate is his album), and the addition of former Arsis axeman Ryan Knight compliments Brian Eschbach‘s riffs perfectly, and has given Deflorate some solos that keep the shred found on previous efforts, but adds some much needed feeling and phrasing.
Album opener “Black Valor” is slightly underwhelming, but once you get to the already released “Necropolis” and “A Selection Unnatural”, Deflorate is in full force. “Christ Deformed” is dominated by bowel-shaking vocals, “Death Panorama” is a ferocious two-minute number, and “Throne of Lunacy” is the best Black Dahlia song to date; it instigates with some semi-dissonant chords, rotates between catchy tremolo picking and tight chugging, and is topped with a fantastic guitar solo – truly the defining song of this album. Tracks like “Denounced, Disgraced” and “Eyes of Thousand” feature the only two “breakdown” passages on the album, but both hardly feel as such; instead of being tools for scene kids to throw their arms around and spin kick, they are used as well-placed transitions. Finishing off the album is the duo of “That Which Erodes the Most Tender’ – another competitor for the best song on the album – and like Nocturnal‘s “Warborn”, “I Will Return” is a fitting closer; clocking in at five-and-a-half minutes, it is the longest song on the album, and features an infectious, haunting melody.
Deflorate is Nocturnal 2.0. If you were not a fan of Nocturnal, chances are you won’t be too fond of this either. However, if you were a fan of Nocturnal, you will find a lot to enjoy. And if people keep calling The Black Dahlia Murder a deathcore – or metalcore – band after this, they are just in straight-up denial that they do a better job of death metal than a lot of other “true” death metal bands.