(TheMadIsraeli reviews the new album by The Black Dahlia Murder.)
If Everblack was BDM’s darkest record, Abysmal is the band’s brightest, brimming with a raw, incendiary energy that calls back to the band’s early days of Unhallowed and Miasma. With a distinctly higher quotient of Arsis-isms in the riffs (undoubtedly due to Ryan Knight’s influence) and an overall recommitment to the band’s love of pedal-point-intensive harmonized riffing, Abysmal is to these ears a refreshing record.
I felt Everblack was less melodic death metal, and more of a death metal album that had melodic parts in it, which I think was the band’s goal at the time. I thought and still think it’s in fact the band’s best record, and while Abysmal doesn’t hit the sweet spot for me that Everblack did, that may be because Abysmal just isn’t punching my personal preference buttons hard enough. That’s not intended to detract from the fact that it’s a great record, among so many others that BDM have produced over the years.
This particular album threw me off-balance because it completely defies the prediction I made in my Everblack review that the band would continue moving away from purely/mostly melodic death metal into something more focused on death and black metal; as I hear it, Abysmal in fact goes completely into reverse. While my NCS colleague Andy Walmsley has remarked that this record reminds him of Nocturnal, I believe it’s more akin to a Miasma follow-up, except with busier drum work, Ryan Knight’s soloing, and Trevor Strnad’s constantly improving, patented vocal attack.
The songs, while not particularly longer or shorter for BDM, FEEL more compact, more direct, and briefer. The riffs are, of course, top form — nothing that a BDM fan won’t already recognize from the onset and love immediately — and the album includes a lot of standout songs like “Vlad, Son Of The Dragon”, “Threat Level No.3”, and “Abysmal” (which is particularly cool with it’s somewhat Norwegian black-metal vibe) among an overall solid collection of tracks.
Although BDM have made some course changes, Abysmal isn’t really going to surprise anyone who is already intimately familiar with the band; I think every knowledgable listener nowadays knows what they’re getting, and you either like it or you don’t. I love the band, so a new album is a pretty guaranteed “yes” vote from me. And there are neat moments on the album that are especially cool, with the fusion-esque solo in “Vlad, Song Of The Dragon” being the most immediately memorable one, a solo that deviates from the typical neo-classical worship the band seem to enjoy so much.
It’s a great album, really, and part of me wishes I could even more enthusiastically recommend it. If we did numbered scoring here, it would still be an 8/10, but it just doesn’t hit the combat high that Everblack gave me. If you’re a fan of this band, you’re probably buying this anyway, and you’d be making a good call. Where you place it on the totem pole of the band’s output otherwise can only be left up to you, since I admit that I’m unable to give it a more definitive verdict. As I said, it simply may not be hitting me as hard as Everblack because of my own stylistic preferences — or it could be that the band have made a bit of an oddball move with a step backwards.
Either way, Abysmal is a great record and well worth a listen, especially if you’re already a BDM fan.
Abysmal will be released worldwide on September 18 by Metal Blade Records and can be pre-ordered here.