(Andy Synn reviews the new album by The Black Dahlia Murder in advance of its October 6 release by Metal Blade Records.)
It’s extremely fitting that the striking, crimson-hued cover art that you see above has been provided by the legendary Kristian Wåhlin, aka Necrolord, who last worked with The Black Dahlia Murder on the cover for their career-defining Nocturnal, as Nightbringers is without a doubt the band’s best release since their 2007 breakthrough.
That’s not to disparage or denigrate the albums the band have put out in the intervening years (Deflorate in particular remains a personal favourite of mine), but the harsh, bitter, ugly truth of the matter is that, try as they might, the Michigan quintet have never quite managed to fully replicate that strange mix of power and precision, heaviness and hooks, menace and melody, that came together on their third record.
But album number eight definitely comes very, very close.
Clocking in at a lean, mean, thirty-three minutes and change, Nightbringers is actually the band’s shortest full-length yet, with barely an ounce of fat or a moment of filler to be found, something which, much as I love them all (to varying degrees), can’t necessarily be said about their last few albums.
Opener “Widowmaker” could easily be seen as this album’s answer to “Everything Went Black”, albeit with an ever-so-slightly less monstrous chorus refrain – although what it might lack in unfettered catchiness it more than makes up for in added heaviness (not to mention some brilliant bass work courtesy of Max Lavelle, the band’s current low-string lothario) – while the title-track is a blood-drenched abattoir of massive metallic hooks in the vein of classic cuts like “Nocturnal” and “Moonlight Equilibrium”.
Utterly frantic numbers like “Of God and Serpent, of Spectre and Snake”, “Matriarch”, and the rabid “Jars” also hammer home the fact that this is easily the band’s most technical album since Deflorate, with the fearsome foursome of Cassidy, Eschbach, Ellis, and Lavelle clearly pulling out all the stops as they groove, gallop, and gorge their way through a veritable orgy of rampaging riffs and bludgeoning blasts with barely a pause for breath along the way.
It’s also perhaps worth noting that quite a few of these tracks have a certain Arsis-like flavour to them – which shouldn’t be that surprising when you consider that (newish) guitarist Brandon Ellis is a member of both bands and has been credited with contributing a great deal of material to this album – with both “Kings of the Nightworld” and “As Good As Dead” in particular channelling a fair bit of United in Regret/We Are The Nightmare without losing that distinctive Black Dahlia flavour.
Going into the final third of the album the band are careful to maintain their momentum, meaning there’s no drop off in quality or intensity, with “Catacomb Hecatomb” bringing some of the added darkness of Everblack (still, in my humble opinion, one of the band’s best overall albums) to the table, and the aforementioned “As Good As Dead” providing some truly shameless guitar heroics for us all to salivate over.
Perhaps the one (only?) point of contention I can level at Nightbringers is that, as good as closer “The Lonely Deceased” is (I particularly love the prominence of Lavelle’s bass throughout, and the short but sweet mid-song acoustic break is absolutely a thing of beauty) it doesn’t quite provide the same killer climax that tracks like “Warborn”, “Map of Scars”, or the frankly untouchable “I Will Return”, did in previous years, making the album’s finale feel ever so slightly (and I do mean slightly) anticlimactic when all is said and done.
But hey, if that really is the only criticism I can come up with, then it seems pretty obvious the band are on to a real winner here.
Thankfully, you won’t have to wait long to discover for yourselves whether Nightbringers really is the true spiritual successor to Nocturnal – or whether I’m completely full of %@£# – as the album is scheduled for release next Friday!
So, in the meantime, why not fill your ears with the sublime strains of “Matriarch” and “Nightbringers” below, and try to contain your anticipation as best you can. It will definitely be worth the wait.
The Black Dahlia Murder online: