Artist: The Black Dahlia Murder
The Black Dahlia Murder have been as productive as just about any band in the metal scene in the last decade, releasing five studio albums, two EPs and a two-disc DVD–many of which have received critical acclaim. Often mislabeled as a metalcore act, The Black Dahlia Murder have been delivering on their melodic death metal sound full-force since the 2003 release of Unhallowed. Not only have they seen very positive reviews by critics, but the band has seen good commercial success, as 2009’s Deflorate debuted at #43 on the Billboard Top 200.
Ritual is the second Black Dahlia Murder album to feature Ryan Knight on guitar, and boy does it show. Knight had not been with the band long before recording Deflorate, and the added amount of time together is quite apparent on Ritual as the oft-complained about “sameness” The Black Dahlia Murder featured on prior albums has been completely erased. Knight’s guitar leads on Ritual are the most varied the band has seen since its inception, providing a dimension the band never really had on their albums. Even more impressively, the newly acquired leads still manage to fit in The Black Dahlia Murder’s very distinctive sound (though this can also be attributed to Trevor Strnad’s unique vocal sound and Brian Eschblach’s signature rhythm guitar sections).
Take away Trevor’s vocals and Ryan’s guitar leads, and you’ve still got yourself an incredibly tight metal album. Bart Williams, Shannon Lucas, and Brian Eschblach all deliver killer performances on Ritual. Though Shannon always seems to play with machine precision, his work on Ritual is arguably is best ever. He displays his knack for finding ways to make otherwise simple and run-of-the-mill drum sections interesting by placing them in unorthodox positions or spicing them up with great cymbal use. Bart also gets a very good fifteen seconds of fame alongside Shannon in “Den of the Picquerist”–even if the bass part isn’t the most technical, it’s a well-deserved spotlight given his killer bass lines on the rest of the album. Finally, there’s Brian–the glue for the Black Dahlia Murder sound. It’s hard to imagine that Ritual would even really sound like a Black Dahlia Murder album without Brian’s riffs and rhythm guitar parts, which are always appropriate.
Ritual very much feels like what Deflorate was trying to be, but is actually successful at it. The addition of Ryan Knight’s guitar work in full has improved this band more than anyone could have realistically expected, not only in the technical and intricacy of guitar parts, but in a song and album structure way as well. The Black Dahlia Murder have gotten rid of the biggest complaint about their music (the aforementioned “sameness”) and delivered one of the best modern melodic death metal albums of the last few years. An album that is great on the first listen, and even better every listen after that.
Review written by: Jordan Munson