Black Dahlia Murder, The – Deflorate

We stood outside in a wide field outside of Tampa, Florida, bearing the sweltering heat and innumerable sweaty, long-haired rockers in black t-shirts, sipping free Rockstar energy drinks, and eagerly waiting for the Black Dahlia Murder to make their appearance onstage here at the 2009 Mayhem Festival. My good friend Zach and I had heard rumors about the sheer brutality of the band’s energetic live shows. Not even the videos, however, could prepare us for the ravaging we were about to receive. Even despite a recent change in guitarist, they rocked. Out came the band and they were quickly in our faces; the music was brutal, obtrusive, and didn’t give a damn, exactly what we were looking for. The crowd quickly degenerated into a swirling mass of hair and sweaty flesh as the band churned our bodies like a maelstrom with their cruel music.

The band’s recordings, though recorded to be as coarse and heavy as possible, don’t do justice to the power of each kick drum and the crunch of every guitar chord that the band delivers in its live shows. The band’s crushing hits are nothing when delivered live and in the flesh; after having our own flesh nearly torn off by the slashing guitar riffs off of “What a Horrible Night to Have a Curse,” the heavy black metal tremolo picking and blood-curdling screaming on “Miasma,” and the dizzying double-bass on “Deathmask Divine,” you can only imagine our excitement after vocalist Trevor Strnad announced that the band would perform the new song “Necropolis” off of their then-unreleased album “Deflorate.” We weren’t disappointed.

Even juxtaposed to the relentless power of the band’s greatest earlier singles, this song delivered blows to the gut and to the ears. It was coarser, harsher, thrashier, and all-around more brutal. If the number of bruises you receive after emerging from the mosh pit is an accurate indicator of a song’s heaviness, then this metal was pure osmium. Needless to say, after cracking several KISS jokes at Behemoth and doing our best lawnmower impressions at Cannibal Corpse, Zach and I hobbled back to the car, musing on “Deflorate” and how much we could hardly wait until we got our hands on this album.

Of course, expectations are often misleading.

“Deflorate,” unlike their monumental 2007 release “Nocturnal,” suffers from a general lack of memorable hooks. Yes, the album has more rape-and-pillage thrash segments than nearly any of their previous material, but the songs often don’t gravitate past the mere thrash. The black metal influence that led the band’s earlier songs to dip seamlessly back and forth between macabre melodic passages and pummeling verses is less prominent. Aside from the newfound emphasis on thrash, there’s not a whole lot new here. The Black Dahlia Murder’s newest installment relies more on the rehashing of old tricks that made “Nocturnal” big, except faster and harder this time.

Tracks such as “Throne of Lunacy” and “Denounced and Disgraced” are among the stronger tracks, but still suffer from minor flaws that stand out in comparison to their older works. The latter opens up in a way that brings up instant memories of “Virally Yours” and follows with palm-muting riffs that are sufficient, but barely memorable. “Throne of Lunacy” is among the heaviest tracks, with rough guitar verses and machine-gun snare, but not much else. Understanding the finite constraints of death metal, it is generally difficult to be innovative in this genre, but even so, the feelings of “same-old” here are unfortunate.

“Christ Deformed” is an exception to this generalization, as the song contains both the powerful riffs that make the music invigoratingly heavy and the substance that keep interest throughout its duration. “That Which Erodes the Most Tender” also manages to effectively sidestep the “dynamic monotony” that the rest of the album tends to harbor. As it was in “Miasma,” “Deflorate’s” closing track “I Will Return” is arguably the record’s strongest track. The powerful melodies in this song are enough to forgive the band for the general absence of such in the earlier portions of the record. The solo is fast, yet evocative, and perhaps the most interesting the band has done, and leads smoothly into the closing melody of the song and a fade-out. At 5 minutes and 35 seconds, this is the longest song the band has ever written, but not a second feels excessive or mundane.

The thrashy relentlessness of this record makes for perfect invigorating stage metal. As a live show, the Black Dahlia Murder is first-and-foremost in destruction.  They’ve demonstrated their chops as one of the world’s best melodic death metal groups ever since their unpolished, yet promising “Unhallowed” back in 2003. After a monumental record like “Nocturnal” back in 2007, it’s often most auspicious of a band to reinvent itself rather than try to recapture what made their last release great. The Black Dahlia Murder unfortunately took the latter route and it shows on their new record. It’s a shame that “Deflorate” had to be just another installment in a discography.

by Mason “If it ain’t broke, maybe you need a new mechanic” McGough

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1 Comment

  1. Site Update: New Stuff! « Avery Island: Musical Opinions From Music Geeks said,

    […] The Black Dahlia Murder – Deflorate review by Mason McGough […]

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