01. In Hell Is Where She Waits For Me
02. Goat Of Departure
03. Into The Everblack
04. Raped In Hatred By Vines Of Thorn
05. Phantom Limb Masturbation
07. Blood Mine
08. Every Rope A Noose
09. Their Beloved Absentee
10. Map Of Scars
Of all the possible directions that US melodic death metallers The Black Dahlia Murder could have jumped to after their much-hailed previous release Ritual, pushing towards an even more sinister and hellish sound didn’t seem to crop up in the fans’ expectations. Their sixth album Everblack continues with some familiarity of the band’s well-established latter-day formula, striking a balance between Ohrwurm-level catchiness and aural extremity, and advances further into the death metal realm while avoiding limiting themselves in that regard. A leaner and more focused effort than the last two albums, this time the crepuscular atmosphere of Nocturnal is evoked, but seen through the prism of Ritual. For those who are less familiar with the band’s discography, that’s a good thing.
The foundation of The Black Dahlia Murder’s sound remains mostly unchanged: chugging death metal infused with dulcet guitar melodies, and supported by a tight bludgeoning rhythm section. These subtle melodies are part of what makes it so catchy, augmenting the chorus of delightfully titled, “Raped In Hatred By Vines Of Thorn” to almost singalong-level. The chugging as heard before in “On Stirring Seas Of Salted Blood” has been ramped up in potency, with more than a cursory nod to the death metal bands of old such as on “Into The Everblack”. Since adding ex-Arsis axeman Ryan Knight, the soloing has really taken off, and that’s no exception here: literally every solo in Everblack is on point and sticks in the brain. Equally impressive are the relatively new rhythm-makers on bass and drums; in particular youthful drummer Alan Cassidy, filling his predecessor’s drumming shoes with relative ease, shifting from relentless blasting such as on “Control” to tasteful grooves and fills dotted around the album. Musically, everything checks out solidly.
Enter the band’s most controversial member, stage left: Trevor Stmad, maniacal vocalist extraordinaire. His performance tends to divide the Black Dahlia listening camp in twain; his larynx-stretching ranges from guttural growls to howling shrieks, the latter of which allegedly strays close to ‘core’ territory (decide for yourselves on that one), although established fans will continue to be amazed by the vocal gymnastics nonetheless. Just as divisive and impressive are his lyrics, grotesquely poetic regardless of the topic concerned. His word-weaving abilities are nearly-unparalleled in the genre, from old favourites like the Evil Dead homage in “Raped In Hatred By Vines Of Thorn” to new themes covering people desiring amputation (“Phantom Limb Masturbation”) and at last exploring the murder from which the band derive their namesake (“In Hell Is Where She Waits For Me”). The chill one gets while reading “Phantom Limb Masturbation” recalls the disgust at “The Window” from Ritual, screaming forth lines such as “Desire: amputation, leave me writhing in the limbless throes/ it is deficiency I crave…a clump of breathing flesh, free from extremity”.
Everything sounding familiar territory so far? It seems the band were anticipating this, and have thrown in a couple of curveballs that are worth mentioning. The most obvious one, embodied in “Every Rope A Noose”, is a genre deviation incorporating the black-n-roll of Kvelertak, which bizarrely works in their favour, although the listener’s sympathies may lie with the drummer’s legs after that much double-bass. That’s not the only eyebrow-raising moment; the title track sees a Hammer-esque orchestral-moment dropped between two sections of metal; as well as a breakdown around the gang-vocalled phrase “six six six” on “Goat Of Departure”, making it the sore thumb of that song.
Finally, for a band with the usual ability to craft jaw-dropping final tracks on every album, “Map Of Scars” manages to horrify as death metal should, particularly lyrically, but without the morbid fascination or empowerment that “Blood In The Ink”, “I Will Return” or “Warborn” inspired before. Instead, the band take a melancholic turn, implementing a novel choral element and some black metal riffing, but it lacks the grab-factor that made the above-mentioned tracks such punchy closers.
All things considered, however, The Black Dahlia Murder have released another strong effort, developing and maturing their style without a need for compromise. It takes a little longer to get into Everblack, but with several strong hooks in tracks like “Raped In Hatred By Vines Of Thorn” and “Blood Mine” you’re bound to be drawn in if you had even a passing interest in them before. Those who were on the fence about their ‘legitimacy’ in the death metal pantheon will have their opinions rightfully served back at them, with a nodding wink and evil grin from the waiter, while the rest of us will just enjoy the ride as we descend into the everblack.