Detroit’s The Black Dahlia Murder is a melodic death metal band that has divided the metal scene since the early 2000s, not only because of their unusual blend of melodic death metal, hardcore and metalcore but also because of Trevor Strnad’s eccentric vocals.
After polishing their sound and honing their skills, as well as quite a few changes in their line-up, they’ve now come through with their seventh record called Abysmal.
The two singles off of this album that were released for promotion didn’t really resonate all that much with me at first, however, after listening to them a few more times together with the rest of the album, atleast Vlad, Son of the Dragon, has grown on me.
The songwriting on Abysmal is closer to 2011′s Ritual, since it carries less metalcore influences than their 2013 album Everblack and this record actually incorporates a very playful, almost neo-classical seeming, style of riffing.
Everblack brought a lot of really fast, almost thrashy, riffing to the table whereas Abysmal focuses on melodies over intensity or abrasiveness.
However, in a lot of places the album just ends up being sort of unremarkable or just really unspectacular, especially during most of the choruses, a problem that was already present on Everblack.
The only real blunder on this album, in my eyes, is the seventh track called Stygiophobic. Barely longer than three minutes this song still manages to be incredibly tedious with its overly long intro as well as conspicuously repetitive songwriting and lyrics. The fade out just adds insult to injury.
Aside from that pretty much nothing on this album stands out in an overly positive or negative way, despite the songwriting being noticeably different. As I’ve mentioned before, the riffing has a weirdly baroque and playful vibe to it, the guitar solos are typical Ryan Knight signature playing and the drum tracks are very diversified, even though I still think that Shannon Lucas’ style of play was, though more static, also more fitting for the band’s sound, but that doesn’t change that this album just sounds very unadventurous and bland.
I do feel like the incredibly polished production is a part of that problem in the way that everything just sounds too smooth, too clean and too clinical. The grittier, dirtier sound of earlier records, like 2007′s Nocturnal, was more befitting of the band’s music and also went perfectly with the very twisted and dark lyrical topics.
In the end, Abysmal is neither a letdown nor a great album. Even though the band clearly did put some effort towards changing and improving their sound, I can’t help but to feel kind of indifferent towards it.