Get Nice and Evil with Ritual
Tuesday, June 28, 2011 2 Comments
Sometimes metal can be a difficult genre to stay faithful to. There are so many great bands out there, but they can’t seem to stick around for very long before they lose their creative spark and either sell out or just begin to suck (I’m talking about you, In Flames). It’s a terrible cycle, and it needs to be broken. I’ve prayed to the metal gods, asking them for this to stop, and this time, I think they answered. On June 21st, The Black Dahlia Murder released their fifth studio album, Ritual. This is a band that has raised the bar for melodic death metal higher and higher every time they’ve released an album — well, up until 2008, when their longtime lead guitarist John Kempanien left the band. They hired Ryan Night to fill the void and released Deflorate a year later, but with the exception of two or three good tracks, the album as a whole was okay at best. It made a lot of fans lose faith in such an amazing band. When Ritual was announced, most of us just scoffed and said “Who cares, I’ll listen to Obscura.” However, being the faithful fan that I am, I picked up a copy, and I do not regret it one bit.
Ritual takes BDM in an entirely new direction. As cliché as that sounds, it’s the only way to describe it. They brought back the polished, melodic riffs from Nocturnal, while experimenting with several new techniques that improve their sound considerably. A huge problem I had with Deflorate was the clashing styles of Ryan Night and original rhythm guitarist Brian Eschbach. Night is a pure shredder while Eschbach plays more melodic pieces, which made for a horribly unbalanced album. This time, they seem to have implemented Night’s talents in a much more efficient way. You can hear his signature sound in many of the main riffs. It adds a beautifully unique feel to each song, which is a breath of fresh miasma (get it?). This is especially noticeable in tracks like “Moonlight Equilibrium” (below) and “Conspiring With the Damned.” Additionally, BDM were more careful with Night’s solos, and they blend in with the songs much more easily than before. You’ll hear this about halfway through “Carbonized in Cruciform,” which is probably the best song on the album. After an absolutely insane riff, Night treats us with a wild solo that makes you question why he couldn’t do that in Deflorate. I can’t even describe it, you have to hear it for yourself to experience the auditory orgasm that I did.
Another great improvement is the fine vocal talents of front man Trevor Strnad. It’s hard to imagine any improvement could actually be made at all, as his vocals prove he is obviously not human. He’s always had a Jekyll & Hyde-like style with his voice, but he always seemed to choose his high screams over his deep, demonic low growls. On Ritual, though, Trevor’s deep vocals are much more prevalent. Tracks such as “On Stirring Seas of Salted Blood” and “Malenchantments of the Necrosphere” feature those incredible growls, which create a dark and gritty sound that usually makes you punch the nearest living thing as quickly as possible. Trevor also demonstrates some strong lyrics on the album; his poetic way with words gives every BDM song an intricate touch that few else can recreate. Although he’s usually singing about murder, vampires, zombies and necrophilia, each song is worded beautifully. You can probably tell from the title that Ritual is relative to satanism, with each song is basically illustrating some kind of evil ritual. Some songs describe murder and rape parties, others are communications with demons and visits to hell. It’s an interesting change for them, but it’s no less lyrically satisfying.
To top it off, BDM included a few songs with acoustic interludes and symphonic parts – and pull it off perfectly. The closing track of the album, “Blood in the Ink,” features a symphony playing throughout, giving the song that necessary sense of urgency and somberness that makes it the perfect song to end the album with. On the other hand though, there are some things they could have done better on the album. For example, the song “Den of the Picquerist” is quite forgettable. It begins with a punk rock beat on the drums that persists for most of the song. Luckily it’s the shortest song on the record, clocking in at only 1:30, so you won’t be tortured for too long. I also found that the further you get into the album, the less interesting the songs get, save for the aforementioned closing track.
To sum it up, this is a great album. If you’re a fan of metal, you should buy it. If you’re a fan of The Black Dahlia Murder, even if you were disappointed with their last effort, you should definitely buy it – you won’t be disappointed. Ritual is exactly what The Black Dahlia Murder needed to reclaim their rightful place at the top of today’s death metal scene.
This has been another guest contribution from Justin Mutch of Union City, CA. If you’d like to find out how you can get your reviews on Wrecked, find out how here.