The Black Dahlia Murder

Ritual

01. A Shrine to Madness
02. Moonlight Equilibrium
03. On Stirring Seas of Salted Blood
04. Conspiring With the Damned
05. The Window
06. Carbonized in Cruciform
07. Den of the Piquerist
08. Malenchantments of the Necrosphere
09. The Grave Robber’s Work
10. The Raven
11. Great Burning Nullifier
12. Blood in the Ink

[6/17/2011]
[Metal Blade Records]

The Black Dahlia Murder have been one of the most prominent and loved American death metal bands since the release of their first major record, Unhollowed, back in 2003.  They released Miasma in 2005, a record considered their best work by many of their fans.  After releasing two very successful records after Miasma, entitled Nocturnal and Deflorate, the band has released Ritual. How does it fare, you say?  My answer: it’s the best material they’ve ever recorded, and is sure to overtake Miasma as the favorite of many fans.

The album is a clear evolution of the band’s signature sound, adding numerous other elements and genres while retaining the melodic death metal foundation. Elements of metalcore, progressive, traditional death metal, and even doom show their way into this beast of a record. Why, take the first track, “A Shrine to Madness“. The track opens with a very delicate, mournful string duet into before transforming into total chaos.  The band itself starts with something they’ve excelled at since day one:  playing in 12/8 time. Also, vocalist Trevor Strnad, besides having one of the best high screams in the business, also exercises his low vocals to great effect. His lows are much more prominent on Ritual, being crucial to the development of a song, rather than just a surprise.

Also of note, the style of guitar riffs have changed from previous albums, being more lead oriented. There’s much more riff variety, and even some well-executed chug riffs, such as in standout track “Malenchantments of the Necrosphere“, which also delves into progressive territory by including an awesome 7/8 part.  Lead guitarist Ryan Knight also makes a bigger impact than he did in Deflorate. On the previous record, you could tell he was restricting himself, especially considering it was a new style of death metal, as he was in tech-death group Arsis before joining The Black Dahlia Murder. However, on Ritual, he’s noticeably incorporated himself completely, including leads, guitar licks, and solos that add to the song rather than coming out of left field.

The bass is extremely prominent on this record, hitting you like a hammer and being the spotlight on numerous occasion. It’s obvious Ryan Williams’ parts have had more care on this record than previous, and it augments the record greatly. Also, Shannon Lucas’ drumming is toned down a bit; instead of constant blast beats and intensity, he changes with the song, calming the song when necessary, which is incredibly tasteful.

All of the tracks are great, but particular songs of note include, “Conspiring With the Damned“, “Malenchantments of the Necrosphere“, “Carbonized in Cruciform” “The Window” and “Den of the Piquerist“, which has to be the craziest song that TBDM have ever done. It opens with a drum solo, adding bass, then guitar and this noise.  I have no idea what this noise is, but it’s absolutely haunting, paints an image well, and notches up the insanity. Trevor in particular sounds vicious in this track.

The closer absolutely fucking rules. “Blood in the Ink” follows what seems to be a TBDM tradition in this respect. It breaks news territory for them with background violins during the chorus and parts of the verses, and it absolutely works. The bridge is awesome too;  Shannon grooving away on toms with that continuously present violin providing ambience. The guitar solo is pretty awesome too.

This record blew me away. Even though there are new elements, I feel that The Black Dahlia Murder have found their ‘sound’; this is it for sure. Ritual sets a new standard for American melodeath, and will no doubt take TBDM to newer, greater heights than before. This is the ultimate TBDM album, and if this evolution continues, I cannot wait to hear the next one.

The Black Dahlia Murder’s Ritual gets:

4.5/5

– GR

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