Imagine awaiting final judgement, then once your time comes, you are sent to hell. You descend into the ever black and there’s no going back. You’ve fallen into the pits of death, a miasma of rotting corpses and pained souls. Upon the fiery horizon, you can see stirring seas of salted blood and beyond that, a gothic, monolithic castle.
You think to yourself of all the horrors it must house and that beyond its wooden gates, lies the devil himself; the nocturnal majesty alongside his kings of hell. Funnily enough, this is how you feel after you’ve been consumed by The Black Dahlia Murder’s triumphant, pummelling new album Nightbringers.
Death Metal is all about the gore, horror and gross things that lurk in every nook, cranny and skull. It just so happens that The Black Dahlia Murder are masters of conjuring ghoulish music. They’re known for their nightmarish lyricism, bone-breaking rhythms and ungodly shrieks and growls. As a band, they’re unrivalled in the art of creating catchy, disgusting music and because of that, they sit atop a throne in the death metal kingdom.
Some may say they sit upon a throne of lunacy but I couldn’t disagree more. I’ve been listening to them since Nocturnal, which is heralded by many, as their best album… until now. Whilst their back-catalogue is one of the strongest in modern day metal, Nocturnal has always remained untouched.
For me, it was the album that got me into death metal and it is one of the greatest albums I’ve ever experienced. The lyricism is on the level of Edgar Allan Poe, in the sense it’s depraved, blissfully dark poetry. Not only is the lyricism beautifully dark, Nocturnal features carefully crafted, watertight tunes; lots of melodies and insane riffs.
Why am I speaking of Nocturnal? Well, it’s because Nightbringers is 2017’s Nocturnal. The Black Dahlia Murder have done it again and what a brutal and visceral pleasure it is! Nightbringers is chaos unfurled through music, the instruments rip and pound as the vocals unleash all kinds of horror. In fact, it’s bloody hard to do the album justice with words alone. It’s a romp that really needs to be experienced first-hand. From the outset, it’s apparent the band have the fire in their lungs and what feels like a newfound energy.
It kicks off with “Widowmaker“, beginning with a brief sci-fi synth (think Event Horizon) leading to an explosion of guitars, blast-beats and an inhuman roar, delivered by the madman himself, Trevor Strnad. “Widowmaker” is likely to do just that, leaving your unfortunate partner alone as you explode into a pulp onto the floor a la Hellraiser. Musically, it’s heavy and I mean, really f**king heavy. The guitars come at a breakneck pace as the drums cascade upon you. You feel like you’ve been beaten afterward and only the brave will survive the album’s 31 minute running time.
After “Widowmaker”, you’re gutted by “Of God and Serpent, Of Spectre and Snake“. This track is one of their catchiest, with a monolithic chorus and soaring guitar solos. The melody throughout somehow flows with the sheer level of noise swirling around it. The thing about Nightbringers is that everything hits so hard, it’s a continuous butchering.
A great example of melody and musical chaos, is the title track. The track itself is perfect. Upon first listening, I was absolutely blown away by the stampeding guitars and machine-gun drums. Vocally, it’s a death metal masterclass. The way Strnad howls, growls and convulses his vocal chords is enviable and admirable.
The man is one talented son of a gun. Moreover, his crazy, superb lyricism is on point, with lines such as “Bringers of the night / Black flame of Satan burning foul and bright / We kindred bringers of the night / Your blood our sweet delight“, you can’t help but smile with such glee.
As you venture further into the aural Hell of Nightbringers, you’ll encounter more musical greatness. “King of the Nightworld” features old school death metal musicianship. The song feels centred around the instruments. It also features well-placed group vocals, which is often hard to pull-off.
As “…Nightworld” finishes, “Catacomb Hecatomb” storms into place. The energy displayed throughout Nightbringers is to be applauded and appreciated with “Catacomb Hecatomb” showing off various dynamics. It begins furiously, slowing down to a climax and then exploding even harsher than it began.
As it ends with dissonance, “As Good as Dead” begins with a Metallica-level guitar solo. It’s melodious and as the solo rings out, you’re blind-sided by ‘anthemic’ drum patterns. The sound of the china smashing and clanging adds to the heavier aspect of the song.
The heaviness feels more honed in yet it still features a lot of melody. The guitars, in particular, shine here and the quality of solos are second to none. Once again, the razor-sharp songwriting is on display. All-in-all it rounds out as one of their musically strongest tracks to date.
Once the album ends, you’re left with the same feeling you began with: Awe. The level of musicianship on display is brain-splattering-ly good. Every aspect of Nightbringers is visceral and grotesque. It’s everything a death metal album should be. I was completely taken aback by the sheer raw energy that surges through the album.
At times, it really sounds like a new band, in the sense that they’re so re-energised. It’s hard to believe it’s the same road warriors. From the vocals to the song structures and instrumentals, Nightbringers is faultless. This album rivals Nocturnal for the top spot and after repeated listens, it seriously has a chance of dethroning it.
The Black Dahlia Murder have ramped up the core aspects of their sound, whilst chopping the fat. Their latest offering is focussed and compact, in such a way that everything seems right. There is never a moment that drags and the bass adds a lot of depth to the record. Nightbringers is THE journey to hell that every death metal fan must take. It’s full of fire, brimstone and heads on pikes.
More importantly, it’s a representation of well-oiled craftsmanship; the album works as well as it does because of the wonderfully morbid lyricism and finessed musicianship. These guys have broken the wheel and burned the debris, all hail the torchbearers of ‘melodeath’. Join their legion now, sell your soul and become a Nightbringer.
The Black Dahlia Murder Nightbringer is out now via Metal Blade Records, purchase it on iTunes here.
Words by Jake Gould