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THE BLACK DAHLIA MURDER Nightbringers

By Peter Atkinson, Contributor
Monday, October 9, 2017 @ 12:03 AM


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THE BLACK DAHLIA MURDER
Nightbringers

Metal Blade Records




THE BLACK DAHLIA MURDER has been one of metal’s most dependable acts for 15 years. Like clockwork, the Michigan melodic death metal mob knocks out new material every two years and then brings their engaging blend of fury and frivolity on the road. And each release has been good, if not great, despite there almost always being at least one new face in the picture from one release to the next, a testament to the drive and focus of frontman Trevor Strnad and guitarist Brian Eschbach, both of whom have been there since the start.

Nightbringers is BLACK DAHLIA’s eighth album, and marks the debut of lead guitarist Brandon Ellis (also of ARSIS and CANNIBAS CORPSE), who takes over for Ryan Knight after his seven-year stint ended last year and impresses from the get-go with his agility and humility. And once again, the band has taken the change in stride and emerged more or less unscathed from a sonic perspective.

Nightbringers continues the impressive run BLACK DAHLIA has been on since 2009’s indulgent Deflorate, the lone hiccup in an otherwise stellar catalog, and even it is pretty decent. And though Nightbringers makes a nod to the past with a cover by Kristian “Necrolord” Wåhlin - whose grim, desolate art last graced 2007's Nocturnal, arguably BLACK DAHLIA's finest moment, something the band acknowledge during the recent Summer Slaughter tour by playing it in its entirety to mark its 10th anniversary – it is anything but a nostalgia trip.

Instead, Nightbringers picks up where 2015’s ferocious Abysmal left off and keeps things moving forward – even if its more rough-and-tumble sound does echo Nocturnal. But a lot of that comes from the modestly grittier production, which adds some punch and bite after the comparative slickness of the last few albums – not to mention the classical flourishes on Abysmal - and accents the depth and variety of the material.

Indeed, there no real frills at all this time around. Nightbringers is lean and feisty through most of its 33 minutes. It kicks off in typical BLACK DAHLIA fashion, at a dead sprint fueled by Alan Cassidy's breakneck drumming and Strand's breathless growl/grunt/scream/bleat caterwaul. “Widowmaker”, “Of God And Serpent, Of Spectre And Snake” and “Matriarch” roil with Swe-deathy energy and urgency, and weave their crafty melodies in and out of the tangle of riffs with a deft hand that makes them catchy almost in spite of themselves.

But the band starts mixing things up after that, and the rest of the album offers more of a rollercoaster ride. The anthemic, chunky title track slows the tempo to a swaggering gait and slathers on the grooves - and is one of the most accessible tunes the band has ever done, relatively speaking of course. The hooky, surging “Jars” offers rousing shout-along backing vocals - should you be inclined to join in on a tune about storing jars full of “human beef” beneath the cellar floor. “Their heads in jars.” Yum!

“Kings Of The Nightworld” has a LAMB OF GOD-like thrash viciousness as Strand gives his vocals some extra gruffness and bark and the band strips away some of the usual complexity and just goes balls out. “Catacomb Hecatomb” harks back to opening tracks with its face-ripping intensity, but adds a big, breakdown-like midsection to work the body as well. “As Good As Dead” mixes elegant guitar sweeps around its otherwise frantic histrionics - a la ARCH ENEMY or MEGADETH – while the black metal tremolo of “The Lonely Deceased” is tempered by a smattering of acoustic guitar as the album comes to a close in suitably epic, if a bit overlong, fashion.

Nightbringers may well be BLACK DAHLIA’s most well-rounded effort. Though some of its nuance gets lost in the band’s utterly fierce delivery, the nine songs here cover more ground than usual, which makes for a more memorable listen – and which demands repeated listens. It puts a fresh spin on what BLACK DAHLIA had all but perfected and keeps the band sounding vibrant and vital at stage in its career where so many bands either start grasping at straws or mailing it in.

4.5 Out Of 5.0

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