If it wasn’t secure already, the recent release of The Black Dahlia Murder’s Abysmal has solidified the band’s status as legends in the melodic death metal community. These dudes have consistently improved their sound with each release, bringing in new musicians to round out the already successful songwriting partnership between the band’s founders and backbone, guitarist Brian Eschbach and singer Trevor Strnad. On their seventh album, Eschbach, second guitarist Ryan Knight, and second-timer rhythm section Alan Cassidy and Max Lavelle have taken the honed complexity of 2013’s Everblack and streamlined it into a record that runs on no-frills, fevered immediacy. The music is the perfect backdrop for some of Strnad’s most compelling output yet, particularly the title track and “Receipt,” songs that find the singer in a light of personal vulnerability which, in tandem with new creature feature classics like “The Fog” and “Re-Faced,” reinforce me in my stance that he’s the most brilliant lyricist in metal.
The band’s got a ton of classic material spread throughout their seven albums, but Criminally Slept-On’s gonna take a slightly different tack this week. Since their debut Metal Blade full-length, Unhallowed, the band have established themselves as a ceaseless touring act, and it’s been a major component in their success; most diehard fans will tell you that if you haven’t heard them live, you haven’t heard them at all. Between Strnad’s engaging between-song banter, the perfect live replication of studio acrobatics that’d elude lesser bands, and the presence of their mascot, the Statutory Ape, the stage displays these dudes in their most flattering light. But as evidenced on their DVD releases, Majesty and Fool ‘Em All, there are a number of songs that have had some serious staying power in their setlist over the years. This week, I take a look at some of the songs that haven’t seen any live love in a while, or maybe ever.
1) “Blood Mine”
One of Everblack’s quicker, punchier numbers, “Blood Mine” would destroy live, and I’m not sure the band’s ever played it before. As they’ve matured as writers, their song structures have become increasingly theatrical, featuring longer pockets of atmospheric, horror-themed instrumentation and full-on intro and outro movements that bookend some of the longer tracks (see this album’s exquisite finale, “Map of Scars”). While “Blood Mine” boasts the same developed craftsmanship as the rest of Everblack, structurally it feels like it could’ve come from Nocturnal. That changeup makes it a highlight in the album’s sequence, and it’s chorus is just dying to be echoed by a sweat-drenched, stinking front row.
It’s not a Criminally Slept-On without me hitting you with an import track or two, and for this band, that selection is slim. Incredibly slim, actually, as before Abysmal, “Seppuku” was the band’s only officially-released non-album original (to my knowledge). Fortunately, it would’ve fit perfectly on Everblack, and in a live setting, it’d be a blast to jam. “Seppuku” features some of the most instantly provocative guitar melodies from this batch of songs, and between the shredding and the consistent beat, even the most hammered pit-goer would be able to keep both fist and head banging in time… as opposed to tracks like “Into The Everblack” and “Their Beloved Absentee,” which probably get more difficult to follow with each crushed Pabst can. This track didn’t even make it onto the record, so I doubt it ever makes it onto the stage. But a bro can dream.
3) “Blood In The Ink”
OH MY GOD, THIS SHIT RIGHT HERE. This is the one Black Dahlia Murder track that, if I had my way, I’d insist on hearing at every single show. It’s a longer number, and while they played it in the Ritual touring cycle, it’s usually the long ones that get the boot first to make room for new material. The lyrics to this track give me goosebumps, and to be able to scream along with it live would be amazing. In addition to its hooks and singability, the lyrics even make reference the band’s pit festivities (“you’ve broken your bones in violent ritual”), so maybe they’ll rotate it back into the set at some point. The band racks up younger fans with each new release, and this song’s commentary on the impressionable nature of youth makes it an ideal live initiation to make sure the newcomers appreciate it later when it’s in their headphones.
4) “The Grave Robber’s Work”
Another standout Ritual track with some disgusting lyrics and surgical guitar work. The song’s opening could incite some pretty vicious circle action, and there are killer audience chant opportunities throughout. Part of what made Ritual such an incredible record following the mostly Eschbach-penned Deflorate (which is also killer, don’t get me wrong) was the infusion of Ryan Knight’s guitar riffs. “The Graverobber’s Work” is an excellent example of the dynamic shifts and melodic collisions created by Knight and Eschbach playing off of each other.