Published Sep 22, 2015For Michigan's the Black Dahlia Murder, the problem was never playing death metal, it was people accusing them of being metalcore, deathcore or whatever the genre du jour was. But vocalist Trevor Strnad has noticed more people are finally coming around on their brand of the genre, even previous detractors, a trend that will likely continue with Abysmal.
Musically, their seventh full-length proceeds down the path the band started with 2011's Ritual, which means it takes the occasional diversion.
As Strnad explains in an Exclaim! interview, "Deflorate [from 2009] just wasn't as well received as we were hoping, and we couldn't quite pinpoint it at the time, but eventually we figured out that we needed more variety, more dynamics, and incorporating samples and different instruments was just a way to make things more interesting. And we haven't turned back since."
These new directions are more slight detours than complete reversals. Take first single "Vlad, Son of the Dragon," for example. The song is first and foremost a death metal offering, but it uses subtle touches to enhance its story. It features a woman's haunting, operatic singing in the background as a mood setter. The opening line, "Raise up the traitors," is met with a crowd chanting, "Higher! Higher!," taking the listener right into the throng as bodies are thrust skyward. The band also embody the titular Vlad with a deep, almost clicking voice.
"We did some pitch shifting on that; that's not natural," Strnad says. "We call that the Uncle Scary voice, when there's like talking. It's something I've been trying to put into the mix a little bit as we've gone further on, but yeah it was cool to kind of do Vlad's voice; that was kind of the idea there."
Strnad excitedly exclaims he's very into metal's fantastical elements — dragons, zombies and their horrific ilk — and that he wants the Black Dahlia Murder to embody what made him fall in love with death metal in the first place.
"I just like to tell stories, man, and I like to take something that's just a classic kind of topic that maybe, you know, is kind of driven into the ground, but put my kind of spin on things. I don't know; I just feel like those elements need to be there for a young kid to check it out. That's all the stuff that I fell in love with. It kind of comes from horror movies, a lot of horror influence, and some authors — Stephen King is one of my favourites and I definitely look to him — and it's kind of a trickle down of Cannibal Corpse influence, I guess. Cannibal Corpse was really that band when I was a kid that had those kind of story songs, where each song was like a little Tale from the Crypt or something like that, and in three minutes it was over."
Abysmal is out now via Metal Blade. See the Black Dahlia Murder's tour schedule here.