Thursday, July 7, 2011

Ritual - The Black Dahlia Murder - 2011

RitualFucking relentless. The Black Dahlia Murder's latest release is my first experience with the band and Ritual is a full-throttle, nonstop 45-minute assault. And being assaulted never felt so good.

I don't know why I never dove in before. Honestly, I think a lot of it had to do with the emergence of the Brian De Palma mess of the same name around the same time these guys really started to make the radar. I know the band was there first but, at the time, it was easy to lump it in with the flavor of the day and pass it by. That's my excuse, anyway, because I feel like a moron for having missed out this long. 

A death metal core (not metalcore, mind you) with frenzied, melodic guitars, Ritual is a departure from the usual groove I love so much. Add in classical strings, piano, a bass mixed right in your face and some of the fiercest percussion in recent memory and you have an instant classic. Beneath the alternating growls and screams lie some of finest lyrics the genre has ever put to music. Hell, I got a kick out of reading the booklet when the CD wasn't even spinning.

...ancient human obelisk awakens from centuries of dust imprisoned in obsidian a horrid golemesque abomination...

It's very easy - for this undiscerning ear, anyway - for much of death metal to come across as a long, single slog. Sometimes this is a glorious, extended experience but, at best, it most often results in appreciation of any given record as a whole but rarely individual favored tracks. Ritual shifts and turns and transforms across each number and transforms the death metal album from a succession of sounds to a true collection of songs.

For me, Ritual hits its highest points on the fours. Tracks 4, 8 and 12 stand as the pinnacles among a record full of peaks. After three glorious tracks, "Conspiring with the Damned" feels like a whole new experience starting within the album:

"Malenchantments of the Necrosphere" and closer "Blood in the Ink" are the other definite highlights but, again, this entire album has taken something familiar and made it all new. "Den of the Piquerist" opens with just drums, then drum and bass, building anticipation for thirty seconds before any riff appears. When was the last time that happened on a death metal album?

Jumping in only a week or so following the release, I feel so much later than that in my appreciation of The Black Dahlia Murder. I ran out and grabbed Deflorate today and hope to enjoy discovering the band's earlier works. Even more so, though, with a masterpice like "Blood in the Ink," which sounds so much like the start of something entirely new closing the album, I cannot wait to hear what these guys have lined up next time around.


  1. "Blood in the Ink" is the best on the album. Still, I have a tough time really liking the band as I think the vocals are terribly weak.

  2. While the vocals do nothing to offend me, I agree in the sense that, if you consider them another instrument, they certainly rank below the other contributors in the band. Still, this is almost always the case for me in death metal. I can think of only two vocalists whose style I really enjoy: Lars Petrov and Johan Hegg. Otherwise, they usually just add to the din, be it pleasurable or not. In the case of The Black Dahlia Murder, I really, really liked the rest of the noise.