Sven de Caluwé, front man for System Divide and Aborted says “the new Black Dahlia Murder is pretty awesome.” Here’s a guy who knows a little something about extreme and death metal, so I decided to sit down last night and check it out. Of course Sven is right, Ritual is pretty damn awesome.
Ritual represents the band’s fifth studio album, and the follow up to 2009’s Deflorate, which was pretty damn impressive in its own right. Bands always hope to eclipse previous efforts when they make a new record, rather than simply focusing on making an ass-kicking album that will stand the test of time. With Ritual, the Detroit, Michigan brotherhood of melodic death metal has managed to achieve both feats in one skull caving effort.
Ritual makes it difficult to ignore the impact that former Arsis axe-wielder, Ryan Knight has had on the band’s forward momentum and growth. While he played on Deflorate, he brought his songwriting chops to bear on Ritual as well as his guitar prowess. Fellow guitarist and band co-founder, Brian Eschbach says this time the songs were crafted very collaboratively between he and Knight. This growth within the band has allowed them to stretch the creative dynamic and add new layers to their sound.
The band wastes no time in throwing us for a loop, by starting the album off with an accompaniment of strings, which lead off the album opener “A Shrine To Madness”. Of course this quickly gives way to a riot of blast beats from Shannon Lucas, furious guitar work, and Strnad’s unique blend of low guttural growling and aggressive snarling.
Unlike the recent ill-advised aural trainwreck that fellow American death metal bretheren Morbid Angel laid on us with their adventerous new album, Illud Divinum Insanus, The Black Dahlia Murder is quick to remind fans that while they are exploring new sonic tundra, they haven’t lost their way. One listen to the album’s first single, “Moonlight Equilibrium” reminds us why we love these midwest grinders. “Moonlight” is trademark TBDM, with Strnad on attack, and Knight laying down fierce blistering fret work, that is intelligent, melodic and devastating. The interplay between the guitar and vocals is some of the band’s best work.
Produced by Mark Lewis (Trivium, DevilDriver, Chimaira) and Jason Suecof (DevilDriver, Mutiny Within, Charred Walls of the Damned), Ritual expands the band’s visionary palette without sacrificing any of their native ferocity or pulverizing vehemence.
On “Carbonized in Cruciform” the band weaves the nuances of piano and acoustic guitar into one of the most merciless and caustic tracks the band has ever released. In the midst of it all is the beauty added by these unexpected elements, along with a wailing yet ravaging guitar solo.
Lucas and bassist Ryan ‘Bart’ Williams get their groove on in the punk-tinged grinder, “Den Of The Picquerist”– a 90 second pulverizing rampage.
Of the dozen new tracks Ritual offers, it is the album’s final track that is perhaps the most intriguing, and expansive. “Blood In The Ink” returns us to the strings we heard at the beginning of the album, but takes them in a deeper more dramatic turn; juxtaposing a barbaric cacophony over atmospheric orchestral textures, which somehow makes despair and ugliness seem beautiful and beguiling.
Ritual is packed with thick meaty riffs, pummeling blast beats, chunky bass lines, and Strnad’s brutish vocal arsenal. There’s no filler on this album, nothing irrelevant, and no reason for Black Dahlia Murder fans to find disappointment. More than that, Ritual is The Black Dahlia Murder‘s watershed opus. They have not only created a defining album, but have set a new standard for their future creations.
The Black Dahlia Murder has become a dominating force in extreme metal, so open your ears and let the Ritual consume your soul.
This is one of 2011’s best metal albums, hands down, horns up!