The Black Dahlia Murder – Ritual

This is the record I?ve been waiting for.  No, not specifically Ritual; I haven?t been anticipating the follow-up of 2009?s Deflorate any more than the other The Black Dahlia Murder releases, but I?ve been waiting for years for The Black Dahlia Murder to really expand their sound.  Sure Deflorate had stand-out tracks like ?Christ Deformed? and the epic closer ?I Will Return?, but for me, most of the songs in the band?s collection kind of blend together.  This is not necessarily a bad thing, as they?ve created their own sound and refined it throughout the years, but it was becoming more and more evident that some deviation of sound was in order.

The band must have caught wind of some of the grumblings because they?ve unleashed Ritual, a twelve track opus that takes the band?s trademark sound but they?ve mixed things up a bit, shifting more towards a sinister black metal style.  Vocalist, Trevor Strnad?s shriek has never sounded more shrill, and the melodies are darker than ever.  On the other hand, this is the most diverse record The Black Dahlia Murder has ever released.  In the past, the band would just be concerned about playing as fast as they could, but there is plenty of diversification between rhythms and every track stands out from one another.

While Strnad has never been known for happy-go-lucky lyrics, this time he went darker than ever, building a theme based around satanic worshipping, hence the album?s title.  He?s constructed lyrics so that every song has its own direction, all while still staying within the general theme.  Adding this cohesiveness to the record really adds another dimension and it matches the moods of the instrumentation perfectly.

An additional highlight of this record is the packaging.  The artwork is phenomenal, and the layout was clearly thought out.  If you buy the record off iTunes, or if you simply go and download it, you?re missing out on a great aspect of the record, and in a world that largely gets their music online, it is extremely commendable to for the band to give those few who still buy records something cool to look at.

?A Shrine of Madness? starts off the record in a quiet fashion.  In fact, if you crank it up too loud, you might jump when the song truly kicks in because it comes out of nowhere.  Fans of the band will feel right at home with this track, as it?s full of speed and memorable melody.  About halfway through, there?s a section where Strnad starts speaking in Latin, in attempt to summon el Diablo.  If you aren?t paying attention, you?ll miss this little treat, because there is not section break, nor is there any change in his delivery.  This shows right off the bat they are paying attention to every detail, and the track could have easily gone without this section, but they went the extra mile for those who want to delve deeper into the music.

The three tracks that were posted online prior to the album released (?Moonlight Equilibrium?, ?Conspiring With the Damned?, and ?Malenchanments of the Necrosphere?) are all excellent, but if you?re checking out this review, you?ve probably listened to most, if not all of these already, so I?ll move on to some other choice tracks.

?Carbonized in Cruciform? sounds like it comes straight from Castlevania.  The lead melody is simply filthy.  If you imagined Strnad casting spells while he was on stage before, you better prepared, because he is literally going to transform into an evil warlock when performing this song.  His mic will turn into a wand, and he?s going to incinerate anyone in the crowd doing roundhouse kicks or synchronized dance moves.  Only the true metal fans will survive.  Hopefully you will be one of the survivors of Trevor?s wrath, because the whole song is awesome, ending pleasantly with the gently plucking of strings?

?Which lead right into ?Den of the Picaresque?, which is basically a blackened punk song.  It?s a very surprising track, as The Black Dahlia Murder has never written anything like it, but it serves its purpose by splitting up the rest of the record into two halves.  It starts off with some woman weakly screaming, which isn?t surprising, because the song?s about murdering a chick.  At a lean minute and a half, this track serves as a quick kick in the pants, and leaves without saying sorry.

?Great Burning Nullifier? is one of the slower tracks on the record, and it?s one of my personal favorites.  There is something grandiose about the track.  It?s hard to put my finger on it, but this track just has that special ingredient that every band is in search of.  Right before the guitar solo, Strnad streams ?now pass it down!? and as Ryan Knight is shredding up a storm, you can hear the guys taking bong rips.  This shows the band at their goofy side, and for being such fun guys, it?s a surprise that you don?t hear more moments like this from the band.  The song just continues to build until the end where everything just culminates into something truly impressive.

While it doesn?t quite stack up to Deflorate?s closer ?I Will Return?, ?Blood in the Ink? is still an excellent way to end the record.  The track starts with some creepy violins playing notes that sound as if they are being played backwards.  The song kicks in with a galloping rhythm, which is appropriate because the violins return with some heavy medieval influences, in fact, the whole song has a huge, majestic feeling to it (no pun intended).  This very theatrical piece slowly fades out, with a demonic voice uttering the words ?suicide is the only way out? leaving the violins to eerily play out in silence, which I feel is an awesomely evil and satisfying way to end this mammoth of a record.

Any fan of The Black Dahlia Murder will absolutely love this record, and for those who had their reservations with the band might want to give them a second look, because Ritual is their most diverse and accomplished record of their career.  It had everything you?d come to expect from the band and much, much more.  You can just feel the amount of work they?ve put into it, and everything collectively translates into one of the best metal records this year.  Get off your ass and buy this record right now!

Rating: 9.5/10
Label: Metal Blade Records

By Tanner Fisher

The Black Dahlia Murder – Moonlight Equilibrium

The Black Dahlia Murder – Conspiring With The Damned

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