The Black Dahlia Murder: Deflorate

After years of underachieving, the popular Detroit band starts to live up to expectations on their fourth album.

The Black Dahlia Murder


Label: Metal Blade
US Release Date: 2009-09-15
UK Release Date: 2009-09-14
Artist website

When Detroit's the Black Dahlia Murder turned heads with their 2003 debut Unhallowed and scored a significant commercial breakthrough on Miasma a couple years later, the feeling among some, including yours truly, was, "Sure, it's great to see a band that's infinitely more interesting than As I Lay Dying win over the kids, but if they ever get their songwriting to the same lofty level as their musicianship, look out." The fact is, despite becoming a very popular American metal act in the last four years, the band's albums haven't quite measured up, not exactly sounding like the work of a band that's primed to grab that proverbial brass ring and lead the charge. As likeable as these guys are, it's always been especially frustrating, because they've got all the ingredients -- technical chops up the wazoo; a cool hybrid sound of metalcore, melodic death metal, and black metal; and one of extreme metal's more charismatic, dynamic lead vocalists in the beer gut-and-glasses sporting Trevor Strnad -- save for that one key element.

After the potential that Miasma showed, 2007's Nocturnal was a slight step up, but while it was clear the Black Dahlia Murder was clearly comfortable in their little niche, such stubborn adherence to that formula continued to yield merely decent results. Not awful by any stretch, but certainly not mind-blowing, either. Instead, despite several very strong moments, it felt far too safe to warrant more than a mild recommendation.

So here we are with attempt number four at really knocking one out of the park, and while structurally Deflorate has the quintet sounding as pre-diddly-ictable as ever, there's more of a sense of urgency in the songwriting and performances. Much of the credit has to go to producer Jason Suecof, who is renowned for whipping bands into shape in order to create a scorching, pulverizing record, and there's no denying that somebody lit a fire under these guys' butts this time around. The mix is typically crisp, achieving the kind of balance between blast-beating brutality and textured melodies that the Black Dahlia Murder's style demands, drummer Shannon Lucas sounding both punishing and lithe, guitarists Bryan Eschbach and Ryan Knight letting loose ultra-slick dual harmonies from start to finish.

Of course, all this means squat if the songwriting isn't up to snuff, and while Deflorate isn't the kind of quantum leap on par with All That Remains' The Fall of Ideals or Kylesa's Static Tensions, for once these guys actually deliver ten songs that hold their own remarkably well. The nimble guitar melodies on the swift opening track "Black Valor", which range from palm-muted thrash riffing to black metal-inspired tremolo picking, are assured instead of ostentatious, while the approach on the surprisingly contagious, three-and-a-half-minute "Necropolis" is downright tasteful, the simple hooks in the verse riff and the chorus commanding our attention. "Denounced, Disgraced" and the ferocious "Death Panorama" expertly toy with that aggressive/ornate contrast that the band likes so much, but the clear winner on this album is the closer "I Will Return", which emphasizes black metal the most of the ten tracks and delivers the record's strongest, most refined melodies.

All the while, Strnad does what he does best, putting in a typically schizophrenic performance on record, alternating between distinctive shrieks and guttural growls as he's wont to do, even managing to enunciate impressively. What he's screaming and roaring about hardly matters (and we won't even try to explain the cover artwork, for that matter), especially when we're so relieved to hear the Black Dahlia Murder finally starting to live up to its potential. We all knew they had a really good album in them, and Deflorate is just that.






The Dance of Male Forms in Denis' 'Beau travail'

Claire Denis' masterwork of cinematic poetry, Beau travail, is a cinematic ballet that tracks through tone and style the sublimation of violent masculine complexes into the silent convulsions of male angst.


The Cradle's 'Laughing in My Sleep' Is an Off-kilter Reflection of Musical Curiosity

The Cradle's Paco Cathcart has curated a thoughtfully multifarious album. Laughing in My Sleep is an impressive collection of 21 tracks, each unapologetic in their rejection of expectations.


Tobin Sprout Goes Americana on 'Empty Horses'

During the heyday of Guided By Voices, Tobin Sprout wasn't afraid to be absurd amongst all that fuzz. Sprout's new album, Empty Horses, is not the Tobin Sprout we know.


'All In: The Fight for Democracy' Spotlights America's Current Voting Restrictions as Jim Crow 2.0

Featuring an ebullient and combative Stacey Abrams, All In: The Fight for Democracy shows just how determined anti-democratic forces are to ensure that certain groups don't get access to the voting booth.


'Transgender Street Legend Vol. 2' Finds Left at London "At My Peak and Still Rising"

"[Pandemic lockdown] has been a detriment to many people's mental health," notes Nat Puff (aka Left at London) around her incendiary, politically-charged new album, "but goddamn it if I haven't been making some bops here and there!"


Daniel Romano's 'How Ill Thy World Is Ordered' Is His Ninth LP of 2020 and It's Glorious

No, this is isn't a typo. Daniel Romano's How Ill Thy World Is Ordered is his ninth full-length release of 2020, and it's a genre-busting thrill ride.


The Masonic Travelers Offer Stirring Rendition of "Rock My Soul" (premiere)

The Last Shall Be First: the JCR Records Story, Volume 1 captures the sacred soul of Memphis in the 1970s and features a wide range of largely forgotten artists waiting to be rediscovered. Hear the Masonic Travelers "Rock My Soul".


GLVES Creates Mesmerizing Dark Folktronica on "Heal Me"

Australian First Nations singer-songwriter GLVES creates dense, deep, and darkish electropop that mesmerizes with its blend of electronics and native sounds on "Heal Me".


Otis Junior and Dr. Dundiff Tells Us "When It's Sweet" It's So Sweet

Neo-soul singer Otis Junior teams with fellow Kentuckian Dr. Dundiff and his hip-hop beats for the silky, groovy "When It's Sweet".


Lars and the Magic Mountain's "Invincible" Is a Shoegazey, Dreamy Delight (premiere)

Dutch space pop/psychedelic band Lars and the Magic Mountain share the dreamy and gorgeous "Invincible".


What 'O Brother, Where Art Thou?' Gets Right (and Wrong) About America

Telling the tale of the cyclops through the lens of high and low culture, in O'Brother, Where Art Thou? the Coens hammer home a fatalistic criticism about the ways that commerce, violence, and cosmetic Christianity prevail in American society .


Alexander Wren's "The Earth Is Flat" Wryly Looks at Lost Love (premiere + interview)

Singer-songwriter Alexander Wren's "The Earth Is Flat" is a less a flat-earther's anthem and more a wry examination of heartache.


Big Little Lions' "Distant Air" Is a Powerful Folk-Anthem (premiere)

Folk-pop's Big Little Lions create a powerful anthem with "Distant Air", a song full of sophisticated pop hooks, smart dynamics, and killer choruses.


The Flat Five Invite You to "Look at the Birdy" (premiere)

Chicago's the Flat Five deliver an exciting new single that exemplifies what some have called "twisted sunshine vocal pop".


Brian Bromberg Pays Tribute to Hendrix With "Jimi" (premiere + interview)

Bass giant Brian Bromberg revisits his 2012 tribute to Jimi Hendrix 50 years after his passing, and reflects on the impact Hendrix's music has had on generations.

Jedd Beaudoin

Shirley Collins' ​'Heart's Ease'​ Affirms Her Musical Prowess

Shirley Collins' Heart's Ease makes it apparent these songs do not belong to her as they are ownerless. Collins is the conveyor of their power while ensuring the music maintains cultural importance.


Ignorance, Fear, and Democracy in America

Anti-intellectualism in America is, sadly, older than the nation itself. A new collection of Richard Hofstadter's work from Library of America traces the history of ideas and cultural currents in American society and politics.

By the Book

Democratizing Our Data: A Manifesto (excerpt)

Just as big tech leads world in data for profit, the US government can produce data for the public good, sans the bureaucracy. This excerpt of Julia Lane's Democratizing Our Data: A Manifesto will whet your appetite for disruptive change in data management, which is critical for democracy's survival.

Julia Lane

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.