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 year in song reflected the state of the world around us. Here are the 70 songs that spoke to us this year.

70. The Horrors - "Machine"

On their fifth album V, the Horrors expand on the bright, psychedelic territory they explored with Luminous, anchoring the ten new tracks with retro synths and guitar fuzz freakouts. "Machine" is the delicious outlier and the most vitriolic cut on the record, with Faris Badwan belting out accusations to the song's subject, who may even be us. The concept of alienation is nothing new, but here the Brits incorporate a beautiful metaphor of an insect trapped in amber as an illustration of the human caught within modernity. Whether our trappings are technological, psychological, or something else entirely makes the statement all the more chilling. - Tristan Kneschke

Keep reading... Show less

Electronic music is one of the broadest-reaching genres by design, and 2017 highlights that as well as any other year on record. These are the 20 best albums.

20. Vitalic - Voyager (Citizen)

Pascal Arbez-Nicolas (a.k.a. Vitalic) made waves in the French Touch electro-house scene with his 2005 debut, OK Cowboy, which had a hard-hitting maximalist sound, but several albums later, Voyager finds him launching into realms beyond at his own speed. The quirky, wallflower vocals and guitar snippets employed throughout Voyager drop a funk that brings to mind WhoMadeWho or Matthew Dear if they had disco-pop injected between their toes. "Levitation" is as pure a slice of dance floor motivation as theoretically possible, a sci-fi gunfight with a cracking house beat sure to please his oldest fans, yet the album-as-form is equally effective in its more contemplative moments, like when Miss Kitten's vocals bring an ethereal dispassion to "Hans Is Driving" to balance out its somber vocoder or the heartfelt cover of "Don't Leave Me Now" by Supertramp. Voyager may infect you with a futuristic form of Saturday Night Fever, but afterwards, it gives you a hearty dose of aural acetaminophen to break it. - Alan Ranta

19. Antwood: Sponsored Content (Planet Mu)

Sponsored Content is a noisy, chaotic, occasionally beautiful work with a dark sense of humor that's frequently deployed to get Antwood's point across. For instance, throughout the aforementioned "Disable Ad Blocker", which sounds mostly like the creepy side of Tangerine Dream's early '80s experimental output, distorted slogans and recognizable themes worm their way into the mix. "I'm Loving It", we hear at one point, the Sony PlayStation startup music at another. And then there's a ten-second clip of what sounds like someone getting killed in a horror movie. What is there to make of the coexistence of those sorts of samples? Probably nothing explicit, just the uneasiness of benign and instantly-recognizable brand content in the midst of harsh, difficult art. Perhaps quality must to some extent be tied to sponsorship. That Antwood can make this point amidst blasts and washes of experimental electronic mayhem is quite the achievement. - Mike Schiller

18. Bonobo - Migration (Ninja Tune)

Although Bonobo, a.k.a. Simon Green, has been vocal in the past about not making personality driven music, Migration is, in many respects, a classic sounding Bonobo record. Green continues to build sonic collages out of chirping synths, jazz-influenced drums, sweeping strings and light touches of piano but on Migration sounds more confident than ever. He has an ability to tap into the emotions like few others such as on the gorgeous "Break Apart" and the more percussive "Surface". However, Bonobo also works to broaden his sound. The electro-classical instrumental "Second Sun" floats along wistfully, sounding like it could have fit snugly onto a Erased Tapes compilation, while the precise and intricate "Grains" shows the more intimate and reflective side of his work. On the flipside, the higher tempo, beat driven tracks such as "Outlier" and "Kerala" perfectly exhibit his understanding of what works on the dance floor while on "Bambro Koyo Ganda" he even weaves North African rhythms into the fabric. Migration is a multifaceted album full of personality and all the better for it. - Paul Carr

17. Kiasmos - Blurred EP (Erased Tapes)

The Icelandic duo of Olafur Arnalds and Janus Rasmussen, aka Kiasmos, is a perfect example of a pair of artists coming from two very different musical backgrounds, finding an unmistakable common ground to create something genuinely distinctive. Arnalds, more known for his minimal piano and string work, and Rasmussen, approaching from a more electropop direction, have successfully explored the middle ground between their different musical approaches and in doing so crafted affecting minimalist electronic music. Blurred is one of the most emotionally engaging electronic releases of the year. The duo is working from a refined and bright sonic palette as they consummately layer fine, measured sounds together. It is an intricate yet unforced and natural sounding set of songs with every song allowed room to bloom gradually. - Paul Carr

16. Ellen Allien - Nost (BPitch Control)

BPitch boss and longtime lynchpin of the DJ scene in Berlin, Ellen Allien's seven full-length releases show an artist constantly reinventing herself. Case in point, her 2013 offering, LISm, was a largely beat-less ambient work designed to accompany an artsy dance piece, while its follow-up, 2017's Nost, is a hardcore techno journey, spiritually born in the nightclubs and warehouses of the early '90s. It boasts nine straight techno bangers, beautifully minimalist arrangements with haunting vocals snippets and ever propulsive beats, all of which harken back to a hallowed, golden, mostly-imagined age when electronic music was still very much underground, and seemingly anything was possible. - Alan Ranta

It's just past noon on a Tuesday, somewhere in Massachusetts and Eric Earley sounds tired.

Since 2003, Earley's band, Blitzen Trapper, have combined folk, rock and whatever else is lying around to create music that manages to be both enigmatic and accessible. Since their breakthrough album Furr released in 2008 on Sub Pop, the band has achieved critical acclaim and moderate success, but they're still some distance away from enjoying the champagne lifestyle.

Keep reading... Show less

Aaron Sorkin's real-life twister about Molly Bloom, an Olympic skier turned high-stakes poker wrangler, is scorchingly fun but never takes its heroine as seriously as the men.

Chances are, we will never see a heartwarming Aaron Sorkin movie about somebody with a learning disability or severe handicap they had to overcome. This is for the best. The most caffeinated major American screenwriter, Sorkin only seems to find his voice when inhabiting a frantically energetic persona whose thoughts outrun their ability to verbalize and emote them. The start of his latest movie, Molly's Game, is so resolutely Sorkin-esque that it's almost a self-parody. Only this time, like most of his better work, it's based on a true story.

Keep reading... Show less

There's something characteristically English about the Royal Society, whereby strangers gather under the aegis of some shared interest to read, study, and form friendships and in which they are implicitly agreed to exist insulated and apart from political differences.

There is an amusing detail in The Curious World of Samuel Pepys and John Evelyn that is emblematic of the kind of intellectual passions that animated the educated elite of late 17th-century England. We learn that Henry Oldenburg, the first secretary of the Royal Society, had for many years carried on a bitter dispute with Robert Hooke, one of the great polymaths of the era whose name still appears to students of physics and biology. Was the root of their quarrel a personality clash, was it over money or property, over love, ego, values? Something simple and recognizable? The precise source of their conflict was none of the above exactly but is nevertheless revealing of a specific early modern English context: They were in dispute, Margaret Willes writes, "over the development of the balance-spring regulator watch mechanism."

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.