Sound — 9
From ardently sticking to their schedule of a new album released every other year since 2003, to always delivering a vigorous helping of melodic death metal, The Black Dahlia Murder have long proven to be a dependable name in the extreme metal scene. At the turn of the most recent decade, the Michigan quintet released their most elaborate, and most popular, album to date with 2011's "Rituals," and their following albums, 2013's "Everblack" and 2015's "Abysmal," have maintained the band's sound of melodeath with extra bits of metalcore characteristics and symphonic production value.
Now on their eighth album, "Nightbringers," The Black Dahlia Murder still deliver their aggressive melodeath in spades. Only showing a bit of synth production in the opening of the fully-loaded melodeather "Widowmaker," the band dispose of the production value pretense heard in their previous few albums and focus everything on their instrumental ferocity. Riffs between Brian Eschbach and new lead guitarist Brandon Ellis are as punishing as can be, whether in the fussy fretwork of "Of God And Serpent, Of Spectre And Snake," or the rapid arpeggios that ignite in "As Good As Dead," and Ellis's guitar solos meet the band's facemelting bar of expectations, most notably in "Matriarch" and "Jars." Furthermore, drummer Alan Cassidy's increase in blastbeats and other hectic rhythms is another fundamental element of the album's uptick in intensity, and bassist Max Lavelle gets his moment in the spotlight with his triplet-rhythmed arpeggio riffing in "The Lonely Deceased."
"Nightbringers" may primarily benefit from its relatively higher aggression, but the album isn't absent of dynamic songwriting. This partly comes in just different flows of death metal energy, like the thrashy verses and groovier choruses in "Kings Of The Nightworld," or the eponymous song going from gallops and gang chants to a blackened bridge, but the band also include some moments to juxtapose the darkness, heard in the uplifting choruses of "Catacomb Hecatomb," and the brief break of acoustic fingerpicking in "The Lonely Deceased."
Lyrics — 7
As opposed to the band's previous album containing more lyrics with victim-based perspectives, frontman Trevor Strnad's lyrics in "Nightbringers" is more focused on visceral, sadistic narratives like usual. A bit of victim perspective is still carried over in the agonizing depiction of a human slowly turning to a zombie in "As Good As Dead" ("It sank its rotting teeth into my flesh I screamed as now I'm one of them / The zombies poison flows corrupting mortal veins"), but most other songs are back in the eyes of the killers. Expectedly, he designates part of the album to meet the heresy quota, whether in the perverted take on biblical canon in "Of God And Serpent, Of Spectre And Snake," or the scenes of violence on the church in "Kings Of The Nightworld" and the eponymous song ("The time has come to see their Christ is killed / His fabrications muted dead and gone"). And along with other cases of serial killers, whether in the form of a hitman in "Widowmaker," or as a cannibalistic recluse in "Jars," Strnad saves the peak gore porn for last, with "The Lonely Deceased" being about a necrophiliac mortician ("The speechless won't contest this violation / Cold dolls of skin / Mounting the slab thrusting myself deep within").
Overall Impression — 8
With The Black Dahlia Murder's last few albums excelling for the qualities added to their melodeath backbone, "Nightbringers" excels for its approach of going back to basics and being to the point. Wanting to do away with longer runtimes and the bells and whistles of extra production value, "Nightbringers" wields a ferocity that is relatively stronger than its predecessor, where the riffs and rhythms do all the walking and talking. This essentials-only approach shows that The Black Dahlia Murder's melodeath is still a force to be reckoned with.