Sound — 9
I hate the way Metal is going these days. I'll just say that right now. Other than The Black Dahlia Murder, I can't think of a single band in the genre since 2000 whose album I'd choose to listen to over, say, the latest from Tom Waits. That being said, rather than focusing on what The Black Dahlia Murder's 'Nocturnal' did right (which is, in short, too many things to properly list), I'm going to focus on what most other contemporary Metal/Metalcore acts do WRONG that 'Nocturnal' does away with. First and foremost, I think, is the production style. Listening to other Metal bands these days, I get the impression that their albums were produced by/for a pack of juvenile jaggoffs who really didn't care if their music had any atmosphere or a genuinely appealing sound, as long as it showcased how savage they were with their instruments (for that, I place the blame almost entirely on Metallica). Nocturnal has SOOO much less of that feel to it than any newish Metal release I've ever heard. It's clear here that these guys not only know how to play, but they really care how each note sounds, and what fills the silences between them.
Lyrics — 10
Second, and I think just as important as anything else, is the way the songs on Nocturnal are written. The lyrics ain't poetry, that's for sure; but I don't think that is, or ever has been, what this genre needed. The Black Dahlia Murder seems to have something in their songwriting that most if not all newer Metal bands never even touch on: a sense of proportion. While other metallic songwriters try to clumsily drag things like emotions, philosophy or even *Ugh* Christianity, into their music, The Black Dahlia Murder stick to what their genre is good at: blood, gore, death and terror, with just a teensy little bit of low-budget sci-fi corniness, and NO philosophical edge. You could almost call TBDM's lyrics the natural evolution of Horror-Punk ("Metallic Horrorcore", maybe?). Ironically enough, considering how blunt, shallow and downright kitsch Nocturnal's lyrics are, their delivery is shockingly finessed and varied. In fact, I think Trevor Strnad's vocal style - alternating between deep growls and piercing shrieks, and most importantly KEEPING HIS NOTES with both - is a huge part of what makes this album so appealing.
Overall Impression — 9
As I said at the start of this review, I absolutely loath most popular Metal since... oh... about the mid-'80s. I make only two notable exceptions to that rule: Acid Bath, and THIS. Virtually every song on here is brilliant, but I've just got to point out the thundering blasts at the start of Everything Went Black as one of the best album openers I've ever heard, in any genre. Overall, not only do I reccomend Nocturnal to fans of Metal, both old and new, but strange as it may sound, I'd also strongly reccomend to anyone with a penchant for really, REALLY catchy tunes, because trust me - once you've got a lyrics sheet in front of you and you've gotten a feel for understanding what the hell Trevor is screaming, it's not a big leap at all to go from singing along with Sex Pistols or Misfits to screaming along with The Black Dahlia Murder.