One of the first rules of journalism is that the story should never be about you. Attention should always be focused on the subject or action of the piece, with the reporter acting only as narrator. We here at Bloody Good Horror pride ourselves on trying to keep to that rule, only allowing our personal experiences to color articles as a product of our editorial insight (or lack thereof, as I’m sure my readers have at least occasionally believed.)
Sometimes though, as a writer of editorial pieces, it becomes necessary to provide a lens of personal history in the interest of full disclosure. And so, the following anecdote:
I used to be acquainted with this very wiener-y kid, who was a big fan of metal and in particular The Black Dahlia Murder, right down to matching hat, shirt and belt buckle. Every metal fan knows exactly the kid I’m talking about, for we’ve all met him under different names.
You know the type – young arrogant, not quite as smart as be thinks he is. He’s played guitar for a couple years and has come to believe that qualifies him as a music insider. He’s got long hair, usually curly, and isn’t really familiar with the concept of push-ups. In his musical exploration, he’s still too young to realize musical taste isn’t black and white, or a reflection of right and wrong. He ignores the subjectivity of taste and thinks active, spirited debate is an attack on his intelligence and character. These wiener-y kids blend seamlessly with the perfectly reasonable fans of any particular band and can insidiously come to characterize an entire fan base from within.
Such is my experience with The Black Dahlia Murder, which has unfairly biased my opinion of them throughout their career. With that sour taste not quite washed out of my mouth, and with all of us on the same page, let’s dive into “Everblack.”
“Everblack” finds the band much improved over their previous efforts. The guitar team of Brian Eschbach and Ryan Knight really outdid themselves for this effort and interludes in songs like “In Hell Is Where She Waits For Me” are truly artistic and excellent. They ascend from the murk of the numbing double kick percussion and toneless shouting to give the songs on “Everblack” character and form. These are the moments when the death metal character of The Black Dahlia Murder shows through and gives the album a sense of continuity.
The pair flies high again for “Raped in Hatred by Vines of Thorn” (who comes up with this crap?) which is the second time on the album where something approaching melody is allowed to reign supreme. Ride “Everblack” all the way to “Control” and you’ll see a couple other blistering, highly technical solos that are the jewels of the album. The situation isn’t all that different from the one with Shadows Fall, where the band is at their best when Jon Donais goes ballistic and everyone else falls in line for support.
While some of my criticisms of the band are a product of my unfortunate but unshakable bias, there are a few that remain true even after objective examination.
First and foremost, “Everblack” doesn’t spend enough time concentrating on its strength, which namely is the talent and effortless aplomb of Eschbach and Knight. In their quest to maintain their reputation, the band descends into a noisy grind an awful lot, the kind of banging and pounding that doesn’t leave room for the conventions of hook or chorus. That makes songs like “Goat of Departure” and “Blood Mine” tough to latch onto; it’s easy to skip these pieces to get back to the guitar theatrics. Modern death metal is seeded through with this kind of grinding, and its appeal continues to be lost on me.
Additionally, there’s not a lot of versatility on “Everblack,” which is doubly unfortunate in the face of the evident talent of the band. All of the tracks fall into one of two categories, which can be summed up thusly: Full-bodied, thickly produced grinding death, or full bodied-thickly produced grinding death with some impressive guitar bridges and remarkable solos. With the addition of some well-placed hooks and some tweaks in compositional style, TBDM’s “Everblack” could have been the genre defining album is so badly wants to be.
“Everblack,” if I’m being objective, isn’t a terrible album. I wish it was more consistent, I wish it was better blended and I wish the vocals of Trevor Strnad weren’t so grating and oppressive. The guitar precision alone is worth at least an academic listen, although for fans that prefer hooks and powerful riffs with pacing and rhythm, “Everblack” may not be more than just that. I’m certain that the modern melodic death fanbase and wiener kids alike will go bananas for this record, but I can’t help but feel like it could have been more.