When physical media ruled the earth you could literally listen to an Album so much that it began to self-destruct. Scratched and cracked CDs or unspooled, torn apart cassettes were a badge of honor in ones’ collection, proof that music was as vital as the very air we breathe. Broken Records examines these Albums and why they meant so much to us.
The early aughts were a confusing time to be a fan of heavy music. People who grew up in the 90’s on stuff like Danzig, White Zombie, Fear Factory and Pantera were finding themselves more and more alienated by the hip hop influence seeping in from huge mainstream bands like Limp Bizkit and Korn.
On the other side of the coin, bands like Slipknot and Hatebreed were some of the heaviest ever to get an unbelievable amount of regular radio and MTV airplay, opening up mainstream heavy metal and hard rock listeners to a whole new world of double bass, speed picking and blast beats. The proliferation of file sharing services were making underground music easier than ever to discover, a world of endless possibilities for adventurous listeners.
It was the perfect time for The Black Dahlia Murder to unleash their unique blend of heavy music sub-genres on the world.
Michigan based BDM formed in 2001, quickly gaining the attention of Metal Blade Records and releasing their debut full length, Unhallowed in 2003. Their style was a brilliant blend of Slayer and Metallica’s pioneering 80’s thrash, Pantera’s groove inflected take on that and the Swedish brand coming from bands like At The Gates and In Flames. The genre would come to be called “Melodeath” and birth a million shallow imitators in the years to come, but here it was perfected right out of the gate. I had Unhallowed recommended to me at dearly departed used CD store Disc Go Round here on Philadelphia’s South Street, based on my love of (future Broken Records contender) Swedish Thrash instant classic The Haunted Made Me Do It (2001).
Unhallowed sets the stage in its self titled intro with an excerpt from Butchering the Human Carcass for Human Consumption, “The next major step is complete evisceration of the carcass…”, gives you an idea of the lyrical content in store, typically gruesome Death Metal fare but with tongue slightly in cheek, after all, this is the band that would go on to write a song about Castlevania on their third record with Nocturnal’s “What a Horrible Night to have a Curse”. The band’s style is immediately apparent, the melodic thrash riffs that call to mind Justice era Metallica join a threatening hardcore stomp, segueing directly into Funeral Thirst, a blistering tale of vampiric revenge.
From there the record never let’s up. BDM’s style is fully formed, making this one of the most impressive debut metal records of all time. Second track Elder Misanthropy excels with a chorus of soaring thrash riffs over a straightforward driving beat, butting heads against the relentless blast beats in the verses. Late in the record Closed Casket Requiem offers an unstoppable thrash stomper accompanied by a disturbing story of necrophilia, murder and suicide.
Other favorites include Thy Horror Cosmic, shades of classic Metallica again, this time invoking the Lovecraftian imagery of “The Thing That Should Not Be”, and the violent double bass chug of Hymn for the Wretched. The entire record just kills from start to finish though, powered by the insane vocals of Trevor Strnad. Uninitiated first time listeners would swear the band had two vocalists, that’s how distinct Strnad’s dueling schizophrenic styles are. Switching effortlessly from a deep death metal growl to a high black metal wail. I’ll never forget how surprised I was to find out that Trevor was only one man.
Trevor Strnad, Heavy Metal Hero.
Five records later Black Dahlia continues to be a force in the world of extreme music, even after several lineup changes (only Strnad and Guitarist Brian Eschbach remain from the Unhallowed lineup). Their latest tour featured a fan chosen setlist of tracks spanning their entire career. Most of Unhallowed was represented and sounded amazing.
The Black Dahlia Murder are currently hard at work on their highly anticipated seventh record, I can’t wait to hear it and see them again when they tour. BDM is truly one of my favorite bands and I’m always excited to see what they’re up to, but I’ll never forget where it all started, with Unhallowed. Until the end… the end of fucking time…