When it comes to so called, “desert island discs”, records I could listen to over and over again for the rest of my life and never get tired of, and also modern classics that helped forge my personal musical landscape as an adult, I’d choose Behemoth’s “Demigod”, Converge’s “Jane Doe”, and of course, The Black Dahlia Murder’s “Unhallowed”. I’d previously extolled the virtues of BDM’s opening salvo and my own connection to it here, so when they announced they’d be playing the record in full on their current tour, I knew that despite a difficult move to a new house the day before and a flu as gnarly as any of the unspeakable horrors in schizophrenic maniac mouthpiece Trevor Strnad’s lyrics, I couldn’t miss it under any circumstances.
Australian deathgrind act Disentomb opened the show, followed by extremely tight and polished metalcore unit Fallujah, and though they did an excellent job warming the sold out venue up, the crowd were frothing at the mouth for the 2003 melodeath milestone, and as the intro played over the PA and the band took the stage the entire floor erupted into a swirling cauldron of battered bodies.
The Black Dahlia Murder never disappoints live (I’ve lost count as to how many times I’ve seen them at this point, has to be 6 or 7) but hearing “Unhallowed” front to back was an entirely otherworldly experience altogether, the band barreling through the classic tracks with minimal stoppage or between song banter, sounding as amazing as ever on all fronts despite intermittent sound and lighting (hence the lack of pictures in this article) issues. After “Unhallowed” reached its literal and figurative “Apex” BDM continued with a small selection of tracks from their history since that legendary record, including the opening tracks from “Nocturnal”, “Everything Went Black” and last year’s scorcher “Abysmal”, “Reciept”, before finishing up for good with what has rightfully become their de-facto closer, “Deflorate’s” epic “I Will Return”.
Throughout the night BDM’s unprecedented presence in a venue so small and intimate had the entire audience absolutely raging, with stage diving, crowd surfing and circle pits nonstop throughout the entire set, and, at Trevor’s behest, fans even crowd surfing up the steps and into the balcony, all while founding guitarist Brian Eschbach and newcomer Brandon Ellis paraded up and down the bar melting attendees’ faces. The entire room’s enthusiasm not just for this band but this record was palpable and infectious, Strnad himself stating that “Philly was the first city beyond [their homebase of] Detroit to really embrace the band”, that “we were there”, and that made the incendiary performance of and rapturous response to their initial offering all the more special.
As I said in my “Abysmal” review, “The Black Dahlia Murder continues to be one of the most consistent, reliable and yet still surprising bands in metal”. It’s true that “Philly was there” in the beginning, and we always will be as long as The Black Dahlia Murder never stops bringing the goods every time they drop a record or come through town. And with the work ethic, dedication and love Strnad, Eschbach and their co-conspirators have and continue to put into the Rosemary’s Baby they’ve unleashed upon the world year after year, I don’t see that happening any time soon.