I’d like to open this review with an apology to The Black Dahlia Murder for not including them on My top 5 Death Metal Bands. This was wrong of me and I can see the error of my ways. The Black Dahlia Murder have a discography crammed full of death metal classics and Abysmal is another addition to the list. Melodic death metal doesn’t get much better than this.
The eerie opening violin section of Receipt sets the album up perfectly with its evil as sin tone giving way to a cascade of blast beats and savage riffs. This is where The Black Dahlia Murder really come into their own. The blending of Scandinavian influenced melodic sounds and American brutality that sneaks into the back drop gives Abysmal that signature sound. Spine crushing guitar riffs are bridged flawlessly with black metal tremolos in songs like Asylum to vary the assaults that are laid upon the listener. Brian Eschbach solos bring haunting blends of thrash, neo-classical, death and every other type of sub metal to keep you yarning for a solo instead of dreading an unnecessary display of axe work. That’s not to say that rhythm guitarist Ryan Knight and bassist Maz Lavelle don’t bring anything to the table as the three join forces to cause massive amounts of head banging with devastating almost groove or slam parts erupting from Re-faced and That Cannot Die Which Eternally is Dead. I think it is time to mention the song titles as they are to epic to not mention. Song two on the album is called Vlad, Son Of The Dragon, I didn’t think it called get any better that their 2007 song What Ahorrible Night To Have A Curse. Anyway back to the music. Excessive use of blast beat drumming brings the sounds back from straying too far down the path of black metal. Alan Cassidy’s use of blast beats isn’t just thrown in to give metal elitist something to crack one off to or raise the brutality levels but it is done with structure and finesse in mind. The pounding beats bring melody and tension when it is needed. Threat Level No.3 uses the drums to build up to the guitar solo then to run alongside the deep shrill vocals of Trevor Strnad and strings instead of just going 100 miles an hour for no reason other than to be as fast as possible. Speaking of Trevor Strnad’s vocals, this guy is corpse paint and an inverted cross away from black metal. I am not a fan of shriek wraith like vocals normally but Abysmal sees them used sparingly to give a dark and sinister tone to sections of The Fog and throughout the album. Gutturals bring a serious amount of ferocity without going into inaudible grunts to show the full range of Trevor’s vocals.
Abysmal is classic melodic death metal at its best. It shows the younger generation of death metal bands that brutal slam isn’t the only way to make an album heavy. The Black Dahlia Murder have rarely strayed from this formula but it has worked over and over again without losing its originality earning Abysmal a 8/10.