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01. Everything Went Black
02. What a Horrible Night to Have a Curse
03. Virally Yours
04. I Worship Only What You Bleed
06. Deathmask Divine
07. Of Darkness Spawned
08. Climactic Degradation
09. To a Breathless Oblivion
Reviewed by: Nick
// Published: 9/16/2007
Fact: The Black Dahlia Murder will always be in the musical shadows of metal founders At the Gates and Dissection. Yet that doesn't change the fact that The Black Dahlia Murder is easily one of the most recognizable names in today's melodic death metal genre. With the breakout success of 2003's Unhallowed, they showed that there was still a need for well-executed melodic death in the metal scene, despite the genre's seemingly over-saturated status. Four years later, the band is back with their third full-length, and is poised to tighten their already strong grip on the extreme music world.
The most promising aspect of Nocturnal lies in the band's return to a writing style more akin to that of Unhallowed. Gone is the slight metalcore lean of Miasma, and instead, a more driving pace prevails throughout the record. The breakneck speeds are back, with much of the credit going to the band's newly revamped rhythm section, that of which is tighter than anything the band has previously boasted. Gothenburg-esque riffs are executed with the highest precision and vocalist Trevor Strnad's raspy screams and guttural lows are as intense as ever. Nocturnal is proof that Miasma was less of a "transitional period" and more of a slight misstep. Somewhere along the line the band must have realized that their knack was in the slightly thrashy melodic death sound, and not in the more groove oriented style of Miasma. Regardless, BDM fans should appreciate what Nocturnal has to offer.
The album opener, "Everything Went Black," wastes no time in showing off the writing style of Nocturnal. The track alternates between tremolo and melodic riffing and sports a catchy chorus similar to those that made Unhallowed so memorable. The drumming is quite impressive throughout the disc, with the double-bass work in "Climactic Degradation" and the rigorous blasting of "Deathmask Divine" both serving as excellent examples. The compact punch of the two minute long "I Worship Only What You Bleed" is a standout track, and it's no-frills approach is extremely successful. No solo, no complex song structure, and no pussyfooting around. That's the type of BDM that I like to see. And it's nice to see that the band is still sticking with a concise, ten song package. There are a few brief moments of additional music touches (a short melodic interlude in "To a Breathless Oblivion," a movie quote in the title track, and a few random sound effects in the closer, "Warborn"), but on the whole, the record refrains from the gratuitous additions that seem to be weighing down a lot of other Metal Blade releases.
Perhaps the only weak part of Nocturnal is guitarist Brian Eschbach's solo work. His ability to write memorable riffs is certainly the backbone of the band, but after three full-lengths of solos, it's getting more and more difficult to tell them all apart. The sweeping work in "Of Darkness Spawned" and the lightning-fast tapping in "Everything Went Black" are both admirable from a skill point of view, but there just isn't enough distinction between the solos on the album, not to mention the solos of the past two records, for them to remain engaging. Although his technical abilities have definitely progressed over the years, it appears that he is still riding the success of the up-and-down scaling style of the solo from arguably the band's most popular tune, "Funeral Thirst." This disappointment doesn't come close to offsetting the successes of Nocturnal, but solo enthusiasts might need to look elsewhere to get their fill.
Bottom Line: Nocturnal is an extremely solid release from The Black Dahlia Murder, and it's return to the faster paces and more memorable songwriting of the group's Unhallowed-era is a definite plus. Metal purists will continue to clutch their Dissection records and cry "rip-off," but for those seeking an accessible slab of melodic death metal in today's music world, these guys are a safe bet.
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