Review: Black Dahlia Murder – Ritual

Cookie Monster growling and banshee screaming aside, BDM have another win on their hands.

Iann Robinsonby Iann Robinson



Black Dahlia Murder


Metal Blade Records


Black Dahlia Murder has always gotten a bum rap from the very folks their music is aimed at. Black/Death metal purists are, for the most part, the most small-minded fans in the world. Second only to “true” punk rockers, these purists live by a checklist to which all bands must meet or risk the ridicule of being called false metal. That’s too bad because since their debut album in 2003, Black Dahlia Murder have put of great records nearly every two years. 2011 plays host to their newest offering, Ritual, and again the band has turned out a really solid record.


In all honesty I’m not much about these kinds of thousand mile an hour scream fests. I prefer my anger to be slower, filled with less technical flash and more substantial structures. That being said, I can appreciate when an album is well done and when it follows a formula. Black Dahlia has managed to side step the normal formula of these albums by adding more of what they do and then twisting it around. The addition of ex-Arsis guitarist Ryan Knight continues to move the band forward. Knight has brought out the band’s ability with melody without sacrificing the pure brutality of the songs. Black Dahlia is a thinking man’s black/death metal band, which is why they get such grief. Most metal heads hate to think.  


The only corny part of the album is thankfully on the open. I think it’s time that the spooky strings leading into the harsh metal track are silenced forever. It’s cliché, boring and been done more times than Jenna Jameson. Outside of the strings, the opening track “A Shrine To Madness” is a powerful opening statement. The guitars are layered here, swimming around each other, stopping the harmony only to swing a crowbar of power chords. At times it’s straight metal, at other times a metal sea shanty. 


“Moonlight Equilibrium” is more of a straightforward Black Dahlia Murder tune, fast and harsh. I’m impressed at the sheer length of Ritual; it could be the longest Black Dahlia Murder album to date. With this new expanded songwriting the band never loses focus or their ability to craft what they do. “Malenchantments Of The Necrosphere” (you gotta give it to them for song titles) shows the band’s ability to play with time signatures, off-time rhythms and interesting solos. Ritual is an album where the band seems more at ease than recent efforts. In interviews Black Dahlia Murder have spoken to the collaborative effort on Ritual and that really shows.


My only reservation on this record is, as always, the vocals. I find the cookie monster growling and banshee screeching to be incredibly boring. I don’t care if the two styles switch off or they come together or they sing over each other, it’s boring. These bands should wrestle with the idea of being instrumental because the silly vocal style just drags the music down. It may be tradition and it may reach some depth of anger with young men whose mothers held them too much or not enough, but for somebody investing in the music, they’re a real distraction. 


The vocals removed from the picture, Ritual is a quality album from a band that never stops pushing what they do. If the metal pure would stop bitching for five minutes, they might understand just how good The Black Dahlia Murder are.