Abysmal’s album art says everything you need to know about The Black Dahlia Murder’s new record. It calls to mind classic death, grind and gore metal covers from bands like Suffocation and Gorguts, some of Strnad and Co.’s favorites. It also gives listeners a glimpse at what The Black Dahlia Murder has hidden inside Abysmal, possibly the most intense, fast and dark album the band has ever recorded. While the band retains much of its horror movie humor, the lyrical content focuses on some of humanities darkest issues, with the addition of strings and synths creating an altogether evil and unsettling atmosphere.
Abysmal opens with ‘Reciept’ which calls to mind the opening track on Ritual ‘A Shrine To Madness’, with its slow strings and chugging riffs. The song tells of suicide and the worth of ones life, with its protagonist wishing the world goodbye. In actuality, the band is immediately establishing the tone of Abysmal as fast, dense and darker than the inside of a black hole. Alan Cassidy, who replaced the incredible Shannon Lucas as the bands drummer on Everblack, shows that he is more than capable to fill the void left from his departure. Huge blast beats permeate the album and the drum-work is the fastest it has ever been, Abysmal’s mantra seems to be taking songs like ‘Death Panorama’, ‘Den Of The Picquerist’ and ‘I Worship Only What You Bleed’, and making an entire album at that breakneck speed.
The addition of synths, operatic backings and strings fill out the record, giving it a new texture unlike anything since or before Ritual. ‘Vlad, Son Of The Dragon’ is something entirely new, with vocal backings on the chorus and a structure wholly different than anything The Black Dahlia Murder has done before, it feels like a real evolution of such an established sound. In fact, Abysmal as a whole feels like a re-invigorated band compared to Everblack, despite that album being a great piece of music in its own right. The albums only weak spot is where it finally slows down with ‘Stygiophobic’. Opening with an audio recording and following through with massive riffs, the song is simple, slow and generally feels like a small section of ‘On Stirring Seas Of Salted Blood’, as if the plan was to make a song of that size but was eventually left unfinished. It only repeats the same verse and then disappears as quickly as it came, making for the only blemish on the album but the solo at the end saves it from being a true waste.
What more can be said that has not been already about The Black Dahlia Murder? No band is more consistent in raising the quality bar with each release and writing downright incredible Melodeath and Death Metal. Ryan Knight continues to absolutely dominate on lead guitars and Brian Eschbach is no slouch either. Strnad is as charismatic and powerful as ever with his witch-like, screaming highs and hellish lows sounding better with each album. His writing is still some of the best in metal with lyrics that are as dark as they can be humorous, and his maturity on Abysmal shows he is willing to explore some truly horrific subjects. Tracks like ‘Threat Level No.3’ and ‘That Cannot Die Which Is Eternally Dead’ are true standouts in an album full of them. Abysmal is everything a fan of the band could want and a great album for newcomers, it is not only one of the best albums of the year but probably the bands best album in their career.