Tomorrow morning (or tonight at 9 PM, if you're on the East Coast), death metal icons The Black Dahlia Murder will be dropping their sixth studio album, Abysmal, upon the world. Let me just tell you something now. Their team sent it over last week, and holy shit. This album shreds. You will not be disappointed with this one. Fast, abrasive, and in-your-face, the band have created something truly insane, a death metal masterpiece for the masses.
Recently, I sat down to chat with the band's vocalist, Trevor Strnad, about the making of the new album, the concept of Hell that's interwoven throughout the lyrics, and much more.
This is the sixth studio album for The Black Dahlia Murder. You’ve been in the band through various lineup changes and many different eras of this music scene. What would you say is one of the biggest things you’ve learned about creating an album over the past several years that you’ve been able to channel into the making of Abysmal?
I think, really, it came down to the small details of songwriting. Just making the song have good dynamics, and making the album have good dynamics. Just using interesting devices in songwriting to surprise people. Putting in some kind of build ups and stuff like that. There was a time when we were getting a little too technical around Deflorate, and we learned a lesson on Ritual on what we can do as far as expanding the sound and making more variety in the music. That was a big turning point in that. I think that Abysmal is further down that evolutionary path.
I took a listen to the record and I was blown away. Death metal songs are generally pretty consistent, but you guys are a special breed in the sense that there are melodic overtones to the songs. What would you say that you guys did differently when writing these songs in comparison to Everblack?
I’m not sure what to say! There’s not as much low-string slow stuff on this album as there was in Everblack. These songs are more upbeat, I would say. There wasn’t a particular plan going into the album. We didn’t really have a meeting beforehand. This is really just the next evolutionary step and the next group of songs that were to come out of everyone, you know?
I think it’s just more urgent. They’re a little faster, a little more direct, a little more “for-the-throat”. There’s definitely some faster songs; faster than we’ve ever gone before. “Receipt” has some fast stuff, “Threat Level” has some. I think we were trying to write the best group of songs that we could, still keeping the catchiness in mind. We’re a melodic band at heart; there’s a lot of melody to what we do. That comes from the Swedish end of the influence. At The Gates is one of our biggest influences. There’s a lot of melodic influence in this band. It’s definitely a goal of ours to write songs that are catchy and melodic, but also brutal and aggressive. It’s kind of like a marriage of everything that we like.
What does the album artwork represent for the overall theme and tone of the record? It looks like a horror movie fever dream, and it’s fucking awesome.
It’s definitely meant to depict Hell, and it ties into the album theme as well. I wouldn’t quite call it a concept album, but there’s a lot of nods to Hell, and a lot of references to Hell within the lyrics. You could say that “Receipt” is about my own personal demons, and dealing with anxiety and depression. You could say that was my personal Hell. “Stygiophobic” is the slow song you were talking about a second ago. That one is about being phobic of Hell, like people who are so afraid of going there that they spend every waking moment just trying not to sin or upset God in any way, and basically just spend their whole life to avoid Hell. So they basically miss out on their entire life. There’s people really like that out there, it’s crazy! So that’s a tie to Hell, obviously.
“Threat Level Number Three” is about a rapist/molester that’s been chemically castrated by the law, and his internal dialogue about being the demon that he was. His life of Hell, basically. It’s a dark record, for sure, as usual. But it’s definitely a hellacious record. That’s what we were trying to go for; something fiery and energetic, and explosive.
What personally drew you towards writing about the concept of Hell in so many of these songs?
It wasn’t realized until I had written a few songs, and then I was like, “oh, wow. There’s a common thread running here.” I just kind of ran with it at that point. I began thinking about that album cover, and having like a red-colored album. Something that had been different than anything we had done before, as far as artwork goes. It seems to be working, man. They seem to be liking the artwork a lot, and I’ve seen how powerful that association is, man. You gotta have kickass artwork, and it gets people excited about hearing the music. If they like the music too, then it just takes it to that next level.
Absolutely. It’s like how in movies they say how the sound is just as important as the movie. I think that applies to music as well in terms of how the visuals are just as important as the music.
It definitely has an appeal to me. I still like to have the artwork to an album in my hands to look at while I’m listening to it, and I try to get enveloped in the whole intention of the album. There’s still that thirteen-year-old part of me that likes sitting in front of my stereo.
Last two questions to close out the interview. What kind of message, if any, would you like fans to walk away with after listening to your music?
I hope that they just… I hope it makes them feel better. Death metal has sort of negative connotation with it. But it’s supposed to make you excited and be sort of a release for you, a positive release of negative energy. So I hope that people feel…I hope they feel happy when they listen to it, or feel better, or that it was satisfying. (laughs)
What does music mean to you?
Ah, man, it’s basically my life. It’s everything that makes me happy. Aside from what I do in the band, I’m spending so much of my money and time combing the underground and keeping up on new bands. I’m still just as excited about the undergrounds as I’ve always been. Music is just constantly providing me with happiness and purpose. It keeps me grounded, too. The band is very successful, but paying attention to the underground…there’s a zillion bands that deserve to be where we are that are talented and awesome. It’s just…I don’t know man. It’s just a rewarding thing to be into music for me. The hidden world of metal…it’s everything.
This has been another Shameless Promotion.