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The Black Dahlia Murder - "Ritual" (CD)

The Black Dahlia Murder - "Ritual" CD cover image

"Ritual" track listing:

1. A Shrine To Madness (4:41)
2. Moonlight Equilibrium (3:30)
3. On Stirring Seas Of Salted Blood (4:42)
4. Conspiring With The Damned (3:44)
5. The Window (3:39)
6. Carbonized In Cruciform (4:46)
7. Den Of The Picquerist (1:30)
8. Malenchanments Of The Necrosphere (4:18)
9. The Grave Robber's Work (3:37)
10. The Raven (2:58)
11. Great Burning Nullifier (3:25)
12. Blood In The Ink (4:40)

Reviewed by on June 14, 2011

"'Ritual' is an absolute masterpiece of melodic blackened death metal that is a certain album of the year contender."

Part of me loves “Ritual” for how much it reminds me of “Unhallowed,” a record I thought The Black Dahlia Murder could never manage to top. Part of me also loves the album for how many new ideas it plays with that helps make “Ritual” the best record that the band has ever made. “Ritual” retains the cheesy lyrics, amazing solos and Trevor Strnad's vocals that sound like two different people recorded them. Then, it adds some genuinely interesting songwriting to the mix, taking everything I loved about this band in the past and improving upon all that came before. It's an incredible listen by metal's best live band.

The Black Dahlia Murder has already proven that they can play fast, but thankfully, “Ritual” manages to know when to slow things down a bit and, as a result, has much more atmosphere. Not that most of “Ritual” isn't played at an extreme tempo, but the songs are more varied. The end result is more memorable songs that all manage to stand out on their own. While it may have been easy to pick the singles from previous albums, every single song on “Ritual” is a winner. It's refreshing to hear an album try something new and get it right, after having the displeasure of listening to an album by a highly established death metal band that executed new ideas horribly. Thankfully, the new bass solos and occasional string section (reminiscent of Dimmu Borgir and Chthonic) are used in a way that fits the music rather than creating a techno/metal abomination.

For all this talk of progression and innovation, The Black Dahlia Murder have not abandoned their identity. I'm even willing to call “Moonlight Equilibrium” a “Funeral Thirst” 2.0 due to the similarities between the tracks. The difference is a matter of taste and The Black Dahlia Murder have managed to tighten their arrangements in ways that enhance the band's sound in every conceivable way. Not only does “The Raven,” “On Stirring Seas of Salted Blood” and “Malenchantments of the Necrosphere” manage to bring in some heavy riffs that the band has always lacked, they've managed to make those tracks some of the best on the album.

My only real compliant with this album is that The Black Dahlia Murder are not a studio band. While the lower guitar tunings and better production make the album sound great, nothing compares to a live show by the band. I've survived Megadeth, Unearth and Marduk pits, but they were nowhere near as violent as either time I've managed to see this band. I'm sure that when they play new material on the this year's Summer Slaughter tour, fans who've never experienced this band before are in for the time of their lives.

For the first half of 2011, one album stands stands above everything else released so far. “Ritual” is an absolute masterpiece of melodic blackened death metal that is a certain album of the year contender. It's an absolute must-buy.

Highs: More dynamic songwriting alongside everything good that could be said about this band in the past, the catchiest songs that The Black Dahlia Murder has ever recorded.

Lows: No studio recording does justice to The Black Dahlia Murder's live show

Bottom line: "Ritual" is the best album that I've heard all year.

Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls
4.5 out of 5 skulls

Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)