Although their entire discography is one of the most consistently brilliant in all of modern metal (extreme or otherwise), Ritual is the closest that The Black Dahlia Murder have come to both surpassing the immense malice of 2007’s Nocturnal, and producing a full-blown concept record. The most wide reaching and dynamically varied of anything in their canon, the band attack these songs with surgical precision, a sterling production job meaning that riffs are delivered with a scalpel-keen finesse and cleanliness which, remarkably, doesn’t sacrifice one ounce of brutality.
It’s a feast of dynamics. From the grinding drudge of ‘On Salted Seas Of Stirring Blood’, ‘The Window’s melodic wanderings and the rhythmic clout of ‘Malenchalenments Of The Necrosphere’, these tracks espouse tales of esoteric horror through brazen technicality and progressive structure which proved the band to be, if ever proof was needed, so much more than block-headed deathsters. Indeed, the drama with which each track blasts and builds feels almost symphonic in approach and execution (with even some orchestral strains working marvellously in opener ‘A Shrine To Madness’ and closer ‘Blood In The Ink’), plenty of throat-mangling shrieks and razor-sharp hooks adding to the spree-killing joyride. Not only this, but guitar geeks especially will appreciate Brian Eschbach and Ryan Knight’s pinpoint performances in what is one of the six-string Albums of the Decade.
Marry all this with an the none-more-metal concept of death through various evil practices (each song details a common theme of occultism, black magic, ritual murder, etc.) and Ritual was not only a masterstroke but a statement, a testimony to the band’s thoroughly modern outlook on their craft and willingness to experiment, whilst retaining the core macabre themes which display that, beneath it all, a scabby death metal heart still kept a jackhammer pace.
Words: Tony Bliss