September 15, 2009 - Metal Blade
Sweden and death metal go together like Vermont and maple syrup, but these days, the wind-swept wastes of Michigan are proving similarly fertile, thanks to native sons the Black Dahlia Murder. With Deflorate, BDM’s fourth full-length, the band solidify their place among the headbanging elite with a stark, groaning brand of extreme metal that’s as dark as a Scandinavian winter. Deflorate effectively continues where Nocturnal, BDM’s 2007 release, left off. With its sonic brutality matched only by its musical elegance, Deflorate plays like a 10-track victory lap set to double bass.
First and foremost, the musicianship on Deflorate is flat-out stunning and sounds nothing short of epic. Drummer Shannon Lucas operates at ludicrous speeds, and he and bassist Ryan “Bart” Williams keep the listener ever engaged through skillful shifts in tempo and feel. Rhythm guitarist Brian Eschbach once again anchors the band with a seemingly endless barrage of world-class riffs, and infuses Deflorate with a keen sense of melody and composition over which new lead guitarist Ryan Knight (ex-Arsis) puts on a virtual clinic.
A shredder of the highest order, Knight peppers Deflorate with one high-velocity, arpeggiated run after another, yet he does it with far more feel and character than a generic metal speedster. The influence of some of the true greats come through in Knight’s playing--a touch of Alex Skolnick here, a splash of Marty Friedman there, and a healthy dose of Yngwie Malmsteen thrown in for good measure. Vocalist Trevor Strnad growls and screeches with all he’s got just to keep up, sounding equal parts Randy Blythe and Phil Anselmo. One could certainly draw comparisons to worse, and he makes tracks like “Deformed Christ” and “Throne Of Lunacy” sound even more ominous than their titles imply.
Stylistically, BDM stand out because they represent a union between classic European death metal and more Americanized sounds, especially apparent in the band’s old-school thrash metal vibe. Analyzing Deflorate from the perspective of its influences, you can hear the impact of ’80s Bay Area giants like Testament, Forbidden and Exodus just as much as usual suspects At The Gates and In Flames, which is another reason the album stands out among the masses. Regardless of whatever micro sub-genre happens to be your particular jam, this is metal at its best. Take that, Gothenburg.