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The Black Dahlia Murder

Enkele jaren terug had ik de eer om Trevor Strnad te interviewen naar aanleiding van hun album ‘Abysmal’. Net als je denkt dat ze op hun toppunt van hun kunnen zaten, brengen ze nu met ‘Nightbringers’ een absolute topper uit waar agressie en snelheid primeren. Dit is death metal op zijn best. Trevor zelf is bovendien één van de meest spraakzame en aimabel artiesten ooit. Met veel plezier stond hij mij te woord over het nieuwe album.

Door: Koen W. | Archiveer onder death metal / grindcore

Hey Trevor, how are you? It’s been two years ago that I spoke you for ‘Abysmal’.
And here we are back again. So let’s do it.

So I once read in that you are doing your interviews completely naked. Is that true?
No, but I not much to look at right now. I always joke around. Like my away message on Skype is that I just take a huge crap. That is just my way.

When I played ‘Nightbringers’ for the first time, it really knocked me out. Predecessor ‘Abysmal’ had a very accessible and open sound. This one sounds a lot more aggressive.
I am very happy with it. I just listened to it last night and I just love the way it sounds. It is just the most professional we ever did. It is just a big jump in quality when you compare it with our last album before and that is just pretty exciting for me.

The vocal performance of yourself is again more than excellent. Was it hard to contain such a high level during the whole playing time?
It was exciting to work with those songs. They were very energizing. So I just felt to match the intensity of the songs. But thank you for the compliment. Just like ‘Abysmal’, I did it from my closet again. Which was an awesome thing. Singing is definitely weird in the studio. It is hard to create that live vibe. It is a whole different scenario then being on stage with your band. Being home and just relaxing and do the recording with just one person present (that was Joe Cincotta in this case) because he was tracking me. Yeah man, that is just my preferred environment. It could be no more relaxing then in your own home you know.

Most songs sound much faster and with more aggression. But the speed that the band uses in ‘Jars’ sounded almost supernatural. Is playing a song like that, the equivalent of running a marathon?
Yes, it is been like that with all newer songs. They are more technical, they are more complex. They are more demanding physically. So at the end of a set, it felt like we ran the Olympics. It is a little bit masochistic in a way. But I enjoy the challenge of it and the physically of it. When you are done playing one hour and fifteen minutes and you have played like eighteen Black Murder Dahlia songs, you feel drained and proud.

The lyrics are really a more then beautiful horror story. Can you tell us some more about the concept?
It is a very macabre album, pretty much like the rest of our catalogue. I really like to ramp that aspect up. I wanted to tell the story of many evil characters. ‘Jars’ for example is a killer lyric. It is about a cannibal living in Alaska and he is driven crazy by all the months without no sun. So he keeps his victims in jars just below his house and he pickles them and he eats them slowly over the time. There are different levels in the way he kills them and he eats them. It is like an orgasmic thing for him. But I really enjoy that villainous and that villainous point of view which is just a huge part of death metal. And the horror as well. You are always looking over the shoulder of a horror character. That is largely one off the attractions of death metal too. I tried to make it ghoulish and terrible. But I think it is more difficult to shock people because the world is becoming corrupted around us. And the internet is also making those things out. But I enjoy it and it is still a goal for me to shock people.

Where you never asked to write or the cooperate by writing a script for a horror movie?
Thanks, I get a lot of encouragement from people to write something outside off the band. Whether it is a script or a comic book or a book or something. But I feel very nervous to take it to another platform. I don’t know just why. I am a kind of anxious guy as well. But I really appreciate the compliment and I do love the writing for the band.

Are there songs that are written from a personal view or experience?
Not particularly on this record. That was more songs on ‘Abysmal’ that had an emotional content and context and where a kind of cathartic to me at the time. But this album was more a fantasy of me. But the song ‘Matriarch’ is based on the French movie ‘Inside’ but also on events that were sadly happened in the real world where a woman was stalked by another woman that basically cut the baby out of her stomach. So the real world is sometimes more death metal then fantasy. Sometimes the world can inspire. It is just a sad and a sick place that we live in. The world is in a small decline and there is much horror to watch around us in the world.

With Brandon Ellis, you have a new guitar player on board. He has a fantastic sound and his work sounds very melodious. Was he like an injection of new blood that was needed?
Yeah man. He really kicked us all in the pants. It was very exciting in the band. He is like a very exciting showman on stage. So that was that aspect, we had to keep up with the new kid who was young and full of energy. And then he also applied all those energy on the album. So beside of writing all those solo’s who are very melodic like you said, he ended up writing four of the nine songs on the album. And that was a really pleasant surprise because we really did not expect that. He did so well with those songs and he really impressed us. And the rest of us felt so incline that we wanted to take it much higher. Bryan responded with just five incredible songs so he raised his own personal bar with those songs. So it was just like a shot in the arm at all fronts. It is unbelievable how many people are already in the two songs that were released. Especially with the solo’s from Brandon. People welcome him just with open arms. But it in the beginning it was a bit scary. It was scary for Ryan to step down. We did it in such a way, it was a very small transition. Brandon came in and he had a year almost to practice. But that was more time then he needed. He just came in as a total professional. But Ryan with all the efforts he did for the band, did the transition very smooth. And he liked Brendon to take his place. We are still very good friends with Ryan and he likes that is in the band. So I am thankful for the his time in the band and I am very exciting for the future. Brandon did a huge work for this album and his hand is all over it. He really had put his stamp on it.

band image

In the bio that was included, you are using the words: ‘We are the rulers of the darkened hours that the Christian good fears.’ Will this mean that The Black Dahlia Murder is also one of the anti-Christ bands that the church has to fear?
But what is one more anti Christian band more. I don’t think that it will be scare the church any more. But I am an irreligious person. And I am actually against all religions. I think that ‘Nightbringers’ is being an a side of a villain and at the side of Satan. Not fearing an afterlife or consequences that are not coming. It is encouraging free thoughts and living your life like you want it to live. So that is what it is all about to me. It is a mindset and I hope it will shake people out of their tradition.

The artwork from the hand of artist Kristian Wåhlin, aka Necrolord, shows a doomed world that is colored in red. It seems that you went back to the origin of eerie death metal artwork. Why the choice of a classic artwork?
Well, it was a slight knot to the anniversary of ‘Nocturnal’ who also had Kristians artwork ten years ago. So every new album I tried to look for an image that embody the era of the band in the years plus and I is really important to me to have cool artwork. And I tried to keep the fans at their toes with the artwork and it would be a good surprise to do a full circle and go back to Kristian and try to get that classic look. The classical melodic death metal or black metal look. He has laid his hands on so many great albums that have influenced us. It felt like a natural way to go back to him. It had such a great and cool look. It just screams classic. I just love the way that it looks and I always wanted to have a strong color theme that would define each record. So obviously it was red time for us.

I also read that every member has recorded his part in a separate studio. Doesn’t this contaminate the sound of a well hooked up band that chooses for a one studio rehearsal with all the members playing together?
Yes, but we were never a band that recorded life. I requires so much more work and preparation by all of us by coming to the studio and I just not see that working for us. But we did record a lot of it here in Michigan. The drums, the bass and the rhythm guitars were all tracked here by our old bass player Bart Williams who is basically still a sixth member of the band since he left. He was with us in the studio just every time. He is largely responsible for the sound. But recording here at home is more comfortable and more cost effective to bring a producer to us then traveling to a studio and staying there for a few weeks with hotel costs and food costs. So the studio process has changed all over the years. But the end result looked very good and we all did what was needed to do.

Do you consider ‘Nightbringers’ as the ultimate TBDM album?
O yeah, no question about it. It just listened to it last night and I felt that again. I was comparing it to all previous albums and ‘Abysmal’ and it sounds so professional and a big jump in quality. It is noticeably better to me so I feel very excited. It is just the feeling that an awesome record is lying here ready to drop. It is so exciting. The pre-orders are flying of the shells. We actually broke Metal Blades record in the pre selling of an album. It feels that we are going to make a big jump when this thing comes out and in terms of opportunities. Maybe some bigger tours were we could be one of the opening bands and meeting new people. We are just crossing our fingers for a new Slayer tour or something like that. Big opportunities you know. We hope that the first sale numbers will help us to make some new contracts. The future is looking so bright.

I really thought about ‘Reign In Blood’ when I listened the first time to ‘Nightbringers’. It has the same aggression and speed but without being a copycat of them.
That is a very high compliment and I know what you mean. It is all attack. There is no fat or downtime. It is just aggression after aggression after aggression with short songs. We always used ‘Reign In Blood’ as some kind of a model how an album should have be for us. No to long but very potent. At the end of it, you really have the feeling that you have listened to a complete album with dynamics, ups and downs and different ideas. But it is short and sweet. We don’t want to stick around to long and be boring to people. With every album we have talked ourselves to a point and it will be difficult to make another next great album but Brandon will grown for another two years and the band plays so well.

So what is next? Are there already some names of other bands were you will be touring with?
We have a tour in North America and Canada with Suffocation. Then we are off for the holidays and then we come to Europe for a tour with Cannibal Corpse. And beyond that we are putting something together in spring. That will be a US tour. So we are looking again for a two years tour.

So you did also some guest appearances on other albums. Like ‘All Hail’ from the album ‘Omen’ from Bog Wraith. After all those years of hard working, you are now one of the biggest death metalbands and other bands invite you to participate.
I do it for free and only for bands that I enjoy. It keeps ourselves also present between two albums so our name keeps present. It is very fun and I enjoy that.

Do you handle the The Black Dahlia Murder Facebook page yourself?
There is always me at the end of it. When we are on tour, a couple of other people helps us out putting advertisements. But for the most of the time it is just me. Our fans respond a lot to that. I speak with them, I answer questions and make jokes with them. They just see that we are normal people. It means a lot to them to be personal. Just like our songs when we shake hands. When I was young I just felt like being an alien to be the lonely metalhead but now I see so many of them. I just love all those metalheads.

I wish you and the band a lot of success and thank you for your time. Is there anything you want to say to our readers in particular?
Thank you for your time and for the nice review. Thanks for sticking with us and please pre-order the new album. It is very important for what we will do for the next two years. We are there for you, for our fans.

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