This is the last of several which was originally done for a printed publication. Due to production problems it never saw the light of day so is being published here for your enjoyment.
Trevor Strnad, vocalist of melodic death metal five-piece The Black Dahlia Murder, might just be metal’s jolliest frontman, and there’s no denying he has quite a lot to be happy about. TBDM are fresh from the release of their eighth studio album ‘Nightbringers’ which has been well received by fans and critics alike, reaching number three in the US hard rock charts. “I feel insanely excited about it. I mean it’s better than I had expected”, says Trevor, talking about the band’s newest record, “I think it’s just definitely raised the bar for us even compared to the last record, which I’m still proud of. But I just hear a huge jump in quality and I think having Brandon Ellis come into the fold on guitar was a massive addition to the band. I think that you can hear his excitement in the record and you can hear us responding to him very excitedly. So I think it’s a very energetic album. Yeah, like I said this is just our most proud moment right now and I think the fans are gonna love it. I think it has the most variety of any album we’ve had, which is something we’ve been striving for.”
As Trevor already mentions, The Black Dahlia Murder welcome new guitarist Brandon Ellis into their fold back in 2016, replacing Ryan Knight. Ryan actually hand selected Ellis to replace him and as far as the rest of the band are concerned, he couldn’t have chosen better. A large part of the reason we hear such a fresh surge of adrenaline on ‘Nightbringers’ is because of Brandon’s influence. “What he wrote for the album was incredible and that was something we did not foresee!” Strnad enthuses, “We knew he’d soloed on tonnes of albums and he’s filled in for tonnes of professional bands and been in professional bands, but he’d never had his own music out there to the world. So this is the first time he’s written songs that are going to be on a record and he wrote four out of nine of them and just blew us away with what he could do. So I think that his mark as all over this album. It’s not just in his solos, but it’s in his own songs that he wrote. It’s in the way he inspired the rest of us old timers, coming into the fold, and I think we responded very excitedly to what he had done and I think that he lit a fire underneath Brian’s ass to write what he wrote for the album too. And it’s just a positive experience all around having this guy in.”
Since The Black Dahlia Murder raged onto the scene in 2003 with their debut album ‘Unhallowed’ they’ve release an album every two years without fail. This isn’t a coincidence either – Trevor and his band mates go out of their way to follow this pattern religiously in order to keep the hunger for their music alive and stay relevant. “It’s part of our fabric now, this intense schedule and really it’s just been in an attempt to keep the band fresh for people”, reveals Trevor, “Keep new material coming out to keep them excited and then with a new tour comes new artwork, comes new shirts, new tour opportunities. So it’s just an awesome rebirth every two years. I really look forward to this time. Yeah, you know it’s just been an attempt to stay relevant, I think. Whereas the internet era has kind of overexposed people to music. I think they can have as much music as they want at all times and I think it’s become slightly more disposable to people in this era. So we’re just kind of trying to respond to that too by keeping stuff coming at a pretty alarming rate, you know?”
In a time where bands are forever evolving and developing their sound in order to move with trends, TBDM are one of the few death metal bands that have stayed to true to their original sound and had a huge amount of success because of it. Trevor’s secret to longevity is to change the sound enough to challenge yourself, but keep it subtle so it’s still instantly recognisable. “I feel like it’s still at the very heart of it still the same formula of melodic death metal, black metal, a little bit of Floridian death, thrash. It’s definitely still that same melting pot and we’ve definitely been striving to be recognisable this entire time as the same band”, he admits, “But on the same hand there’s certain moments where I believe that we’ve definitely changed its trajectory of things and how we would grow and evolve. And one of those albums was ‘Nocturnal’. Making that was the first time we used ProTools to kind of build our demos from scratch and that just allowed us to really flesh out the songs into a new height.”
“And then the next turning point I would say was ‘Ritual’. That was bringing in a lot of dynamics. Bringing in a lot of different song paces and tempos and rhythmic ideas and really trying to push those aspects of the band to a height and also incorporating other instruments”, as Trevor explains the subtle nuances of how his band has grown and evolved throughout the years, the passion and dedication in his voice is palpable. While The Black Dahlia Murder’s success may be in part due to their ability to shred through a collection of brutal riffs like a knife through butter, it’s clear to see the driving force behind it all is their dedication to their craft. They are utterly devoted to their music and put 100 per cent into everything they create. He continues, “Acoustic guitar, some keys, some samples and that was the first time we figured out how to do samples live so we could reproduce all this stuff. And that just really opened a huge door for us and it gave us the ability to make more attractive songs. To make songs that had more details and fine, just real microscopic decisions that really do play out in a major way. I think that the songs have gotten more three dimensional as we’ve gotten older and wiser and I feel like this album is the ultimate testament to that.”
Of course, success is not without its hardships and Strnad is no stranger to difficulty. However, every hardship that TBDM face they take a positive away from and use it to help them appreciate the good times. From staying sane on tour to fighting to stay relevant in an oversaturated genre, there’s nothing these guys can’t face without coming out on top. “We’ve definitely dedicated ourselves to this. We never say no. We’re basically using every moment that we can to be on tour or doing something to forward the band. So we’ve put this as a very front priority, for Brian and me especially being the original members for 16 years now. So I think the hardest part has just been staying sane in all this boredom of tour and all the monotony of travel”, confesses Trevor, “And staying relevant is also difficult too. You have to make a lot of good decisions. Like right now the scene is so over-saturated with bands that it’s difficult to stick out and we’ve just been very lucky in that regard. I feel tremendously lucky to still be here and still be on the rise. It’s incredible.”
So, with The Black Dahlia Murder’s next two year cycle underway, there’s absolutely no stopping them. The 2018-2019 are going to be a hurricane of activity for the band, until the next album hits like a sledgehammer to the face and they get ready to do it all over again. “We’re just getting started here with the planning of the next two years. So, tonnes of tours. Tonnes of shows. Tonnes of festivals. Hopefully, a very successful two years”