Fri, Apr 18, 2014 - Page 11 News List

Living the dream

By Joe Henley  /  Contributing Reporter

Trevor Strnad of The Black Dahlia Murder wears every emotion on his sleeve.

Photo Courtesy of Metal Blade Records

We music fans like to think that music has this otherworldly, mystical, undefinable depth to it. But let’s face it, 90 percent of us never get past the album cover or the band promo photo. You check out the t-shirts the band is wearing in their social media cover shot, have a cursory glance at the way their hair is cut, and instantly pass judgment on the type of music you presume they play based on those aesthetic qualities alone. In the Great Information Age, the abundance of data has only served to make it even more disposable, and the information that should be most important of all, the music, is an afterthought. It’s image first, the sound a distant second.

Michigan melodic death metal band The Black Dahlia Murder is intimately familiar with snap judgments. In 2003, after the band signed with legendary underground label Metal Blade Records, people took a look at the band’s admittedly goofy outward demeanor, about as far removed from the grim visages and arms-folded-over-chest posturing of death metal as one can get, and instantly lumped The Black Dahlia Murder in with the purist-maligned deathcore and metalcore scenes. Over a decade later, it’s still happening, says vocalist Trevor Strnad. Being out on tour with two legendary death metal acts brings out a certain breed of fan that, ironically, likely bemoans being stereotyped as a metalhead by society at large, but has no problem with stereotyping bands based on appearance. It’s Metal Hypocrisy 101.

“We’re seeing a lot of it out here with Carcass,” Strnad says over the phone from the east coast of the US. “They’re an old school band. And we’ve got Gorguts with us too, another old school band. So you have those long-hair, battle vest-clad elitist types that come out, and some of them aren’t going to give us a chance no matter what because they’ve already profiled us into a certain category.”

After six albums, the latest, Everblack being released last summer, you would think the genre confusion might disappear. But the condescension of those looking down their noses at the band continues unabated. While the purists might think they’re hurting the band, they’re unwittingly helping them.

“Being called so many different genres this entire time has allowed us to cross a lot of different boundaries and play all different kinds of tours and reach all different kinds of fans,” says Strnad. “When I look out at our crowd I see all different walks of people, from punk rock dudes to hardcore kids to more traditional long-hair types. So I’m not bitter about it. If anything, I think it was advantageous.”

Everblack certainly gelled the new lineup of The Black Dahlia Murder, consisting of original members Strnad and guitarist Brian Eschbach, guitarist Ryan Knight who has been on board for the past three albums, and a new rhythm section comprised of bassist Max Lavelle and drummer Alan Cassidy. The album sees the band follow up its own creative high-water mark, 2011’s Ritual, by upping the ante on the solo sections and bringing a new level of expressiveness to the music. You can thank Knight for the noted progression in that regard, says Strnad, eager to see his band mate get his due.

“I think the further we go the more Ryan Knight takes hold of this band. His playing is just incredible and I think he’s the one that’s really pushing us to get more technical and more developed. He’s a massively creative force. He plays guitar no less than three hours a day every day no matter what situation we’re in. He’ll be standing there on the sidewalk playing guitar if he has to. He’s the most dedicated player that we’ve ever encountered.”

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