Music News & Reviews

Black Dahlia Murder

Black Dahlia Murder, an extreme-metal band, is led by co-founder Trevor Strnad, center. “I never could have imagined this” level of success, he said.
Black Dahlia Murder, an extreme-metal band, is led by co-founder Trevor Strnad, center. “I never could have imagined this” level of success, he said.

This spring, the Black Dahlia Murder is giving fans a bookended look at its music, performing material from its new album, “Abyss,” alongside the band’s entire first album, 2003’s “Unhallowed.”

That the group is even at a place where it can fashion this unique show, and draw from a catalog that numbers roughly 100 songs, is beyond anything vocalist Trevor Strnad ever expected.

“It’s crazy. I could have never imagined this,” Strnad said in a late-March phone interview. “All I wanted to do was to make one album that would get into people’s hands just so I could like be proud and show my mom, ‘Look, we made a CD. I did it.’ It’s gone so far beyond that. I just try to keep my head out of the clouds and just be thankful. It’s been an amazing ride, to say the very least.”

We’re never going to stop.

Trevor Strnad

Strnad and the other original member of the Black Dahlia Murder, guitarist Brian Eschbach, have been nothing if not committed to the band and its brand of extreme metal, keeping the band going through a series of personnel changes (the latest of which being the departure of guitarist Ryan Knight), while knowing that their chosen music will never go mainstream or turn them into celebrities.

“Yeah, it’s committing to a life of discomfort,” Strnad said. “We’ve spent most of our time in the van, or when we fly somewhere, we’re always taking the cheapest route, so we’re on like 40 flights to get somewhere. It’s grueling, man. Most people who have left the band, they just get exhausted by it, I think. Brian and I, being the original members, we just always had this code. We’re never going to stop. We’re never going to say no. If there’s a place that wants to take us and there’s a show to play, we’ll go do it, and that’s just the way the band’s always been.”

Strnad, Eschbach and the 13 guitarists, bassists and drummers who have passed through the lineup since the group formed in 2001 in Waterford, Mich., have also been prolific in keeping new music coming for fans, releasing each of their seven full-length albums two years apart and touring almost nonstop for 15 years. The current tour rolls into Orangevale on Thursday, May 12, for a show at The Boardwalk.

“It’s really a saturated time with underground bands,” Strnad said. “There’s just so much out there right now, and so many bands on the touring circuit. So I think just trying to always be present was one of the smartest things we did, and the touring is really the best advertisement for the band that we can come up with.”

We needed to … back off on just being a totally tech band.

Trevor Strnad

In making “Abysmal,” the Black Dahlia Murder (which now also includes bassist Max Lavelle, drummer Alan Cassidy and touring guitarist Brandon Ellis) continued to pursue a shift in its sound that began with the 2011 album “Ritual.”

The group’s previous album, 2009’s “Deflorate,” wasn’t as popular as 2007’s “Nocturnal,” and in taking a hard look at that formal album, Strnad said, the band realized it had gotten too technical with its fast and furious metal sound.

“What we realized was that we needed to slow down,” Strnad said. “We needed to put in some parts that were easily digestible, and just kind of back off on just being a totally tech band and just make sure the stuff was digestible and there were parts that emoted. I think that’s what we were missing at that point was like just some cool buildups or more dynamics. That’s what we started to do with ‘Ritual’ was have more variety of song styles.”

Those adjustments haven’t mellowed the Black Dahlia Murder, as “Abyss” is still plenty fast and furious. But there are multiple moments of striking melody – often the work of Knight (who remained in the band through the recording of the album) on lead guitar. And the occasional songs on which the band eases up on the throttle (“Stygiophobic” and “The Fog”) give “Abyss” some variety and flow.

Strnad is excited to be on tour and playing not only the new songs, but the “Unhallowed” material. Fans, though, shouldn’t expect to hear a note-for-note rendering of the “Unhallowed” songs.

They should anticipate something better, Strnad said.

“I look back at the first record, and I see a band that’s just green,” he said. “We hadn’t left the state. We hadn’t been out on tour. We hadn’t cut our teeth on the touring circuit. You know, there’re some cool ideas, I think, in the songs and I like the songs. But the actual performance that we recorded leaves a little bit to be desired, as far as I’m concerned.

“Now, having more experienced players and approaching the songs and just bringing them to their potential, I think they sound really good. So I’m pretty excited to show (them to) the fans that have been waiting all of these years to hear these songs, and thought they never would hear the songs (live), you know. So it’s a cool thing to do, I think, just to keep the fans stoked.”

Black Dahlia Murder

When: 7 p.m. Thursday, May 12

Where: The Boardwalk, 9426 Greenback Lane, Orangevale

Cost: $20-$22