Truly vivid nightmares are, reasonably so, one of the most frightening experiences an individual can have. It makes sense, really: a one-on-one cage fight with your worst fears in a setting so vivid that you can hardly discern it from reality – what isn’t there to be frightened by? The smell of blood so intense and the soak of your sweat so intimate that you feel truly immersed in your nightmare – as if it had subtly replaced reality with itself. This same feeling of immersion is true of the latest full-length album by Michigan’s finest in punishing, heavy death metal: The Black Dahlia Murder. Everblack, the band’s sixth studio album, is far and away their most haunting and devastating release yet, combining immersive aspects of atmospheric death metal with the hard-hitting and visceral throb of deathcore. In fact, Everblack shows such mastery of dark, looming death metal that it traps the listener in the midst of pitch darkness, forcing them to question “will I ever wake up?”
The Black Dahlia Murder have been long known for their extreme musical proficiency and masterful songwriting dynamic; ffittingly so, as each song on Everblack plunges the listener further into murky darkness by the hands of deep, groovy chugging combined with eclectic and lacerating solos played against a backdrop of severe, pummeling blast beats and lightning fast, machine gun fills. All the while, prominent layers of rolling, low bass guitar weave between the lines of the album, meshing the parallels together into one cohesive unit. “In Hell is Where She Waits for Me,” the album’s opening track, utilizes this right from the get-go, hooking the listener in a haunting, atmospheric introduction which rapidly decays into full-blown chaos. The punishing, grinding dialectic of groove and razor-sharp shred continues with “Into the Everblack,” and attacks the listener relentlessly until “Raped in Hatred by Vines of Thorn.” This track, the album’s second single, features far and away one of the absolute catchiest riffs in recent death metal history. The looping, lacerating fretwork, combined with the bipolar nature of the drums will bore inside the listeners head and reside there for days, unyielding and staunch in its resolve. If the listener does manage to shake it from their head, it will only be with other, equally driving and catchy moments of the album’s superior instrumentation: like that of the climactic riff in “Control” or “Their Beloved Absentee”’s gloomy, sludgy atmosphere.
The Black Dahlia Murder aren’t simply catchy and rhythmic on an instrumental level, however. Everblack’s vocal assault is just as mentally invasive as its musical counterparts. “Raped in Hatred by Vines of Thorn” makes use of a chorus so permeating and dizzying to the listener that it’s incredible. The cantor in which the lyrics are delivered serve as a perfect vessel to get the lyrics themselves lodged deep in the listener’s skull. “Every Rope is a Noose” works to a similar effect – in fact, the whole album does. The use of the vocals as another means of catchiness as dynamism shows that they function an instrument in their own right. The enormous variety of screams finds themselves alongside both the low gurgle of the bass and the piercing, screeching highs of the guitar, along with every tone in between. “Control” makes brilliant use of the enormous vocal range with quick and enormous oscillations between stunning, skyscraper highs and otherworldly low growls. “In Hell is Where She Waits for Me” also does this, letting the listener know that right from the get-go, Everblack is a whole different kind of animal.
The Black Dahlia Murder’s mastery of hard-hitting, slamming death metal comes from a combination of those elements. Were it not for the cavernous, intricate architecture formed by the simply stunning musicianship the members of the band possess, the vocals would simply ring hollow. Conversely, if the vocals were not strong and provocative enough to pierce the lead veil created by the dense and heavy atmosphere created by the guitars and drums, they would go unnoticed, drowned out in a wall of instrumentation. However, the ability for these two elements to mesh and meld together to create truly immersive and soul-crushing music is what proves The Black Dahlia Murder to be true masters of their craft. Whether it’s the sheer perfection in the vocal-instrumental onslaught waged in “Raped in Hatred by Vines of Thorn” or the spine-shattering slam after spine-shattering slam in “Control” and “Into the Everblack,” the amounts of atmosphere and boundless talent in this album are mirrored only by its heaviness. All the while, as Everblack manages to get heavier and heavier as the album wears on, it never gets monotonous or boring – nor does it get bottom-heavy or dense – rather, the album matures as it progresses, creating new tunnels and caverns for the listener to find themselves lost in.
As Everblack winds its way deep inside the listener’s skull, the question changes. “Will I ever wake up?” changes and morphs as The Black Dahlia Murder mature and alter their sound ever so slightly. The slams start to hit harder, while the solos are sharper and cut deeper, the grooves get grimier and atmosphere deepens. Every dimension of the band’s already near-perfect sound is honed ever so slightly, reaching a state few death metal bands have even dreamed of. Indeed, as the listener keeps spinning Everblack time and time again, the question changes from "will I ever wake up?" to "do I want to ever wake up?"