By Andy Osborn. After starting high school and having spent the last few years absorbing my dad’s 70s and 80s punk collection, I was looking for something new; music with more than a couple power chords and anger towards the government. Metallica, Slayer, Maiden and Priest were known to teenage me but those were old fogiesBy Andy Osborn.
After starting high school and having spent the last few years absorbing my dad’s 70s and 80s punk collection, I was looking for something new; music with more than a couple power chords and anger towards the government. Metallica, Slayer, Maiden and Priest were known to teenage me but those were old fogies, decades past their prime. There had to be something more recent and exciting that I could relate to, and even see in concert without having to spend $50 in order to sit in a stadium. On a whim at my favorite record store I picked up copy of The Black Dahlia Murder’s 2003 debut, recognizing the band name. It didn’t leave my Discman for six months.
Only cursorily familiar with death metal, I was entranced. The furious pace, never-ending blast beats, catchy-yet-interesting riffs, and raspy-yet-intelligible dual vocal style were a shock to my core and I couldn’t stop listening. It was the only record that mattered in my life for a long time and I absorbed every note, cymbal hit, and blaspheming lyric. That’s not to say I ever fully understood or even liked the latter. I still vividly remember 15-year-old Catholic Andy being disgusted at the themes of murder and mayhem; even cringing and turning down the volume on “The Blackest Incarnation” when Trevor screams about “crushing the will of god.” The violence, zombies and cannibals described were shocking, as even gory horror movies were a relatively new discovery. But I kept the album on endless repeat, entranced by the dark spell cast by these Motor City fiends.
With Unhallowed, The Black Dahlia Murder unknowingly changed the landscape of metal in the United States. This album went against the grain of the New Wave of American Metal, the immensely popular style of contemporary metalcore which consisted of bands like Lamb of God, Trivium, Shadows Fall and Killswitch Engage. And although BDM were unfairly lumped in with those acts, they weren’t anything alike. By revitalizing the decade-old Gothenburg sound, Unhallowed paved the way for a new generation of bands. The shock wave they started still reverberates today, and bringing back the style likely even led to the reformation of two bands who helped invent it: At The Gates and Carcass.
|The Black Dahlia Murder then and now. Photos by Edward Kobayashi and Metal Chris|
And for me personally, this album started what’s likely to be a lifelong obsession with metal. It was my first deep-dive into the world of auditory extremity and I’ll be forever grateful that it showed me music can be aggressive and dark, yet still catchy as hell at the same time. It even changed my life the best way possible—I met a girl at a show on the Unhallowed tour in 2004. In a few months we're getting married.
Listening to Unhallowed thirteen years later, it’s clear The Black Dahlia Murder do owe a lot to the small Swedish scene of a decade earlier. But there simply weren’t any American bands pumping out melodic death metal at the time so what they accomplished truly was groundbreaking, even if it wasn’t entirely original in the history of metal. Their revival and transportation of what was a thriving sound in the 90s became a massive success. The metal world has never been the same since, and neither have I.