The Black Dahlia Murder @ O2 Academy Islington, London – 20 September 2013

Summer may have drifted into a hazy memory in the UK, but wherever they go – Michigan boys The Black Dahlia Murder will always bring the heat.

There’s been a lot of water under the bridge since we cast our beady eye over The Black Dahlia Murder’s ground breaking appearance at Bloodstock Open Air 2012, so it’s no chore for us to chug along to north-west London to see how things have moved along.

The Black Dahlia Murder have always had the stones to tackle adversity head on. Twelve years of hard graft and consistent artistic improvement bear inarguable testament to that. As guitarist Brian Eschbach had pointed out in an interview earlier in the day – The Black Dahlia Murder will stand fearlessly before anyone and make their statement. However, tonight’s task is a little easier because this is their audience, and the pre-set, charged buzz that rises by the second – gives the impression that this is a fight that’s already won, it’s a no contest, The Black Dahlia Murder just have to rise up and take it.

Rise up they do as they boot their way in with ‘In Hell Is Where She Waits For Me’. Follow ups ‘Goat Of Departure’ and ‘Everything Went Black’ are delivered with enough energy to jump start the defunct economy of their home state’s capital. It doesn’t take long for vocalist Trevor Strnad to tear off his shirt, it’s not exactly the body beautiful but it fits in with the bands “we will be seen, we will be heard, so screw you in the ear” ethos. Strnard and Eschbach exchange knowing grins as if they understand that this one is already in the bag and they can relax into enjoying the experience along with everyone else. “THIS IS FUCKING AWESOME!” declares Strnard – no kidding!

The set is a great mix of old and new, the numbers from The Black Dahlia Murder’s latest release ‘Everblack’ display a new vein of belligerence that would rip a triple-ply Kevlar vest to shreds, whilst decade old favourites like ‘Funeral Thirst’ damn near scalp the entire room.

Strnard is an effective puppet master with his mix of fist pumping and conducting, he easily bends the crowd to his will, as his scorching vocals rip through the bones of anyone standing within melting distance. Eschbach and bassist Max Lavelle don’t dash or rush around the stage, they stride menacingly, taking up various static positions to glower out at the crowd, provoking them into even greater tumult.

Guitarist Ryan Knight has the appearance of a classic tortured, evil genius as his expression fluctuates between bewildered detachment and the inane grin of madness. There is no fluctuation in the razor sharp precision of his fretwork though as he rips off solo after solo with speed and clarity, the perfect complement to Lavelle’s thudding bass lines and Eschbach’s crunching, un-erring rhythm work. And behind it all is the delightfully frenzied drumming of Alan Cassidy who appears to have used the sound of a 20mm cannon as the template for his relentless double kick drum – it’s devastating.

The big guns are well and truly out as The Black Dahlia Murder blast away indiscriminately with ‘Necropolis’, ‘Closed Casket Requiem’ and ‘Raped In Hatred By Vines Of Thorn’ powering through what would be, to many, an unbearable aural barrier, but this is The Black Dahlia Murder’s universe and everyone here knows they belong in it – metal Valhalla indeed.

The Black Dahlia Murder don’t do encores and after the all-out mayhem of closer ‘Map Of Scars’, to add anything further would be superfluous. The crowd trudge into the cool autumn night with their sense of equilibrium clearly shifted off it’s axis by what they have just experienced. Strnard had earlier told us that “everyone has to die sometime”– presumably if it happens to any of us on the way home, after this ear splitting, audio rage, it would be because we didn’t hear the train that hit us coming.

Review: Noel Fischer
Photography: Steve Johnston

The Black Dahlia Murder