Out on Metal Blade, Ritual is the bands fifth full-length release. The Michigan quintet has certainly topped all of their other albums with this outing. The addition of Ryan Knight in 2009 added a real musical flair, not to say that John K wasn’t a good guitarist but Knight is a wizard. Williams on bass and Lucas on drums are newer members in the group as well leaving only Strnad and Eschbach as original members. This current line-up has been stable for a couple of years now, and how does that affect the current outage?
What started to really gel in Deflorate has become rock solid in Ritual. This is certainly a testament to some consistency in the line-up. A Shrine to Madness rides in on ethereal waves of the orchestra and then the riffs drop in like an atom bomb. Accompanied by Strand’s unique brand of growls and shrieks, it takes us only a few blast beats to realize we are in the presence of greatness. This is four minutes of pure metal bliss with a great turned up bass, creative drumming and the that extra push by Knight gives us only a taste of what’s to come. On Stirring Seas of Salted Blood is truly an early showcase track for each of the musicians. The riffs are creative in ebb and flow, driving with emotion, the bass is murderous, and the drumming insanely creative, all of which are accentuated with the vocal presence that is Strnad. The solo on this track by Knight is just a small sampling of the rapid fire playing that truly puts him in the wizard category.
The first three tracks truly demonstrate Black Dahlia Murder’s growth as musicians and then we get to track four. Conspiring With the Damned is one of the best tracks on the release, if it’s even possible to pick out a best. The guitar team of Eschbach and Knight lay down a road of riffs that are nothing short of inspired. The solos are slow and melodic and fast and furious in all the right places. Keep in mind these types of guitar sounds wouldn’t be possible if not were for Williams and Lucas’s behind the scenes work with the backbone of the tune. Musically thus far the band has been flawless and on The Window is where the vocals really shine. The growl and shriek style of Strnad is at its peak. Keeping perfect tempo, emotion and intonation with the guitars, puts Strnad’s work on this collection of notes over the top. The combination of instruments and vocals convey such a pure brand of high energy in their composition, and if you have ever seen these guys live they are nothing but high energy on stage. What you hear is what you see pure thunderous metal.
The album closes how it started, fast and brutal in Dahlia fashion. Amidst the wizardry of Knight and the shrieks of Strnad, Ritual comes to a disappointing conclusion. Not musically disappointing but rather needing more and more type of disappointing. This album does what a metal album is supposed to do, invade your brain and senses, die there and never leave. Rest assured the replay button will be your best friend when taking this latest journey with the lads from Michigan. All of the talents are exemplified in one form another and there is no weak link. It is this attribute that really forms the solid steel framework for this work. Hands down the best and most mature composition from Murder. They don’t sacrifice any brutality but manage to work within that brutality to bring out all the good that each offers individually to collectively form a monstrous accomplishment.