Friday, October 20, 2017

Dr. Living Dead! – Cosmic Conqueror

Dr. Living Dead! is one of Sweden’s few contributions to the modern thrash that doesn’t take itself too seriously. The band’s gimmicky appearance and occasionally tongue-in-cheek lyrics lend themselves well to the crossover thrash mantra the band has adopted. And while this might bring images of Municipal Waste and Gama Bomb to mind, Dr. Living Dead! doesn’t try to emulate either band. They instead just play the kind of thrash they want to hear. Admittedly, it doesn’t have as much of a personality or face to it as the aforementioned groups, which is likely why the band hasn’t reached the same levels of popularity.

From a musical standpoint, “Cosmic Conqueror” is a predictable affair. It alternates between speedy thrash riffing and upbeat downpicked riffs. Though it always gets the neck going, it never reaches breakneck speeds. Melody is used only infrequently, instead opting for shoving one riff down your throat after another. Unsurprisingly, however, gang vocals are in full force all throughout the record, and used almost to perfection. The band’s singer spends much of his time with a classic thrash yell, occasionally recalling more unique characters like John Connelly (Nuclear Assault), Mike Muir (Suicidal Tendencies), or even Tom Martin (Lich King). To his credit, the band’s singer (Dr. Mania) does try his hand at some clean singing. Unfortunately, he isn’t really that good at it (see: "Moment of Clarity"), and so his normal shouting is preferred. Sometimes there’s a reason that an established formula is so effective, and Dr. Mania’s singing is proof that thrash vocalists shouldn’t experiment too much vocally.

Even before hearing “Cosmic Conqueror”, the songwriting was easy to envision. Dr. Living Dead! breaks little new ground. They’re at their best on faster efforts; the title track in particular demonstrates how effective brute force speed can be, but there are certainly a number of other similar instances. Other efforts like “Terror Vision” feel like they miss the mark because the band relies on heaviness rather than sheer energy. Of course, thrash is hard to truly mess up, and so the song isn’t all that bad, but it definitely stalls the album a little bit.

In a wasteland of thrash records, “Cosmic Conqueror” would shine, but there’s simply too much competition for this album to stand out. It’s good for a few listens, but will likely sit on the shelf after that. If every song had the intensity of the title track, and the album was cut down to the best 8-9 efforts, it would be far more potent. As it stands, this is a serviceable thrash record that does little to offend purists of the subgenre.

Be sure to check out and like Dr. Living Dead! on Facebook!

"Cosmic Conqueror"
"Disease To Exist"
"Survival Denied"

Final Rating
3.8/5 or 76%. 

Sunday, October 15, 2017

The Black Dahlia Murder – Nightbringers

The metal world has seen many bands who have been unfairly categorized for one reason or another. Unfortunately for these groups, it is often hard to break through that perception. The Black Dahlia Murder is a band that I have seen consistently written off, to the point where even I avoided them despite having no idea what they actually sounded like. One listen to “Nightbringers” made it clear that any pre-conceived notions I had of their music were totally wrong. The Black Dahlia Murder toe the line between melodic death metal and more traditional death metal, and do so quite effectively.

The band is admittedly modern in their approach, with a full production that would scare away anyone looking for something raw. This is definitely a clean, and well-executed effort, but “Nightbringers” still has plenty of brutality. The drum performance in particular features an impressive barrage of rhythms, incorporating thrashy beats, tons of double bass, and blast beats. Fortunately, The Black Dahlia Murder doesn’t overwhelm with the amount of blasting they use, as they’re able to mix it in fairly tastefully.

The real treat on this release is the quantity and consistency of the riffs. The previous nod to melodeath was because a lot of these riffs can get thrashy. There is a tinge of melody to the way the band writes riffs, but they ultimately tend to provide many high-speed downpicked riffs. This isn’t the only way the guitar playing shines, however, as there are plenty of guitar solos, many of which are virtuosic efforts that also show melodeath influence. The band only occasionally uses actual melodies over top of the riffs, which differentiates them from most melodeath groups who seem to focus more on leads than riffs.

If there is one clear weakness of “Nightbringers” is would be how overwhelming the vocals are. Trevor Strnad is an excellent vocalist: he can hit all of the highs and lows, and has no shortage of energy. The problem is that there’s almost no opportunity for the music to breathe. Several of these tracks feel like novels with how many words they can fit into 3 minutes. And since so many songs are just 3 minutes long, there isn’t a lot of room for the other instruments to shine. There are bands that excel at this sort of rapid-fire approach, but it tends to work best when the music is only about speed. To The Black Dahlia Murder’s credit, they have a lot more to offer than just playing fast, so providing a greater opportunity to showcase these riffs would be effective. 

Though “Nightbringers” is unlikely to be an album I’ll be jamming on repeat, it definitely deserves accolades for its competence. Fans of death metal that can handle some modern influences should enjoy this release. To me, it pretty much all sounds the same, but that’s not a bad thing given its short run time. The Black Dahlia Murder hits hard and fast, and if “Nightbringers” is any indication of their back catalogue, then their previous releases are probably worth exploring too!

Be sure to check out and like The Black Dahlia Murder on Facebook!


Final Rating
3.7/5 or 74%.