The Black Dahlia Murder
By: Sean Moore / Photos By: Jennie Walker
The Black Dahlia Murder have been around since about 2001 and have walked a pretty careful line that converges musical genres that range from very technical and melodic death metal to what is now described as metalcore. Their sound has evolved a bit with the addition of drummer Alan Cassidy and bassist Max Lavelle since 2012 and leans heavily on Swedish death metal bands they’ve listed as influences. They’ve found what works and remain very consistent. Trevor Strnad’s guttural/death growl is one of the most recognizable vocal styles of the metalcore/death metal genre. I think it was the first time I saw a lead singer of a metalcore band wearing glasses on stage while performing. He doesn’t look like your “typical” metal singer, but he orchestrated the crowd perfectly into the madness and chaos before, during, and after songs, while speaking very highly of the “Monday night crowd that came to rock out” and sounded appreciative the few times they spoke (briefly) to the audience. They did mention it had been quite a few years since they’d played Portland, so they were happy to be back.
As a result of their convergence of genres, the band has developed a very broad fan-base, as witnessed last night when they played a headlining set at Port City with their “Waging a War Without End Tour” (which is perhaps one of the most applicable names for a tour, given what I watched happen within the crowd). There was plenty of fist-pumping and limbs thrown with reckless abandon from everyone in the pit with long hair or a “gutter punk” fashion. It did not take long for the crowd to start moshing and headbanging. From the start of their set, the crowd was already consciously split between the front row crowd moshers and back of the room crowd enjoying the music in its own fashion. The middle of the room was “emptied” for the mosh pit, which quickly became a whirlpool of bodies and sweat as they ran in circles, back and forth, using their bodies as bumper cars through nearly every minute of each song, never letting up and very rarely stopping unless they were out of breath.
Within the first couple of riffs of their opening song, “Widowmaker” (followed by “Jars”) from their latest album Nightbringers before throwing it all the way back to their first album, Unhallowed, with “Contagion,” which really got the crowd moving. The mosh pit was in full force as I witnessed bodies thrown around, dropped and picked back up. There’s was plenty of stalking like a jungle cat anticipating its prey’s next moves within the mosh pit, too. Slow, precise steps before a full-on attack, the only difference being all of this comes with a mutual respect (most of the time) from all participants. When going to a metal show like this, you have to expect the chaos and carnage of an semi-choreographed mosh pit where it’s sort of an unwritten and understood that everyone exists within the realm of harmony and cooperation. I witnessed quite a mix of positive and negative interactions while Black Dahlia Murder was playing, with a lot of shoving, fists flying and kicks, not just from the participants in the pit, but also the people on the outer boundaries of it.
The tightness of the band’s performance and transitions from each song, combined with how comfortable the band was at orchestrating the carnage of the mosh pit often had my gaze shifting from the band to the crowd throughout the set. As noted before, the pace of their set left absolutely no time to catch your breath, as they blasted through songs covering almost their entire catalog, ranging the length of their noteworthy career that reminds you how consistent they’ve been album after album. They played 19 songs in about 70 minutes. By far, the tracks that got the loudest reactions were from the earlier albums, and everyone loved hearing the four songs from their 2007 album Nocturnal including back-to-back “Warborn” and “What a Horrible Night to Have a Curse.” Their latest album, though, comprised the majority of their set, as they played 7 songs off Nightbringers, although they seemed to know that the crowd absolutely wanted to hear the older stuff as well.
When Black Dahlia Murder’s set was over, completed without an encore, as the band prefers, the crowd dispersed, catching their collective breaths, wiping sweaty hair away from their faces, and exhausted, but also completely content with the carnage they’d laid to waste for 70 minutes on a Monday night.