Interview: The Black Dahlia Murder's Trevor Strnad

Death metal; gore, mutilation, murder and perpetual darkness personified in sound form. It’s a unique tapestry of brutality that takes a lot of time and patience to adapt to. Though a staple of underground metal culture, it has peeped its horned head into the wider world of the mainstream from time to time. Leading the army of the damned forward are Michigan five-piece The Black Dahlia Murder who’ve taken a big steaming dump on the naysayers of how far this music can potentially go.

Having had notable success in the Billboard charts (2011s Ritual reaching #31, their highest position to date), the band’s ninth album Nightbringers has a lot to live up to. Having released the title-track back in August, our nerves are shot at the unrelenting and pants soiling unconformity that BDM still manage to pump out. Our very own Hywel Davies had a chat with lead singer Trevor Strnad on what we can expect from the new album and where extreme metal belongs in 2017…

Noizze: Hey Trevor! So, tell us we’re gagging to know; what’s the story behind the new album and what can we expect?

TS: Ah man, it’s the strongest offering we’ve made yet! I feel like it’s been a really substantial jump in quality than what we’ve done in the past. I think a big factor was Brandon Ellis [lead guitar] being brought into the fold. He’s young, he’s super creative, he wrote four of the nine songs on the record, which wasn’t expected. I think he’s just raised the bar for all of us man; we’re all trying to keep up with this little bastard! I think it’s the most varied album we’ve done and I think it’s what we’ve been headed towards.

I think we realised just how static a fast album can be. I have a hundred of those records and they’re too boring now because they’re entirely one speed or one intensity. Being more dynamic is what we’ve been striving for since Ritual. We realised we needed some drama, we needed to put in some dynamics, making them more three dimensional and have emotionally gripping qualities. This album is the ultimate combination of all those ideas. Nightbringers is the furthest we’ve ever pushed ourselves. It’s the most creative thing we’ve ever done.

N: Without using the words ‘heavier’, ‘fucking’ or ‘brutal’, how does it compare to your past albums?

TS: It’s more melodic, exciting, dynamic and colourful. It’s made me realise how much I still love creating with this band and having these songs in front of me. I was peeing my pants these songs were so fucking cool! Everybody in the band was just so vamped up for it. I’m just besides myself right now and we’ve made history by breaking the pre-order record for Metal Blade too. I’m just so pumped to see what happens next.

N: I couldn’t agree more and for this record it seems you guys have definitely found your groove again.

TS: For sure and this has got to be the first album that’s got bass guitar on it ha, ha! That’s what really helps with the groove, you know? Ha, ha, ha! Our bass has been so prominent live and it’s all part of having that big sound, so to have it on the record and to have it sound present is really going to speak to people.

N: Dude, that’s awesome! I’ve also been going back through your catalogue like Ritual, Everblack and Unhallowed; you guys keep reminding me how fucking fun metal can be. Was wondering, do you think metal has lost some of its sense of humour over the years?

TS: Yes and no. To me, we’re just doing what we saw the Big Four [Metallica, Megadeth, Slayer, Anthrax] do back in the day. They weren’t afraid to wear punk shirts and show all the different influences that they cared about and they always had a sense of humour about what they were doing. Like, James Hetfield changing the lyrics to their songs by putting in swears in there or Anthrax doing goofy shit, but also being a great band at the same time. We never really fit anywhere since the get-go, whether it was because of my glasses or my nerdy stature or short hair. We wanted to fit in and wanted to be considered a death metal band and I think at first I was bitter about that. These days I see that it’s just opened all these doors for us. It means that we get all these different people from all walks of the underground digging the band. When I see the crowd at the show, it’s so dynamic. I don’t think they care what the band is, if they like it then I’m just thankful.

N: You guys have even seen some mainstream commercial success, which is huge for a death metal band! Where do you see the relationship between extreme metal and the mainstream go from here?

TS: I think that being kind of an oddball band, like I said earlier, it’s allowed us to transcend a lot of these ceilings of just being a death metal band. We’ve taken risks and have taken things outside the norm for a death metal band. We’ve played [Vans] Warped Tour and we go to these different arenas and play as ourselves. We’re not compromising our music, we’re just trying to put it in front of new people with new ears, which has been quite successful for us. We want to associate with all different walks of the underground and we’ve been able to do that. I think that metal has more eyes on it right now, especially in America, than what it has for a long time – It’s weird. It’s cool that extreme metal records are showing up in the charts but it’s a really hard stick of measurement to get to grips with. You see us moving up the charts slowly, which was never our goal but it means that extreme metal is at this crazy boil. I feel that we’ve led people by the head into this unworldly extreme.

N: Where do you see the future of metal heading?

TS: I think it’s going to keep going the way it’s going which is in 10,000 different directions right about now. There’ll always be new sounds, especially with technical stuff and I see there’s more new school bands just reclaiming the infancy of death metal. So, the way I see it there’s no sign of stopping. The underground is so rich and so constant and it doesn’t matter if it’s popular or not, it will never stop. I’m constantly trying to get back into the underground. It’s been a huge part of my life, I’m always going to shows when I can. It’s my greatest love in life and it gives me energy towards the band. It’ll always be something that I’m tied to. It’s so important to me and so important to us as a band.

Nightbringers is out October 6 via Metal Blade