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Music / The Black Dahlia Murder

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Circa 2017

The Black Dahlia Murder are an American melodic death metal band hailing from Detroit formed in 2001. They released a demo entitled What a Horrible Night to Have a Curse and a four-track EP, A Cold-Blooded Epitaph. Soon afterwards, they were signed onto Metal Blade Records and have stayed there for all of their albums as on 2013.

For the third album, they toured alongside with Cannibal Corpse, Æon, The Red Chord, Goatwhore and The Absence in 2007, and again in 2008 with 3 Inches of Blood, Hate Eternal, and Decrepit Birth, followed by another alongside Brain Drill and Animosity (which infamously ended up going very poorly for Brain Drill due to a certain incident at a border crossing). John K left the band and was replaced by Ryan Knight of Arsis fame during the beginning of 2009

In February 2011, The Black Dahlia Murder completed the songwriting process for the their fifth studio album, entitled Ritual. It was released on June 21, 2011 in North America to outstanding critical acclaim. The band supported Amon Amarth on their May 2011 European tour, as well as headlined the 2011 Summer Slaughter tour, both in support of Ritual. All was going well until Shannon Lucas announced that he was leaving to pursue other career paths, with Alan filling in as support before joining full-time. Despite their leaving, they announced that they would continue writing music. In 2013, Everblack was completed and announced for a summer release.

In 2015, the band finished writing and recording their seventh release, Abysmal. As of February 2016, Ryan Knight has officially left the band, but both parties stressed that it was on the best of terms and that he did his best to make it as easy as possible. Brandon Ellis was picked by Knight as a fill-in and eventually became their new full-time lead guitarist.

On May 11, 2022, Trevor Strnad's death by suicide was publicly announced. He was 41 years old. The decision was eventually made for Brian Eschbach to take over on vocals, and Ryan Knight also returned to the band.


  • Brian Eschbach – rhythm guitar (2001–2022), lead vocals (2022-present)
  • Max Lavelle – bass (2012–present)
  • Alan Cassidy – drums (2012–present)
  • Brandon Ellis - lead guitar, backing vocals (2016-present)
  • Ryan Knight – lead guitar (2008-2016), rhythm guitar (2022-present)

Notable Past Members:

  • Shannon Lucas - drums (2007 - 2012)
  • Trevor Strnad – lead vocals (2001–2022, deceased)
  • John Kempainen – lead guitar (2002–2008)
  • David Lock – bass (2002–2005)
  • Ryan "Bart" Williams – bass (2005–2012)


  • Unhallowed (2003)
  • Miasma (2005)
  • Nocturnal (2007)
  • Deflorate (2009)
  • Ritual (2011)
  • Everblack (2013)
  • Abysmal (2015)
  • Nightbringers (2017)
  • Verminous (2020)


  • Afterlife Express: "On Stirring Seas of Salted Blood" with a side of Flying Dutchman.
  • And I Must Scream: "Removal of the Oaken Stake", about a vampire who was staked through the heart so long ago that they are nothing more than a bare skeleton that is still very conscious, and can do nothing but wait for someone to haplessly remove the stake so it can regenerate.
  • Ascended Extra: Alan Cassidy and Brandon Ellis were both live fill-ins before becoming full-time, while Ryan Williams was a recording engineer at the studio where they tracked Unhallowed who became a close friend and supporter of the band well before David Lock left.
  • Audience Participation Song: "What a Horrible Night to Have a Curse". If the fade-in doesn't clue you in that it's about to start, Trevor (or Brian) shouting "GET THOSE FISTS IN THE AIR! PUMP THOSE FISTS!" surely will. It's also not uncommon to hear people shouting the gang vocals to "Vlad, Son of the Dragon" and "Jars".
  • Big Fun: Trevor Strnad. Shannon Lucas was also this, and it led to lots of "TBDM = melodic death played by a bunch of hairy fat guys" jokes. It seems to be a common phenomenon within the band due to their hard-touring lifestyle and long sedentary periods while on the road, as Brian is also heading here and Alan himself has grown quite chunky; Max has so far averted this by bringing weights and lifting on the road (though he qualifies when bulking), and only time will tell if Brandon manages to avoid this or not.
  • Body Horror: An occasional theme, with "A Selection Unnatural" (about a horribly deformed baby) being one of the more notable examples.
  • Cannibal Larder: "Jars".
  • Career-Ending Injury: Subverted with Zach Gibson; while a combination of injuries and neurological problems have prevented him from being able to play at the level that he used to play at with The Black Dahlia Murder and Gutrot, he is still active as a drummer with Nightkin and Shit Life. He's just never going to be able to play ultra-fast blasting material again.
  • Carpet of Virility: Many a joke was cracked about Shannon Lucas' extreme amounts of body hair, and Alan Cassidy has quite the pelt himself and once successfully lit it on fire.
  • Darker and Edgier: This could be said both musically and lyrically for melodeath standards; within their releases, Nocturnal, Everblack, and Verminous have all been markedly heavier than their preceding releases (or, for Verminous, the two preceding releases).
  • Decadent Court: "Nocturnal", with the court being a secret society of vampires who really want to try and bring about eternal night.
    • Also, the cover art for Deflorate.
  • Dude Looks Like a Lady: Brandon Ellis.
  • Early-Installment Weirdness: Their first demo, which was pretty straightforward (if not somewhat more aggressive) melodic metalcore with none of the horror themes that would later become their trademark.
  • Eldritch Abomination: "Thy Horror Cosmic" and "Throne of Lunacy".
  • Fan of the Past: Brandon Ellis. He's an 80s shred guitar hero type of player whose favorite bands are Yes, Toto, and Vicious Rumors, and most of his musical preferences are along the lines of shred, Hair Metal, and Arena Rock, and his writing with the band involves prominent power metal elements. He is, however, a fan of death metal as well, and he most certainly enjoys playing extreme music.
  • Fate Worse than Death: "Catacomb Hecatomb" has a truly horrifying one: zombified by a monstrous undead spider to slowly be consumed by her offspring for eternity while conscious.
  • Girl on Girl Is Hot: Horrifically Inverted in the most disgusting manner with "Map of Scars"
  • God Is Evil: "Their Beloved Absentee".
  • Grief Song: "That Which Erodes the Most Tender of Things"
  • Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow: Brian Eschbach on an off-on basis, as he is currently growing it out again after several years of shaving it.
  • Heavy Meta: "Goat of Departure", to an extent
  • Humanoid Abomination: "The Blackest Incarnation".
  • Human Popsicle: "I Will Return".
  • Identical Stranger: As he got older, Trevor Strnad developed an uncanny resemblance to Jonathan Davis. He was apparently aware of this and didn't appreciate being reminded. He also bore a strong resemblance to Riley McShane (Allegaeon, Continuum), to the point where Riley has an entire album on his personal Facebook page of screencaps from times that Facebook mistakenly tried to tag him in photos of Trevor.
  • I Love the Dead: One of Trevor's most common lyrical themes. Listing all the examples would be exhausting. "Deathmask Divine" is the most famous.
  • The Legions of Hell: "Black Valor".
  • Lighter and Softer: Abysmal is easily their most melodic release since Miasma and stands in contrast to a string of albums that progressively upped the heaviness.
  • Lyrical Cold Open: "IT STARTED AS A CHILD..."
  • Meaningful Name: Their name is taken from the infamous 1947 Hollywood murder, never solved, of a young woman named Elizabeth Short who was cut in half at the torso, given a Glasgow smile, and drained of her blood. This is fitting as they commonly have horror-related lyrical themes, and they finally did a song about the titular murder on Everblack with "In Hell Is Where She Waits for Me".
  • Melodic Death Metal: Probably one of the heaviest bands in the genre, if not the heaviest.
  • Metal Scream: Trevor was known for his vocal chord-crackling type 3 shrieks, but he also threw in type 2's here and there.
  • Miniscule Rocking:
    • Nocturnal gives us "I Worship Only What You Bleed"
    • Deflorate has "Death Panorama"
    • "Den of the Picquerist" off Ritual.
  • Metalcore: The band had small influences in their older albums. This sound crept up a little bit here and there on Unhallowed and made more of a comeback on Miasma before disappearing altogether on Nocturnal. Despite this, they still get the metalcore tag, solely because of their older days when they looked more like hardcore musicians.
  • Mood Whiplash: The opening track to Ritual, "A Shrine to Madness", opens with a baroque classical melody... Before all the brutality of the band's signature sound is thrown in.
  • Motor Mouth: Trevor occasionally indulged in this, but "Threat Level No. 3" is basically an entire song of this. Have the lyrics handy or you will get left behind.
  • Murder Ballad: They really love these, with "Climactic Degradation" and "In Hell Is Where She Waits for Me" being among the most famous.
  • New Sound Album: Several:
    • Unhallowed was where they fully took the plunge into melodic death metal that was hinted at on their second demo and A Cold-Blooded Epitaph.
    • Nocturnal was where they shed the last of their metalcore elements and started playing up their heavier influences.
    • Everblack was a far darker album with prominent brutal death and black metal influences that was, as a whole, distinctively less melodic and more foreboding and ominous than any of their earlier output.
    • Nightbringers has prominent Power Metal influences with a greatly increased focus on leadwork and far more frequent gang vocals. This can likely be owed to the influence of Brandon Ellis, who wrote almost half of the album and played a large role in its creative direction as a whole.
  • Ode to Intoxication: "Great Burning Nullifier". They sure do love weed.
  • One-Word Title: A staple of theirs, as all of their studio albums thus far have used a single word as its name.
  • Our Werewolves Are Different: "Moonlight Equilibrium", where the lycanthropy seems to be a genetic curse.
  • Out-of-Genre Experience: "Den of the Picquerist", "Hellion", and "Gone but Not Forgotten", which are grindcore songs.
  • Pædo Hunt: "Threat Level No. 3".
  • People Farms: "Blood Mine", where humans are being factory-farmed by a race of vampires.
  • Power Metal: They gained prominent elements of this on Nightbringers, which were carried over into Verminous. This is due to the influence of Brandon Ellis, who comes from a power metal background and heavily features it in his writing.
  • Professional Killer: "Widowmaker".
  • Rags to Riches: While they are not wealthy by any stretch of the imagination (their incomes and lifestyles are, at best, the absolute middle of middle-class), they went from being a bunch of kids who were so broke that they couldn't even afford a van and had to do the first several tours in their own personal vehicles, to being one of a tiny handful of death metal acts who can live comfortably off of band income and have not had day jobs in a long time.
  • Revolving Door Band: Their heavy touring schedule leads to regular turnover. Trevor has acknowledged that their lifestyle takes a toll and is not for everyone; when you are on tour for close to two-thirds of the year and getting by on minimal sleep and shitty, largely unhealthy food, you are more likely than not going to burn out at some point.
  • Rock Me, Asmodeus!: Shows up quite often
  • Sampling: Unhallowed made good use of this.
  • Scary Musician, Harmless Music: Inverted: from what is seen from the music videos, the band members appear to be nice, fun-loving metalheads, and people who have met them or toured with them will back this up. But their music is dark, brutal and extremely crushing.
  • Sesquipedalian Loquaciousness: Miasma means noxious exhalations from putrescent organic matter; poisonous effluvia or germs polluting the atmosphere.
  • Shout-Out:
    "Rest in festering slime! Here burns the souls/Of a thousand generations, JOIN THE CLUB!"
    "Ghouls, attack the church, crush the trinity dead!"
    • The drum beat in the intro to "As Good as Dead" (one of Ellis' songs) was a tribute to "Black Star".
  • Signature Style: Blazing, aggressive melodic death metal with extremely fast drumming, chainsaw guitar riffs, Trevor Strnad's signature ear-splitting screeches, and very noticeable brutal death metal influences. Knight and Ellis both have (or had, with Knight) distinctive guitar styles as well; Knight had a heavily fusion-influenced style with lots of clean legato and extended tapping runs, while Ellis has an extremely aggressive neoclassical style with a very distinctive vibrato and heavy usage of economy picking.
  • The Smart Guy: Brandon Ellis assumed this role from the minute that he joined. As per Trevor, his audio engineering and recording expertise allowed him to take charge of the Nightbringers writing and preproduction process, and his extensive theory knowledge was of tremendous help during the songwriting and editing process.
  • Sociopathic Soldier: "Warborn"
  • Song of Song Titles: "We Dead Are Best Left Underground".
  • Soprano and Gravel: Trevor is capable of both guttural lows and his trademark highs (though layering in the studio means that Brian has to do some of his parts live), while their first demo featured actual cleans on several songs.
  • Start My Own: Lock and Gibson (along with Mike McKenzie and several other people) started Nightkin in 2012, Williams started Necromancing the Stone with James Malone, Jeramie Kling from The Absence, and several others, and Lavelle started Serpent of Gnosis with Jonny Davy, Al Glassman, Tony Sannicandro, and Darren Cesca (Goratory) at some point in 2018 or 2019. Subverted with Alan Cassidy and Slugdge, as they were around long before he joined, and he joined them because he was a huge fan of their music to begin with (and vice versa, as they were longtime TBDM fans).
  • Step Up to the Microphone: How Brian Eschbach handled things after Trevor's suicide; as per the band, they didn't want to risk tarnishing his legacy by drafting in an outsider whose success in the role and/or fit in the band they couldn't guarantee. As the man who built the band from the ground up with Trevor, it was only proper that he carry the torch from there.
  • The Stoner: Trevor.
  • Take That!: "Denounced, Disgraced", melodramatic fantasy flourishes aside, was a pretty unambiguous "fuck you" to John Kempainen, who had contributed absolutely nothing to the band during his time (not even leads, as he never bothered to write them and improvised them on the spot when Trevor and Brian told him that it was time to track his parts and tried their best to give him an idea of what they wanted), did the absolute bare minimum, and wound up quitting with little notice right before a major tour.
  • True Companions: Trevor Strnad and Dave Davidson have become this as of the late 2010s, as both currently live in the same neighborhood in Brooklyn, where they are almost always seen together at shows (when neither of them are on tour), or at nearby bars when they just want to have a few beers and talk music.
  • Vocal Evolution: While Trevor's lows have stayed largely unchanged, his highs used to be lower, more hoarse, and generally more hardcore-esque. Nocturnal was roughly the point where they turned into the far more famous piercing shrieks.
  • Wolverine Publicity: Between his major social media presence, and incredibly prolific guest vocal appearances, Trevor's face is on a lot of things.
  • Zombie Apocalypse: "When the Last Grave Has Emptied".
  • Zombie Infectee: "As Good as Dead".