Ferocious death metal practitioners out of Waterford, Michigan, The Black Dahlia Murder have carved out a foothold as one of America’s most popular and commercially successful extreme metal outfits, with consistently punishing records to their credit.

With their eighth studio album Nightbringers released on October 6 via longtime home of Metal Blade Records,  the band shows no signs of creative fatigue or an intent to taper down their aggressive style for a more acceptable mainstream audience. Metalheads Forever caught up with frontman Trevor Strnad ahead of the release of Nightbringers and a fall tour to talk creative output, influences, a recent headlining stint with the Summer Slaughter Tour, and the current state of death metal.  

You spent the bulk of the summer headlining the Summer Slaughter Tour alongside the likes of Dying Fetus, Rings of Saturn and The Faceless. Describe the feeling on the tour, one you guys have headlined in the past, especially since you were touring in support of the 10th anniversary of Nocturnal.

Trevor Strnad: The tour was great, a huge success. I think doing Nocturnal as an anniversary was a big part of the excitement … It was very nostalgic. You know, that was a real turning point for us, that album, and then us being at the top of this huge Summer Slaughter bill back in 2008. It was us, Katakalysm, Aborted, Cryptospy, it was really stacked and that was such an exciting time. It was really cool to reflect on that. We played some songs I haven’t even thought about in a long time. It was cool to hear everything played by the musicians we have now. I feel like this is the best lineup, sonically, that we’ve ever have. I feel like the songs came across really good. It was cool.

From Nocturnal to Nightbringers, anticipation has been at an all-time high for this record, and I’m sure a lot of that has to do with the savage self-titled single.

Trevor Strnad: It’s definitely an exciting time. People seem to be really into it. Pre-orders are flying, breaking records over at Metal Blade. This is more than I could ask for. I’m glad we chose that one (Nightbringers as a single) It’s pretty direct. It’s got an evil circus riff. It gets stuck in your head. What more do you want?

On Nightbringers I hear influences of Carcass, Suffocation, even some old In Flames, but at this stage of the band you’re very aware that this is a signature Black Dahlia Murder sound. Do you feel you guys have reached that point after eight albums?

Trevor Strnad: That’s the definite goal, to honour what we’ve done since the first record and have a recognizable sound that people would be able to pick up on right away. To say yeah, that’s Black Dahlia, that’s the new Black Dahlia. I look at the band as a definite melting pot of the different styles that we like. Old In Flames definitely had a huge influence on what we did, Carcass as well. I never said we did anything new, which is true. It’s classic elements that we put together in Dahlia.

My understanding is that the bulk of this album was recorded separately, with you recording your parts at your home studio in Auburn Hills. Is there a benefit, or downside, to taking that approach?

Trevor Strnad: We were kind of forced into it. It’s something that has been with the band for quite a few albums now. We just realized, one, we don’t have that much time at home. Nowadays we’ll take six months off to decompress, write some music and then record during that time. Anytime we can afford to be at home is good. We’ve been bringing our producers and engineers to us instead of going to them. It’s expensive to put up a whole band somewhere else, have everyone there with hotels and food and all that s**t. It’s more economical. Sometimes it’s a little weird, makes it feel like a really long process when it’s spread out and it can be kind of irritating in that way … nowadays we go into the studio and we’ve never played these songs together in person. We’ve never jammed them out in the practice space. Everyone knows their parts, has it memorized and it all comes together at the end. It is definitely weird and a little different and it’s not what I would have pictured back in the day when we first started doing this, but it works.

This is your first record with guitarist Brandon Ellis, who came on-board with BDM in 2016. What does he bring to the table?

Trevor Strnad: He’s amazing. I want to call him a guitar prodigy. He just turned 25. I’m 36, if that puts anything into perspective. I’m the old man at the end of the spectrum of the band’s age. He’s brought a lot of youthful energy, a lot to the stage show. He works really hard at being a showman and he’s an incredible musician. He has incredible feel and knows how to take the listener on a ride. He wrote songs on the album too and this will be the first time that his own music is coming out to the world. He’s definitely soloed on a bunch of professionally released albums, but this is the first time he’s going to put his stamp on something. His music is incredible, the kid is a freakin’ little genius and I feel he’s our secret weapon right now and we’re just about to drop a bomb.

You kick off a pretty stacked North American tour with the guys in Suffocation on October 6, the same day as the album drops. Talk about hitting the ground running.

Trevor Strnad: We really wanted to hit hard and having a classic like Suffocation with us is huge. They’re in a slightly different form now, a lot of young guys coming into the band. I saw them and they blew me away. I was skeptical as anybody and they were amazing. Pierced From Within is still my favourite death metal album ever and it’s my favorite still. Of course it’s a huge honor to have them. We try our best to put together (a great tour).

What’s your take on the death metal scene and even melodic death metal, in 2017? It seems that we have a healthy crop of material coming out fairly regularly.

Trevor Strnad: I totally agree. The popularity seems to come in waves over the decades. It’s at an extreme boil right now. There is so many great young bands popping up, so many classic bands making killer records. You’ve got Obituary, Dying Fetus and Immolation just turning out these amazing records this year. It’s an awesome time, it’s exciting as hell. I don’t really keep up on melodic death metal. To me a lot of it sounds really toothless. They got prog keyboards and sound like Europe and stuff. There’s a place for that, but I don’t necessarily associate us with that as much. You know, it’s a fruitful time for the underground. I definitely agree on that.

What is your outlook for Black Dahlia Murder heading into winter and 2018? What is your best case scenario?

I hope the record does well. All signs are kind of pointing at success right now. The pre-sales are going outstanding, people really seem to be gravitating towards the new songs, the artwork. It seems like all the stars are aligned and feels even bigger than ever. I’ don’t know, I just hope we take this to some new kind of heights in the next six months and we can afford bigger touring opportunities. Really in our world what we need is a band bigger than us to take us out. We need a Slayer or something like that. That’d be awesome, so we’ll see what happens.

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Dillon Collins/MHF Magazine