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Metalcore is blurring the lines between hardcore and metal like nothing since the late 80's crossover phenomenon. This time, however, the tag appears to be more the result of slick marketing than the actual sound of the music. As a result, there is no shortage of hardcore kids that don't realize that they are metalheads. And there is no shortage of metal bands trying to walk the line between heavy metal riffage and hardcore aesthetic. And there is no shortage of hardcore kids trying to play metal. In the end, it is the music that does the talking. Despite the fact that The Black Dahlia Murder have short hair, are still fairly young and cater heavily to a metalcore audience, it's clear that death metal is their ultimate love. After their debut full-length 'Unhallowed', any other categorizations should be thrown out the window. Metal Update had a chat with vocalist Trevor Strnad about the recent turmoil within the band, where they fall on the musical map and a whole lot of metal.

METAL UPDATE: I'd like to get to the obvious recent news first. You and Dave are back in the band.


MU: Can you elaborate on why you two left and how you came back?

TS: Well, Dave and I left in the midst of some hard times in the band. I think that there was a general lack of communication and a little situation where the band split down the middle. we were hanging out separately and just building up some grudges. A lot of little things built up over a long time. Then, it just kind of came to a boil in Baltimore. Dave and I took off. As far as coming back to the band, it wasn't something I had initially planned on. I almost had a new band put together with Dave. But Brian and John and Cory approached us and asked what they could do to make the situation better. So we started talking and working things out and here we are pretty much.

MU: They replaced you and Dave for a short time on the Arch Enemy tour. How did that make you feel? Did you think the band should have gone on without you two?

TS: I definitely wanted them to go on without me. I didn't want to ruin it for everyone. But it was definitely a weird concept to think about someone else up there singing the lyrics and stuff like that. I never got to see it in person, but it's just kind of weird to think about because our band is not like a job and it's not like we're just here together because we can all play. It's more like our friendship is like family. To think about other people being in the fold like that. . .

MU: You didn't get to hear what they sounded like at all?

TS: I heard a couple songs from 'Unhallowed', but with re-recorded vocals. That was a little strange. I actually have a CDR with that on it.

MU: Were they just trying to get a vibe of what it was going to sound like?

TS: Yeah, not many singers can say they have another person doing their song on the same exact album. It's kind of a strange concept.

MU: What genre does The Black Dahlia Murder call home?

TS: What genre? Definitely death metal.

MU: According to you guys?

TS: Yeah.

MU: You guys seem to be strongly tied in with the metalcore scene as well. Musically, 'Unhallowed' is definitely a metal record as far as I'm concerned. What do you think differentiates a metalcore band from a metal band?

TS: I kind of look at metalcore as a dirty word. The metalcore scene is so oversaturated with terrible bands. A lot of bands that are influenced by Swedish metal in the metalcore scene are just committing crimes against humanity with a lot of what they are trying to play. It's just terrible. It's bad harmonies. It's bad stuff. It's bands like that who are making it hard for bands like us. Definitely the difference is that it's youthful. They think we're metalcore just because we have short hair. You listen to our record, and it doesn't sound like metalcore.

The Black Dahlia Murder

MU: It all kind of has to do with who you play with, too. I know some bands get lumped in with that scene as well, you know?

TS: A lot of that has been out of our control. My personal preference would be to play with death metal bands. But, I guess being so young and looking a bit different than what everyone is used to, we get kind of thrown in with the hardcore scene, which caters to younger people. So, that's what happened I think.

MU: Even though metalcore is a dirty word, do you have any favorite bands that would qualify in that genre?

TS: I think that a lot of bands are unjustly thrown into that genre that totally transcend what I consider the bounds of metalcore, but I would say that Between The Buried And Me are probably considered metalcore, but can do all kinds of amazing things. The Red Chord is another band. Premonitions Of War. That's all I can think of off the top of my head.

MU: How about bands that would qualify as metal bands.

TS: Bands that would quality as metal bands? There's a million of those.

MU: Well, give me few.

TS: We were just talking about Theory In Practice last night. Theory In Practice is awesome. Aeon is another band that every member of the band is into. Just talking about existing bands right now?

MU: No. Anything. No holds barred. Of all time.

TS: Listened to a lot of Necrophagia lately. Death is another one. We just listened to 'Human' 20 minutes ago. Definitely into Carcass. There's no mistaking that they're metal.

MU: How did the deal with Metal Blade come about?

TS: We put the EP out and the response was pretty good. We were getting excited. We got a new guitarist, John, who does all the lead stuff. We decided we needed to make a new demo to show what we could do. So we recorded three songs, tried to come up with a bio and put an EP in with it. We sent it out to like 20 different metal labels and got rejected by most of 'em. We got the call from Metal Blade and were shitting our pants. We thought it was a joke at first. We were pretty excited so we just sent our stuff out to 'em. They had never seen us and probably never heard of us before. It's a pretty standard story.

MU: Are they treating you pretty well then?

TS: Awesome. They are pushing the record like crazy and it's totally exceeded my expectations. I'm psyched that we have a label that takes really good care of us.

MU: How has the response been to 'Unhallowed' so far?

TS: That's also another thing that has exceeded our expectations. The record's blown up, and it's been a lot of fun as a result. We're pretty excited to go on from here. The response has been great. The reviews in the magazines have been great. The reaction from the kids has been great.

MU: You can't complain then, right?

TS: Nope. Not at all.

MU: What inspired the lyrical direction on the new album?

TS: They were inspired by old school lyrics. I have a running list of metal topics from all the classic stuff. You know, like the "drowning song," the "werewolf song," the "help, I'm stuck in the grave" song. So I'm just trying to take the old classic songs, and put a poetic spin on them. Thrust them into the new millennium, I guess.

MU: That's a good idea.

TS: I'm still into all that old stuff. I think it's great. I don't want to see it go away any time soon.

MU: Musically, would you say The Black Dahlia Murder's sound is a reflection of your influences?

TS: Oh, definitely. Everything we're doing is just little bits and pieces of every band that we're into - stuff that we love. We're into a lot of brutal death metal actually. Certain passages and stuff, faster stuff. What you would hear in a normal Swedish band. It just comes from all the records we listen to.

MU: I almost see you guys as taking the Swedish sound and doubling the speed.

TS: Yeah, that's definitely what we're trying to do. We're only going to get faster from here, I would imagine.

MU: It's definitely a real intense sound. What metal video show do you prefer, Headbanger's Ball or Uranium?

TS: I haven't seen Uranium. Actually I don't get either one of them because I don't have digital cable. But traditionally I would say Headbanger's Ball. I'm not sure about how it's going now but when I was really young I was way into it.

MU: Sort of the same deal. Before it was doing the hair metal thing and now it's mainly leaning on the nu metal stuff and throwing in some extreme stuff here and there.

TS: It kind of sucks to see nu metal on there. That's definitely one of the bummers. During the day they play nu metal all the time. I don't know why they need to put it on Headbanger's Ball.

MU: Did you ever think you'd see yourself in a music video on TV?

TS: No. That was quite a surprise. We've been pretty pleased with the reaction to the video, but overall I think we probably have the lowest quality video on MTV. It looks pretty cable access, but it's getting the job done apparently.

The Black Dahlia Murder Live

MU: Do you think it came out well, or not really?

TS: I like what it's doing, but I think as far as the thinking job, which is non-existent, and things like that, we need to go a little bit bigger on the budget next time. It's bringing our music to a lot of new people so it's doing the job.

MU: Do you think metal is in a healthy state right now?

TS: Oh yeah, definitely. Every day I learn about a new band that is awesome and bands keep on outdoing each other and it keeps getting better. I get excited about bands putting out new albums and stuff like that. It's always moving forward I think.

MU: What is the first metal record you ever bought?

TS: Well, it was probably a Megadeth CD. If you're talking death metal then 'Symbolic' is the first death metal record I ever picked up. I think I was in 8th grade or something like that. But it was awesome. It turned me onto a lot of stuff. Suffocation's 'Pierced From Within' wasn't long behind that. That record scared the hell out of me when I was 13 or 12 or whenever it was.

MU: I know the feeling. I started out with the first Deicide and that kind of scared me, too. I was like, "What the hell am I doing?" After a while you grow to love it.

TS: I loved it initially but I didn't know what to do. It freaked me the fuck out. I guess I wasn't ready for that, but I've been into death metal ever since.

MU: It definitely has something worthwhile to it, you know?

TS: Definitely.

MU: Out of all the defunct bands out there, who would you most like to see reformed?

TS: For me it would have to be Carcass, because they are my all time favorite band.

MU: So you never got to see them?

TS: Yeah, I didn't get to see them. Dissection's getting back together. We've got Suffocation again. I hear that Lord Worm is back in Cryptopsy. A lot of good stuff is happening as far as getting the bands back, but I'd definitely like to see Carcass.

MU: What country do you think holds the metal crown?

TS: That is a rough question. It seems like I like as many bands from Sweden as I like from the States. Besides just the melodic Swedish bands, there are a ton of bands from Sweden doing brutal death metal, so I don't know about that one. I guess I'll just go with the States. There's a lot of brutal bands from here.

MU: What is the best album of 2003?

TS: I don't know. I really like the new Ghoul record. Let me think for a minute. . . I like Spawn of Possession's 'Cabinet'. I've probably listened to that the most this year. I love that band. The newest Severed Savior is pretty awesome too, though.

MU: Biggest disappointment of the year?

TS: For me I would say the new Arch Enemy. I was pretty bummed by that. Just seeing them moving into more commercial territory was kind of disheartening.

MU: You're touring with Himsa, Freya and 3 Inches of Blood?

TS: Yup.

MU: How's that going?

TS: The first couple shows didn't turn out too good, but it seems to be on the increase. More people keep coming every night. Last night was insane. People were crowd surfing and shit. It was a big surprise when you have people going off like that. Normally the best response we get is a few people headbanging and a lot of people scratching their heads. That's how a lot of metal shows are. The crowd is passive. Last night was a big surprise. There was a lot of energy going on so that's cool.

MU: What has been your favorite tour so far?

TS: I would have to say The Red Chord, Premonitions Of War, Deadwater Drowning and us together. The amount of respect we had for each other's bands made the tour amazing. If one of the bands played, the other three bands would be right up front. A lot of friendships were made during that tour and it's been tough to beat so far.

MU: Who would you most like to tour with that you haven't?

TS: I think there are so many bands, because we mostly tour with hardcore bands. I'd like to see us with The Haunted - I think that would be a good tour - or Darkane or something like that. That'd be cool.

MU: What band would you say is The Black Dahlia Murder's best friend?

TS: What band are our best friends?

MU: Yeah.

TS: I'd have to go with Premonitions Of War. They are an hour away from us and we see a lot of them. They run a screen-printing place. They do a lot of our shirts and we work with them a lot and are definitely down with them.

MU: What are some future plans of the band?

TS: I'm estimating around this time next year we'll have the next record recorded. We started writing some new songs. We'll probably tour a bit yet on this record until it has run its course, and then we'll strap down and write the rest of the album. Immediately we are going to Japan in February for 10 days so that should be cool. We are definitely excited. We never left the country before. We've only been on like five tours so far, so the concept of us going abroad is pretty crazy to me.


review of The Black Dahlia Murder 'Unhallowed'





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