(Metal Blade)

01. A Shrine To Madness
02. Moonlight Equilibrium
03. On Stirring Seas Of Salted Blood
04. Conspiring With The Damned
05. The Window
06. Carbonized In Cruciform
07. Den Of The Picquerist
08. Malenchanments Of The Necrosphere
09. The Grave Robber's Work
10. The Raven
11. Great Burning Nullifier
12. Blood In The Ink

RATING: 8.5/10

That sound you heard on "Deflorate" was progression and it just got louder on "Ritual". The entrance of ex-ARSIS guitarist Ryan Knight into THE BLACK DAHLIA MURDER camp for 2009's "Deflorate" has been paying big dividends for the Motor City death metal act, no more so than on "Ritual". Any knocks the band had gotten for writing songs that some found redundant began fading from memory on "Deflorate" and should be put to rest once and for all on the new long player.

More than just the presence of impacting choruses on "Ritual" are all those little things that the band has developed through the skillful playing of Knight and original guitarist Brian Eschbach. That the two split the songwriting right down the middle on this one is an obvious indicator of growth. It is the intricacy of guitar parts on songs like "The Window", the incorporation of piano and acoustic guitar on "Carbonized in Cruciform", and a firm grasp of effective transition and compositional nuance on virtually every track that makes "Ritual" such a strong follow up to "Deflorate". The solos and harmony work really opens up the arrangements, revealing the finer details with additional spins. "Malenchanments of the Necrosphere" and "On Stirring Seas of Salted Blood" are two more examples of the depth of composition involved, as both offer effective atmospheric enhancements and changeups that grab the listener's attention. The symphonic elements heard on "Blood in the Ink" work surprisingly well too. On "Den of the Picquerest" the group demonstrates once again its ability to pack more incendiary death metal into a minute and a half than most bands offer in tracks triple that length. More than ever, "Ritual" proves THE BLACK DAHLIA MURDER to be a death metal guitar lover's band.

Though the style of the new album is without a doubt recognizable as THE BLACK DAHLIA MURDER, the quintet has managed to do what far too many death metal bands are unable to accomplish: retaining a patented sound while progressing within its parameters. It's exactly what the band needed to continue to appease longtime fans and reach a broader metal audience that wants a little more melody in its death. Five albums in and THE BLACK DAHLIA MURDER still leaves a bomb crater large enough to swallow Joe Louis Arena.


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