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The Black Dahlia Murder: Death Metal For The Masses

Monday, 23 September 2013 Written by Alec Chillingworth

Let's face it, record sales aren’t what they used to be. The internet's illicit claws have taken chunks out of the music industry, making a band's lifeblood available to nick at the click of a button. That makes the achievements of the Black Dahlia Murder all the more impressive.

It's a wonder that any band that isn't Kings Of Leon still manages to sell 50 copies. So, when the Michigan metallers’ appropriately evil 'Everblack' landed at #32 on the US Billboard Charts this summer, it came as another pleasant surprise following the success of its predecessor, 'Ritual'.

The band have just wrapped up a series of UK dates alongside Belgian death metallers Aborted, and we caught up with guitarist Ryan Knight and Aborted's Sven de Caluwé (vocals) and Ken Bedene (drums) prior to a massive show at London’s Islington Academy to discuss metal invading the mainstream.

'Everblack' charted at #32 on the Billboard Charts earlier this year. Given that it's a death metal album, this is a ridiculous feat. How do you feel about this achievement, considering the current musical climate?

Ryan: Y'know, it's pretty crazy. Especially for a band like us who are, as you said, quite extreme. It just shows us that there are people out there who like the band enough to actually buy a physical copy. I think that CD sales will never completely die, there's always gonna be people out there who like buying records, people who want the physical copy. There's always gonna be people like that until record labels fall and the only thing you can buy is digital music. It's cool to have dedicated fans who are going to buy the physical copy.

Sven: I mean, extreme metal is a lot more popular than it was a long time ago. It's become a bit less frowned upon, I suppose.

Ken: Yeah, it's more acceptable, for sure. I think stuff like Slipknot and the Ozzfest have a large deal to do with that, and you had all the American stuff bridging out. Like, instead of it all just being European...I'm from America, everyone else from Aborted isn't. Back when I was younger, I grew up wanting to go to Europe ‘cause that was the only place where I could see all the bands I wanted at the same time. But then America got the bigger festivals like Ozzfest and stuff, and more bands would branch out and start doing bigger tours, and now it's just normal for bands to go and do these big tours. You can see like eight bands on the same tour now, it's crazy! They'd never do that before, and it's good and bad. I mean, it's good, but it's bad in a way ‘cause they're clogging up the whole scene a bit, but it's still good in the end. I mean, it's still metal, and as long as it's there, people are gonna go see it.

Avenged Sevenfold recently scored a #1 album in the US and UK with their latest opus, 'Hail To The King'. While some saw this as a victory for metal, others weren't so sure.

Sven: I don't really care. Honestly, I really don't give a shit about that stuff. I mean, there's bands I like, and I'm sure everybody listens to whatever they want. I don't give a shit about whichever band's at the top of the charts. I do my own thing. I play music because I like it; I don't want to be a teen idol , otherwise I'd be playing my music a bit differently!

Ryan: To be honest, I'm not really a big fan of Avenged Sevenfold but they are a metal band, and I think it's really cool to see something that isn't bullshit pop at the top. I may be wrong, but I feel like it's been a while since a rock or metal band has been #1, so I think it's good for everybody that plays instruments and it's not just like the stuff that's usually at #1. It's good for everybody.

This year, the Black Dahila Murder embarked on the Vans Warped Tour in America. The announcement raised a few eyebrows, especially given the diluted line-ups Warped have been packing in recent years. How did things actually go when you were there?

Ryan: Really good, actually! It went a lot better than we thought it would. I can see why a lot of our fans thought 'Why are you doing this?', but the thing is it's all about getting new fans. That's how you continue your career, and Warped Tour is one of those things where there's a lot of young kids. You had a lot of kids there who knew who we were, and equally a lot of kids who didn't. Overall though, it went really well for us. You could tell there were a lot of people in the crowd who knew the songs, and there were some people who were sorta drawn in and were like, 'Huh... What's this?' So yeah, new fans. It was great.

You have Aborted supporting you on your UK leg of this tour. They're obviously a lot less melodic and accessible than you. Was it a conscious decision to take a band like Aborted with you?

Ryan: It was a conscious choice. Like you said, it's good to have a heavier and more brutal band like that who can just do their thing. Like we also have Revocation, who are really fast and melodic at times and heavier at times. We do that whole thing; sometimes we're more melodic, sometimes more heavy. So it's really great to have a bill with three bands who've got their own thing going on. Aborted definitely bring a bit of the old school sound to the gig, and it's just a well rounded death metal gig.

I can imagine that having Aborted on the bill might do the same for them what Warped Tour did for you in regards to new fans.

Ryan: Yeah, and I mean, there's probably people at the show who've come for Aborted and are like, 'I've never heard of the Black Dahlia Murder, may as well stick around', and vice versa.

In the time that Aborted have been together as a band, I can imagine that you've witnessed the various peaks and troughs of metal's popularity. How do you view the scene nowadays compared to 10 years ago?

Sven: Well it keeps changing, doesn't it? Trends come and go but it really depends on the style of the music. You have certain music styles that happen to get really trendy, and then other bands like them just come out of nowhere and get really big. Then three years later...gone. Completely gone. It's completely different to the underground circuit where you have more die-hard fans who will stick with you for your whole career. You have bands like Cannibal Corpse who are able to maintain their career for 25 years and more because they make fans for life, not for five minutes.

With album sales diminishing and people wanting more value for money at a live show, is there still going to be room for more extreme, niche acts in the future?

Ryan: Yeah, of course. I think the metal thing is one of those weird genres. For example, country is absolutely huge in the USA. I don't know how it is here, but I'm sure that country music is nowhere near as popular in South America and places like that. But with metal, it's one of those weird genres where people like it everywhere. Like you go to India, South Africa, China...metal's everywhere. Maybe it's to do with the fact that everyone feels aggression and it's a way to vent, something like that? There will always be a draw to extreme music.

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