I’m not going to start this write-up and pretend like I have a solution for grief or that I’ve made peace with the fact that Trevor Strnad of The Black Dahlia Murder is no longer with us. As of this writing, it’s been nearly a week since his passing and frankly, I’m still trying to process that. Telling myself that it can’t be true since I’ve seen Strnad and his bandmates have seemingly all the fun onstage at least seven times.
In time I’ll accept what has occurred. But let’s take a look back.
It’s 2003 and this Detroit upstart The Black Dahlia Murder is getting some exposure with the videos for ‘Funeral Thirst’ and ‘Contagion’ occasionally making the Headbanger’s Ball rotation. In those early days of the New Wave of American Heavy Metal the lion’s share of the MTV and Fuse attention went to Metalcore acts and bands like Lamb of God and Shadows Fall. But working beneath them was a score of musicians that weren’t as easily classified and were also looking for a chance to breakthrough. Between the Buried and Me, The Red Chord, Mastodon, Gojira, Cattle Decapitation, The Black Dahlia Murder and many others were among said talented class. As time went on these artists kept pressing forward with tours and new releases to varying success. Unfortunately, a band like The Red Chord could no longer keep up, but somehow The Black Dahlia Murder was able to get through the door and attract more and more business and attention with each release.
Fast forward a bit to 2012 and Black Dahlia Murder are touring behind the well-regarded Ritual – their best in this writer’s opinion – and are set to headline day one of New England Metal and Hardcore Festival. Bear in mind that this was less than a year removed from them headlining the Summer Slaughter tour which featured killers like Whitechapel, Dying Fetus and Darkest Hour as support. The lovable weirdos from Michigan took Death Metal to the Billboard charts and headlined major tours and festivals like it hadn’t been done since the early nineties. Metal Blade must’ve read the tea leaves in 2003 as they remain Black Dahlia Murder’s record label to this day.
Looking past all of the success and critical praise, we now focus on Strnad the person. And there appears to be no negativity to report on this front. The outpouring of love since the news of his passing broke paints a picture of a man beloved by his community and peers. I had the great fortune of being able to interview him back in 2012 and he was a lovely dude who loved talking music, particularly death metal. But onstage is where he was in his element as Black Dahlia Murder were one of the best live shows I’ve witnessed. They had no pyrotechnics, elaborate production or digital backdrops, but still could eat any other band’s lunch just off their raw energy and riffs alone. Don’t believe it? Go online and look up their Majesty DVD.
The road to acceptance will be more fraught than ever considering that we’ve also recently lost other genre heroes like Riley Gale, L.G. Petrov, Joey Jordision, Alexi Laiho and Caleb Scofield. But their legacies live on along with Strnad’s anytime a kid listens to one of their albums, wears a t-shirt or sews on a patch. Thank you, Trevor.
WORDS BY HANS LOPEZ