“One time I was sick on tour – we were on tour with King Diamond and Behemoth. Nergal gave me a suppository. You can think all you want about him being the most brutal man in the universe, but that dude gave me medicine you have to put up your ass, so I could get better on tour. Bless his heart.”
The Black Dahlia Murder are metal in pure form. No pretense, no gimmicks, just brutal honesty – so much so that it’s life imitating art on tour. It may be crude, but frontman Trevor Strnad is typically upfront when recalling life on the road. Even in sickness, the tales have a brutality typical of the music the band plays.
“I kept vomiting in this bowl of salsa backstage and Nergal was like, “here man”. The suppository broke and I had to shove the cream up my ass with my finger. That was one of my lowest tour moments ever,” Strnad can now laugh in retrospect.
It’s a window into the less glamorous side of professional music, but highlights the group is in it for the right reasons. Through ill-health, hardships and a genre constantly underrated and ridiculed by commercial listeners, TBDM are what artists should be – perseverant and authentic.
Guitarist Ryan Knight provides his own cautionary and undesirable story of ailment and misfortune on the road.
“Our tour manager, our sound guy and I all got scabies.”
“We all had zombie dicks and none of us admitted it until one of was like, “I’ve got this weird stuff on my dick!” And everybody else was like,” yeah, mine looks weird too,” Knight says.
“They gave us this cream called infecto-scab.”
We draw the conversation back to Soundwave as the band reflects on their second appearance on Australia’s premier music festival.
“What situation are you going to be in where you’re in the room next to Alkaline Trio and two doors down from Rocket From the Crypt? It’s cool, we like all kinds of bands. I enjoy these mixed festivals,” Strnad says.
The Black Dahlia Murder, even by Soundwave’s standards, are one of the heavier bands on the bill. With GWAR making headlines with their Tony Abbott effigy decapitation and Thy Art Is Murder enjoying some press notoriety thanks to an incident at their Brisbane set, it would be remiss not to get TBDM’s thoughts on the current state of the genre.
“Because of the internet, the world has largely been desensitised to death metal and gore, and sexual stuff. It’s a different world you’re catering to than 15 years ago. ”
“The shock value just isn’t there. You can’t dream up a lyric that is going to shock people anymore. Unless it’s blatantly racist or homophobic. We haven’t met the resistance Cannibal Corpse met,” Strnad offers as an explanation.
“The parental advisory logo is not going to stop you anymore. It stopped me, but it won’t stop younger kids nowadays,” Knight additionally says.
Grim lyrics of blood and guts, strong imagery, it’s all had a moment in the spotlight. For The Black Dahlia Murder the question of metal’s impact is a question based on fundamental merit.
“I think metal shocks people now when it’s emotive. Everything is so cold and pro tools now, when someone has a part that really hits you in the chest that’s so rare. I think that’s the best way to stand out now – write a good song.”
“I make it a personal goal to write lyrics that disturb people. The song ‘The Window’ from ‘Ritual’ is the most fucked up song I’ve ever written hands down,” Strnad offers.
Subsequently, one of the genre’s icons enters the discussion. Sweden’s At The Gates have announced they’re recording a follow-up to their masterpiece, ‘Slaughter of the Soul’. It’s a point of interest for Strnad and Knight.
“There were no people more excited to hear what it’s going to be than us. We almost made a shirt once one time that said ‘The Haunted made me do it’,” Strnad says.
“I’m cheering it on. I’m hoping for the best,” Knight adds.
“Fuck yeah, we’re going to cheer it on!” Strnad affirms.
However, the vocalist is at pains to preface that albums are apples and oranges, and you can’t compare it directly to the aforementioned 1995 classic metal album.
“That record is an anomaly. You can’t reproduce that. Whatever they do is going to be cool, I’m faithful on that, but it’s not going to be that record. You can only do that once.”
It’s a candid and personable band backstage. It’s a straight to the point approach. The band sums up Australia aptly: “Great metal. Great love of metal.” Enough said.