By El Chief

"Nightbringers" from The Black Dahlia Murder has no business being good, much less great. Think about it. "Nightbringers" is the band's eighth studio release. At the same point in other bands' careers, you were getting duds like "St. Anger" from Metallica and "No Prayer for the Dying" from Iron Maiden. Yet, they not only shit out an album that can stand side-by-side with other great TBDM offerings like "Nocturnal" and "Miasma," it made its way onto several critics' best-of lists for 2017, including mine.

So why is it so good?

First and foremost, TBDM doesn't give a shit for your labels. Call them melodic death metal, call them grindcore, or call them deathcore. It doesn't matter. TBDM have made a career out of finding a way to escape the pigeonhole. While the opening track on "Nightbringer" is allegedly about former As I Lay Dying singer Tim Lambesis trying to hire a hitman to kill his wife, "Widowmaker" could just as easily be a response to critics wanting to slam the band into a specific subgenre.

"Nightbringers" is the first TBDM album to feature former Arsis/Cannibal Corpse guitarist Brandon Ellis. He replaces fan favorite Ryan Knight. Those were some pretty big shoes to fill, but Ellis' fret work on "Nightbringers" is legendary. His solos could easily find a home on any Judas Priest album. They are everything that has always made guitar solos great: bombastic blues-and-booze-fueled spirals. If you can't feel Ellis' work in your soul, then get to a doctor because you are dead inside. 

But if I do have a criticism of "Nightbringers" (and as a critic I must have at least one), it's that the engineering of the album too often hides the riffs during the stanzas. This is where TBDM succumbs to their deathcore tag. Because most of those bands struggle with artistry, the resulting sound is a big ole' stew where's it's impossible to hear what is going on. I'd say that is more than fine if this were We Came As Romans, but it's a mortal sin with musicians as capable as TBDM's. Free the mix and let us hear what's going on at all times!

One spot where the engineering is flawless is in the first 35 seconds of "As Good as Dead." Looping guitar pyrotechnics sound like something conjured by the ghost of Randy Rhoades. But then something strange happens. It wobbles, slows, sputters and twists, like the needle has dropped on a disc left too long out in the sun. But, the bizarreness captures the essence of "Nightrbingers" beautifully. It's sweet but savage, and all at the same time. 

Not too many bands can come up with a legendary output. Something that will stand the test of time and sound good no matter what musical genre is in vogue at the time. However, "Nightbringers" will always be a welcome blast to the ears.