Yesterday, the metal world had its collective heart broken upon learning that Trevor Strnad, vocalist of Michigan death metal band The Black Dahlia Murder, had died at the age of 41. The news hit everyone especially hard because Trevor was the real deal — an ardent death metal fan, an excellent performer, and a wonderful human being. But what those who aren’t diehard Black Dahlia fans might not know is that he was also one of modern metal’s best lyricists, a writer who could tells stories of mental anguish and macabre horror in lush, immersive detail.
Here are 12 examples of how Trevor Strnad was one of death metal’s best wordsmiths…
“Nocturnal” (Nocturnal, 2008)
“Parchments scabbed over with plasmatic prose
Prophesize permanent night
The words of sheer blackness paint ebony my soul
And bestow me with infernal might!”
It’s easy to write a metal track about vampires, but it’s hard to get at the scope of vampires. Yet Trevor nailed it with “Nocturnal,” penning expressive lyrics that touch on both the gore-soaked nightly feeding and the satanic dream of plunging the world into never-ending night. An influx of imagery with all the power of a swarm of bats exploding out of a castle keep.
“A Shrine to Madness” (Ritual, 2011)
“May the spoils of this evening rot our teeth to the gums
May the treats of our enemies sever their lying tongues
“Here, in the season of the dead,
Sanity hangs by a thread.
We’re descendants of the dark,
Give us back our one true love
Manifest All Hallow’s Eve,
Samhain grim, our one true love.
No, you shan’t kill Halloween,
For we’ve bore it in our blood.“
Halloween often feels a little softball for death metal, and yet Trevor found a way to remind us of what the night really means to us. His All Hallow’s Eve isn’t just a costume party, but a bacchanal of diabolism, a night when we all give the Devil a chance to guide as as he would. Not only did Trevor hit those notes, but he also touched on how Halloween shaped us as youths obsessed with darkness. Give us back our one true love.
“In Hell Is Where She Waits for Me” (Everblack, 2013)
“‘A rose must remain with the sun and the
Rain or its lovely promise won’t come true’
Than call me the nightfall, the colder than death
A winter unending that’s stolen her breath”
Okay, this lyric is sick just as something rad Trevor wrote. But it gets deeper. “In Hell…” is the song where Trevor finally took on the literal Black Dahlia Murder – the track is from the point of view of Elizabeth Short’s killer crashing her funeral (because of course it is) – and the two lines quoted here come from the song “To Each His Own,” from the 1946 film by the same name. Trevor mentally transported himself to Old Hollywood to write about the most famous murdered starlet of all time.
“Black Valor” (Deflorate, 2009)
“Do you show the standard of the six-hundred sixty-sixth?
Will your flesh withstand the dawning of Apocalypse?
Does your will guide the spear that pierced the martyr’s ribs?
We will not rest ‘til this fucking planet’s black…as pitch”
You’d never call the Black Dahlia Murder ‘blackened death metal,’ but “Black Valor” is a Chris Moyen illustration come to life. The song perfectly gets down that bipedal-goat-murdering-Jesus-in-Hell aesthetic that black metal thrives on. We’d put these words up there with those of any Scandinavian raiding metal any day. Carry me in war.
“Everything Went Black” (Nocturnal, 2007)
“Streetlights bend into the void, cars enveloped whole
Darkness deeper than a blind man’s sleep, soon to paint the world
Insatiable its hunger, it drinks the sea without a belch
Stretching to the other side where it is sure to meet itself”
You can fucking see it. The way Trevor describes the void enveloping the world in “Everything Went Black,” you can picture it in your fucking head. The dude wrote a song about being attacked by nothing, and he wrote lyrics which make you see the fucking nothing.
“A Grave Robber’s Work” (Ritual, 2011)
“And to you and yours, nothing but curses
You’ll slave your life away – and for what?
You’re just as dead as these old fucks
They’ll never get me – I’ll never run out of stock
With every second that ticks past,
The bodies are still stacking up”
By the end of “A Grave Robber’s Work,” you realize that it’s you. You’re the grave robber. While the rest of the world toils at being happy and normal, you’re elbow-deep in the unimaginable. Trevor’s lyrics for this song are most definitely a Robert Louis Stevenson-style tale of dastardly ghoulishness, but he somehow he also made them deeply personal. Get digging.
“Threat Level No. 3” (Abysmal, 2015)
“Threat level number three
A badge to my reign of depravity
If it’s only my death that can set us all free
Then what is it we’re waiting for?
My crimes of sick lust — they’ve secured me a space
In a man’s most befeared and respected of place
In the home of the horned and His torturing flames
I deserve all of this and more”
A story from the point of view of a pedophile being chemically-castrated by the state isn’t your usual death metal fare. But Trevor took it on admirably with “Threat Levbe No. 3,” offering a shudder-inducing storm of scenes and self-rebukes that puts us in the mind of the ultimate monster. Not for the faint of heart, and proof that this dude was lyrically fearless.
“Removal of the Oaken Stake” (Verminous, 2020)
“No, no pity for the fool
It’s fangs to he who stirs my slumber
Quenching an olden thirst
To rise once again, unencumbered
I’ll live again – an incubus in human skin”
Another vampire story told with an uncommonly awesome approach. This time, Trevor takes us into the mind of an ancient nosferatu staked to his coffin, rotting through the ages as it dreams of the day when some unwitting idiot pulls out its pinion. It takes a certain kind of talent to tell a brilliant horror story that all takes place in the mind of a monster nailed to the ground for centuries.
“Deathmask Divine” (Nocturnal, 2007)
“Removal of the eyes gives my heart a sudden chill
I preserve them in formaldehyde to gaze upon at will
How their greenish flecks befell me that starlit winter’s night
I lost all that I ever was while locked within their sight”
None of us knew the story of Carl Tanzler before Trevor wrote the lyrics of “Deathmask Divine,” but we’ll never forget it now. That’s because Strnad’s descriptions of the doctor carefully turning his beloved into a corpse doll left us rapt by this tale of grisly romance. Then to find out it was a real story was like uncovering a pyramid in the sand for most death metal fans. Damn near perfect, from start to finish.
“Moonlight Equilibrium” (Ritual, 2011)
“Blood of the lycan, within thee enthroned
Heir to the cosmic fathers unknown
Who traileth not far from where death would increase.
Seek they to murder, to rid the world clean
“A curse by the ancients of bloodline befouled,
The clouds, they are parting
The moon has come out!”
For metalheads, is there any more relatable monster than the werewolf? Trevor understood this, and presented the beast at its most savage and psychological with “Moonlight Equilibrium.” But he also knew that a werewolf song has to be exciting and energetic, and managed to keep the classic horror vibe even as he dove into the marrow of the lore. “We’re all but beasts, that hunger from inside.” Amen.
“I Will Return” (Deflorate, 2009)
“Jealousy – some say it sickening
They merely can’t afford this highest form of luxury
To live again, to carry on the will elite
To live again, advancing through the centuries
“Until the sky is black and the sun it never shows
Til the whipping winds of nuclear winter cruelly blow
The gift of immortality has been bestowed
I will return! I will return!”
You gotta love the words “luxury” and “elite” here. Trevor understood that cryonics isn’t just about mad science, but about having the bank to make yourself a functioning popsicle. Gotta love a track that captures the mindset of the ultimate villain in this modern world — a self-absorbed rich guy who’s gonna outlive all of us.
“Miasma” (Miasma, 2005)
“Vampire youth, raise your cups to the ne’er waning moon,
Let its visage ring true!
To the hearts cold and blue,
We’re dying each moment, free
“We’re all animals here
Flesh and blood, bone and dream!
We’re just impulses here
Another piece of shit in the storm”
With “Miasma,” Trevor captures two sides of the band’s life after dark. The first is a nihilistic desire to see the dawn on a pile of rubble and empty bottles; the second is a deep-seated disgust with the person one becomes bathed in city lights and liquor. This track is equal parts rally song and dirge, dedicated to painting the town red even as one feels like they’re drowning.
MetalSucks – 12 Black Dahlia Murder Tracks That Showcase Trevor Strnad’s Awesome Lyrics | MetalSucks
Author: Emperor Rhombus
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May 12, 2022