Due at Warehouse Live tonight, The Black Dahlia Murder is busy covering the map of North America (indeed, the world) promoting their September 2015 release, Abysmal. Sponsored by indiemerchstore.com, the tour's second half kicked off just over a week ago. With all the different bands and sounds on the same tour, including Goatwhore, Iron Reagan, Entheos and Artificial Brain, BDM front man, Trevor Strnad is excited to count himself among the metal mash-up.
"So far, so good, we’re at three shows in and things are going really good," he says, Strnad says, his elation apparent. "We’ve got a lot of excitement about the lineup of bands and I share the excitement as well. We’re big fans of all of them. It’s just really cool to have such a diverse package together.”
While that mix may bring in fans and increase ticket sales, no one can deny that BDM’s sound is one of most interesting — if not the best — of the package. Since their inception in the metal clubs of Michigan 15 years ago, the band members have remained true to their death-metal roots. Even in a subgenre whose main criticism is that most bands sound the same, which is not entirely untrue, BDM are the exception to the rule. The band prides itself in remaining loyal to their style.
“[If] you’re trying to reach a wide audience, it’s pretty obvious, and some bands change with every record, like Between the Buried and Me or something like that; they keep evolving," Strnad elaborates. "And then there’s us, and we evolve too, but we have sort of a mission statement, you know? We created this sound with [2003 debut Unhallowed] and we’re trying to advance that sound with more technicality as we’ve gotten older and better.”
It could be argued perhaps their unfair advantage lies in Strnad's impressive vocal range, especially for screaming vocals. Yet, it’s his own determination to adhere to the same sound BDM has been famous for since the beginning. He’s not interested in changing, updating or even using clean vocals, a trend that has found its way into many heavier bands.
Speaking to the possibility of ever using clean vocals, Strnad doesn’t mince words.
“I think it’s too late for that now," he says. "We’ve established what we are and what we do and I think the fans depend on us to be just who we are. They know we’re not going to sell out, we’re not going to lighten up the music, if anything, I think the music has gotten more brutal as time has gone on. The band has actually gotten more talented over the years, as we’ve had more talented people come into the band. So if anything, I think it’s more we’re aggressive now, I just can’t see us taking that kind of turn, I like clean singing, but I also like to keep my Iron Maiden separate from my Cannibal Corpse, you know what I mean?”
And that formula has been very successful for BDM, for which Strnad is very gracious.
“It’s awesome for us to still be around and relevant especially after putting out albums for ten years plus and excite the fans, so it’s really great," says the singer. "I’m just excited people want to hear [us], we still seem to be attracting young fans, which is exciting. And, people keep coming back, keep coming around to hear us. The goal now is just to keep everything going. I mean, my dreams have definitely come true with this band ten times over, so now we’re just trying to perpetuate things, you know?”
Yet after 15 years of touring with some of the biggest names in metal, surprisingly some dreams remain unfulfilled — begging the question, what else is left to do? For Strnad, a true metalhead, that’s easy.
“There’s a bunch of bands I’d love to tour with," he says. "Bands that are in the underground, who are a lot smaller, I’d love to go out with Defeated Sanity from Germany; they’re one of my favorites. And from slightly a different scene they’re much more brutal than we are. I’d like to see that happen.”
For now, BDM continues touring. Some may consider maintaining a band, committing entire years to tours an extravagant lifestyle, but for Strnad it’s catharsis.
“It’s just a necessity [for me] to make something [like music]. Everyone has a release you know?", he says. "Ever since I was young, I had a need to be creative, I needed an outlet and it wasn’t really sports. I found metal and it was a whole new universe, you know? Especially in a death metal band it an awesome release, I get to play a character, you know? I assume the form of these villains and write these songs…I’d still be playing in a band even if we never, you know, became [successful] and toured or whatever. It’s still just for fun and it’s still awesome you know? I just love everything about it.”
Strnad’s voice perks up when speaking to the best parts of his career. Not music, not fans, not creating albums (which I’m sure he meant to include). In his own fanboy element, he describes metal the way a kid lists gifts received from Santa the day after Christmas.
“My favorite part of this whole thing has been the fact I’ve been able to meet my heroes from other bands like, Cannibal Corpse and stuff like that," he says. "Beyond the coolest thing ever, if I would have told myself that at 13, I wouldn’t have believed it, you know? I’m like a kid in a candy store because I’m a huge metal fan, I still buy records all the time and stay plugged into the underground, I just love everything about it, I love metal, and I love being involved in it.”
True, Strnad’s finger remains on the pulse of what he calls the metal underground. A virtual walking encyclopedia of unsigned bands, he can tell you all the details you may have never cared to know about the scope of death-metal bands across the world — all without a hint of smug hipster condescension.
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That kid-like quality is something that has never really left Strnad and his bandmates. Making them exactly like the kids that show up to their performances on any given night. When reflecting on his own defining metal moment as a kid that changed his life, Strnad recalls, “Megadeth, no question — “Symphony of Destruction” and the video played on MTV. I had gotten right out of of school and I saw that [on TV] and said [to myself], ‘Well, this it. This is the coolest thing I’ve ever seen or heard. Nothing else matters anymore.'"
"I knew exactly what I liked, what path I was going down, the path just fell into place from that moment," he says. "Before that, I was an alien, you know what I mean? It was a perfect match and I just feel off the cliff of metal and just jumped in, I found like-minded people. I find it to be a genre of nerds, people who don’t quite fit in anywhere else [laughs]. That’s how it was for me in school, which was awesome, [metal] offered a sort of freedom, from the woes of reality, I guess. I still get the same thrill out of it, really, it’s the best thing in my life, I’d say.”
A pretty bold statement, but when speaking to Strnad, you realize, he means every word of it. That thrill will be on display tonight for your entertainment, Houston. And when Strnad reflects on the Bayou City, he has one request: “I love that giant potato with barbecue in it that you guys have; that’s pretty sick," he says. "Do you know what I’m talking about? That’s so awesome.”