Miasma /mɪˈazmə,mʌɪˈazmə/ - an unpleasant or unhealthy smell or vapour; or an oppressive or unpleasant atmosphere which surrounds or emanates from something; or the 2005 album name from Michigan melodic death metallers – The Black Dahlia Murder. On the first Sunday night of daylight savings, Auckland’s death metal brethren descended into the miasma of Whammy! to have The Black Dahlia Murder unleash their melodious metal upon us.
Warming the stage and crowd before them, Auckland’s own Death Metal masters, gawddamned hard workers and all-around GC’s Silent Torture, impress the crowd and just keep getting better and more consistent every time I see them live. Treating us to cuts from their recent Phallic Self Mastication EP, the already comfortably packed out Whammy! main bar was primed and demented, enjoying their own little mosh until unpretentious front man Liam questioned “I’m confused Auckland, it’s Sunday night we’re here to see The Black Dahlia Murder…” insert a frenzied cry of recognition for tonight’s headliners, “…and you’re all standing around like a bunch of dickheads?” “Hey! Some of us aren’t standing!” cheekily yells a dude seated in a sweet pair of wheels, front and centre of the pit, proving that the Auckland metal scene is an equal-opportunity mosh space. Cue a self-effacing Liam to fist bump with him as Silent Torture launch into another of their black odes as our wheelie popper’s friend fires him into the circle pit to enjoy the whirl. Cutting their set a song short, Liam and the Silent Torture lads thanked us “for putting up with [them] before The Black Dahlia Murder tear us apart” before giving us their last song of the evening and retreating to the inky dark.
A short break between sets was due as the baying for Black Dahlia riffs was undeniable. As blackness rolled out over the Whammy! crowd, dark shapes moved into the stage and in a burst of red, blue and purple light The Black Dahlia Murder appeared and front man Trevor Strnad bellowed “What the fuck is up Auckland?!” and we were off and away into a set that comprised gems from throughout their discography; with selections from Miasma, Nocturnal, Ritual, Everblack and latest crusher Nightbringers, grabbing the most attention. As Trevor’s un-mic’ed hand searched for the Whammy! ceiling just above his head, he used it to steady himself as he loomed over the pit with eyes glinting and sweaty hair plastered to his head. The Black Dahlia Murder’s furious intent is evident on this night of the living solos as each member pushed their compositions to the maximum with blistering precision on the blast beats and break neck speed on the riffage, each note was suffocatingly tight and album perfect.
It’s a juxtaposition. The Black Dahlia Murder’s incredible precision in their performance sidled up next to their unrelenting sense of humour. These guys are not at all serious on stage. Like, at all. Leading their beloved crowd in a Simon Says game of pit participation, Trevor directed us to ‘flex your muscles’, or ‘put both your horns in the air’ or ‘put your fists in the air and pretend you're punching someone really tall’. Or if it wasn’t direction it was silly gestures to make us giggle like the oft used vag lick fingers or even waggling his glasses on his face while delivering a guttural snarl; it struck me that Trevor is the ultra-cool Metal uncle you wish you had growing up, ya know that would show you new albums, teach you dirty jokes and sneak you weed when your parents weren’t looking. The frivolity continued in Trevor’s banter when some trash kept finding it’s way to the stage, Trevor asked “Who keeps throwing beer bottles up here? This is not a recycling centre you fucking cunts! We throw you jams you don't throw us waste! Like a full beer bottle would make sense?!”
For all that achingly beautiful metal or the good-natured silliness; the night belonged to the pit. Mic grabs, dives from the foldbacks and crowd surfing gave the high speed riffage a physical representation; as one dude was hoisted to the Whammy! ceiling, like some death metal rock climber, or maybe that creepy AF baby from Trainspotting – dude collected himself two hand holds and with the aid of the supportive hands of the pit he placed a foot on the ceiling and relished in an anti-gravity head bang unlike I’ve ever seen before.
Vital and violent in their set but warm and juvenile in their banter, The Black Dahlia Murder came, they slayed and they’re sure to come again and again to the shores of New Zealand where our sensibilities and theirs seem like such a perfect mix that it’s hard to believe they they’re not actually from here; and completely explains why New Zealand has taken them so dearly into our blackened, metal loving hearts.
Radio 13 thanks and credits Matthew King for all the images featured in this article.