Interview with Ryan Williams of The Black Dahlia Murder

Photo: Matthew Franklin

The Black Dahlia Murder have been cranking out relentless, thrilling death metal for almost ten years now, and they have certainly become masters of their craft. The Detroit-based band’s fifth album, ‘Ritual,’ hones in on the classic traits of The Black Dahlia Murder, but it’s the progressive writing that takes the album to a new ear-shattering level. The band is set to tour Europe this summer, hitting festivals such as Hellfest and Graspop, and will also be sharing the stage with White Chapel and Six Feet Under and many more on this year’s Summer Slaughter Tour.

During the band’s downtime at home in Detroit, bassist Ryan Williams spoke with Rock Edition about ‘Ritual’ and the band’s upcoming tours. Check out what he had to say below.

You guys were in Nashville last week. Where are you guys now?

Yes, we were. Now we have a few days off back in Detroit.

Nice. What have you guys been up to there?

Just hanging out; normal stuff. Taking some rest and relaxation between these tours.

Great. So, you guys have said that you want ‘Ritual’ to be the most “Black Dahlia thing” you could do. What specific things did you do with this album to make that happen?

I think that just with the writing we tried to keep it familiar [for] people who know what we sound like, but also try to add some new elements. There are a couple songs with strings, with some new ideas in some of the songs. With Ryan Knight contributing more to the writing, it gives it more of a different flavor.

What do you consider to be the quintessential elements that make up The Black Dahlia Murder’s sound?

It’s kind of that Swedish death metal sound along with the American stuff and the influences we have from all over: punk, metal, and everything.

Speaking of punk, “Den of the Picquerist” has a very different feel from the rest of the album. What was the inspiration for that song?

There’s an old hardcore band in Detroit called Cold as Life and they actually had a reunion show recently. I think Brian [Eschbach] wrote that bass part after seeing that reunion show. Probably wanted to do some hardcore reminiscing.

Do you think you’ll try that style again in the future?

I’m sure, yeah. Whatever’s inspiring is what comes out, I suppose.

Is there one song on the album in particular that stands out the most to you?

Before we even kind of decided what songs were going to be the singles I really liked “Moonlight Equilibrium,” and it ended up being the first song that we put out. People seem to really like it. It’s definitely one of my favorite songs on the album.

“Deathmask Divine” off of ‘Nocturnal’ is about Carl Von Cosel. Are any of the songs on ‘Ritual’ also about specific people?

Yeah, the song “The Window” is also about another serial killer. I don’t know all the details of it, that’s more of a Trevor [Strnad] looking it up and knowing all of the facts kind of thing. Its also about another child serial killer — it’s pretty messed up.

Oh man, that sounds awful. What songs can people expect on this tour?

On the next tour we’re doing in the States we’re actually playing four songs off the new album. We’re playing “Moonlight Equilibrium,” “A Shrine to Madness,” “Malenchantments of the Necrosphere,” and “Blood in the Ink.” We want to play some new stuff, so hopefully people will get into it.

You mentioned this before, but there was much more of a collaborative effort in writing this album than the last two albums. What caused the change?

I think that Ryan was just more comfortable in the band. On the last record, he [had] just joined right as we were writing [‘Deflorate’], so he was kind of thrown into it all at once. I think this time he had more time to settle in and figure out what our sound really is, and to write in that style. He’s a great musician in general, but I think he was just more comfortable in writing BDM songs.

So would you say having a stable lineup helps the writing process in that sense?

For sure. Most of the writing really happens on an individual level where Brian will write stuff at home on Pro Tools, or if someone else has riffs we usually send them over to Brian and he’ll arrange them and really make them into BDM songs. But having a stable lineup definitely makes everything go more smoothly.

How does it feel to be invited back to headline Summer Slaughter for a second time?

Awesome. It’s a big tour, and hopefully a lot of people are gonna show up. It’s really nice — it’s a tour where instead of our band, we can take something a little bigger and be a little more comfortable and you know, have the money to have like a guitar tech and stuff like that. It’s good for us.

This is also your second time touring with Cannibal Corpse. How does it feel to play with metal veterans like them and White Chapel?

We’re doing a tour with Cannibal Corpse in South America at the end of the year. They’re one of my favorite death metal bands. I’ve been listening to them for years and years. Even though we’ve done tours with them before, every time I see them play I get excited. To be out with them is definitely very cool. White Chapel are friends of ours and we’ve played with them before too, so to go out with bands we like is cool.

Your last record, ‘Deflorate,’ was your highest charting album to date. What are your expectations for ‘Ritual’?

I don’t know. I mean, it’s always hard to say. I try not to worry too much about the numbers and stuff like that. So far, the feedback that we’ve gotten from our fans and critics has been really positive. We’ve had a really good presale so far — we had a little extra package deal if you pre-ordered. I’m just hoping for the best. I don’t know if we’ll get a higher spot than we did on ‘Deflorate,’ but you know, we’re just hoping to sell.

Pick up The Black Dahlia Murder’s new album Ritual.

Head here for the band’s upcoming tour dates.