Last year the world lost a metal legend when Trevor Strnad, vocalist for The Black Dahlia Murder, passed away. Strand’s death sent shockwaves through the metal community leaving many wondering through their mourning whether or not the band would or even could continue. During an interview with Decibel in September of last year, co-founding guitarist Brian Eschbach confirmed plans for the band to move forward, noting that he’d taking the reins as vocalist and passing guitar duties to returning member Ryan Knight. “None of us wanted it to be over”, Eschbach said. “We still feel like there is a lot left to do.”
The Black Dahlia Murder hit the road with their new lineup for the first time earlier this month via their Verminous Remnant Tour, which featured a heavy AF opening lineup of Phobophilic, Fuming Mouth, Frozen Soul, and Terror. The tour stopped at New York City’s Irving Plaza a few weeks back and treated a sold out crowd to an evening full of non-stop circle pits.
“Does anyone here know who we are?” asked Phobophilic frontman Aaron Dudgeon to cheers of confirmation from the Irving Plaza crowd before the band kicked off the evening with their set. The band was heavy from the start and holy shit were they loud. I was wearing earplugs and could still feel the sheer volume of their amps in my old man ears.
Though the music was loud, the music was good, and that makes all the difference. Dudgeon’s throaty growl packed as much of a punch as the riffs and screaming solos played by himself and fellow guitarist Josh Poer. Phobophilic’s set served as a the perfect start to the night. I wish I had the setlist to provide more specifics, but in lieu of it let me say that Phobophilic’s debut album, “Enveloping Absurdity” is great and you should do yourself a favor and give it a listen.
Fuming Mouth were up next and started their set with “Beyond the Tomb”, a track that is unassuming at its onset but then kicks you square in the face with its heaviness. It was the perfect introduction to what would be a killer performance from the Massachusetts death metal outfit.
In late 2021 Fuming Mouth frontman Mark Whelan was diagnosed with cancer, and after undergoing treatment he successfully kicked cancer’s ass last August. I can only imagine how thrilling it must be to be back on stage again after fighting a battle of that magnitude. It was awesome to see. After watching their set, one thing is for sure: Whelan and Fuming Mouth are back and they are better than ever.
I have to tell you that I was not prepared for how epic Frozen Soul’s set would be. This band is brutal. Their crushing riffs and relentless drumming create the sonic definition of raw aggression, and it is further solidified by the guttural vocals of Chad Green.
Green is a hell of a frontman. The intensity of his stage presence, encapsulated by his chainlink mic stand and a tendency to lift it triumphiantly above is head, does not hide his desire for connection with the crowd. While introducing one of the band’s new singles, “Arsenal of War“, Green talked about the tragic loss of his brother inspiring the lyrics for the song. He then took the opportunity to remind the crowd to reach out to friends and family, to check on them, and to make sure they’re ok.
Hardcore legends Terror brought the show into the home stretch and, like you’d expect from a hardcore show, it was beautiful chaos from start to finish. A steady stream of crowd surfers made their way towards the stage, some taking the opportunity to hop on stage for some guest vocals to the invitation and amusement of frontman Scott Vogel.
The band’s setlist drew from the very early to the very new and everywhere in between, leaning mostly on songs from 2004’s “One With The Underdogs” and their latest release, “Pain Into Power“. One personal takeaway, aside from the fact that Terror had a great set, is that I need to go to more hardcore shows. The environment is wild in the best way and it was a thrill to shoot. But we’ll get into that later.
The members of the Black Dahlia Murder took the stage one by one, launching into “Verminous” as Brian Eschbach stepped front and center to deliver a stellar performance. The band sounded spectacular and, though bittersweet, it was great to see them all together again.
The Black Dahlia Murder’s 15-song setlist covered an array of chapters in the band’s history, taking fans along as they revisited their storied past and prepare to chart a new future. The performance was special for everyone lucky enough to be in attendance. To see the members of The Black Dahlia Murder turn their sorrow into a sense of purpose, to have the strength to move forward and bring their music back to the fans, fans who loved Trevor Strnad just as much as they did and always will; that is what music is all about.
A multi-band lineup can feel like a music marathon at times, both as a fan and especially as a photographer. It’s not so much the shooting of the bands that’s exhausting as it is the knowledge that as soon as you get home you’ll have to sort and edit all of the photos that you inevitably take. Still, the knowledge of that fact isn’t enough to prevent me from getting carried away and taking way more photos than I need to, leaving my “editing self” to demand that my “camera self” chill out next time. I won’t, and I likely never will, because at the end of the day I still love every minute of the process.
The most important thing to remember when you have a long day or night of shooting, be it a show like this one, a music festival or etc., is that it’s important not to get complacent as the day goes on. Going hard for one band or getting a portfolio-worthy shot of them has no connection to or advantage for the next act. Every set is a clean slate and a brand new shot list to check off. That can prove challenging when you’re about to repeat your flow for the eighth time on the third consecutive day of a festival. Like anything, it’s easy to get burnt out if you don’t pace yourself.
I got off to a good start with Phobophilic. The first act often ends up being a warm up of sorts as you get into your groove. I tend to know rather quickly how much effort it’s going to take to get through the night. If I snap right into it and am firing off shots left and right with purpose, it’s going to be a fun night. If I basically feel like I’m holding my camera for the very first time, stuck in my head or just not feeling creative, I might need a Red Bull and some sativa to turn things around (it always does).
The first act also allows you get a feel of the stage and the lighting which, though it will change from band to band, can still give you an idea as how elaborate or advanced the production is and will be. In Phobophilic’s case, whoever was running lights was doing all the right things and giving me plenty of opportunities for clean shots. I took full advantage.
Luckily, this was a trend would continue through the night. Every band was relatively easy to shoot lighting-wise. My only real challenge, and a fun one at that, was that Terror frontman Scott Vogel didn’t stay still for more than a few seconds at a time. Trying to capture a clean shot of him required some effort. Otherwise, it was smooth sailing for the most part. Complacency? Non-existent.
There are times, and this night was one of them, where the show flies by and the next thing you know you’re all done. It helps when you’re in the right frame of mind, when the shots are working in your favor, and when you love the music of the bands that you’re shooting. And then you get home, you sort the photos, and realize you now have to edit all of them. And you love every minute of it.