There’s never an easy place to begin when it comes to grief. This year, on the eleventh of May, the metal community lost one of its most truly iconic frontmen of all time, the late, great Trevor Scott Strnad. Though it’s true that any scene has seen it’s share of losses, The Black Dahlia Murder vocalist wasn’t just the creative and capable leader of a melodic death metal band – he was a dedicated student and avid appreciator of his craft. In less words, he was a true metal nerd, and we say that with every ounce of love in our heart we could possibly muster.
One reason his absence hits so hard is that for many of us in math rock, our roots in technical music are deeply tied to the metal community. Personally, it took me a particularly long time to ‘get it’ with heavy music. I had spent a lot of time growing up in San Pedro, California, where punk was king, which came with a number of embarrassing sub-phases that lasted for… well, you get the point. I run a math rock blog now. But at some point in high school, a friend put on Miasma while we were playing a game of Halo Reach. More than any of the instrumentation, which was still impressive, Trevor’s voice stood out. Not only did he sound like a werewolf gleefully stripping off the last of his human flesh, I could easily understand the majority of the lyrics – and they were scary as hell.
Although I spent some time meandering through the worlds of progressive metal with Between the Buried and Me and Protest the Hero‘s first couple albums, I eventually found myself head over heels with TBDM upon hearing the entirety of the lean, mean, malevolent machine that was Ritual in 2011. Especially compared to popular prog and tech death’s more clinical detachment, there was something genuinely poetic in the Strnad’s words and dynamic delivery. Even as my tastes expanded, I always admired Strnad’s commitment and attention to detail in everything that followed.
As the band bravely carries on with founding member and principal songwriter Brian Eschboch taking over the vocal duties, we wanted to find a way to celebrate without needlessly interjecting ourselves. We thought about doing a Top 10 Most Math-y TBDM Songs article, but technicality is far from the only jewel to the band’s credit (as blazing as they are), so we wanted to hone in on something slightly more unique to Strnad himself.
Trevor’s passion for heavy music and representing the deepest of the genre’s up-and-comers was a true, everlasting gift to so many throughout the scene – at least half of the acts on this list we never would have heard of, if it weren’t his column at Metal Injection. The Obituarist elevated more than a handful of death metal’s most virulent modern careers, and it also made us laugh hysterically. We miss it already. You can enjoy the column for yourself here, and see for yourself how his encyclopedic enthusiasm was a gift to music lovers everywhere, no matter what scene you are a part of.
Today, we present ten of Trevor Strnad’s most technically lacerating finds as The Obituarist, but first, we are honored to put forth a brief quote from his friend Frank Godla of Metal Injection:
“I remember the day Trevor asked if it would be possible to contribute as a column writer for Metal Injection. It might have been the fastest “yes” I’ve ever given anyone, but as a personal friend we would talk about music for hours and I knew whatever he had in mind was going to make waves. Needless to say, every entry was filled with amazing bands that deserved to be heard, and he was the perfect guy to bring them to the light. It’s hard to pick a favorite from his onslaught of entries as The Obituarist, but I suppose this one at the very least is an entry that lead to a fun night of party/conversation between us that resulted in a few shirts being ordered, because what else do drunk metal nerds do together. I miss him every damn day.”
So enjoy this little Samhain shake-up, and be sure to gutturally gurgle your way into the season’s Hallo-weekend as we remember one of the 21st century’s true masters of darkness.
We’ll get back to math rock next week.
“Now pass some down.”
10. Gore Infamous – Cadaver in Methodical Overture // “Fury to Desperation” (2013)
There were a lot of blistering walls of brutality to the credit of The Obituarist’s first column, which was largely an interview with drummer of Inherit Disease‘ Daniel Osborn, who also happens to be the head of California label New Standard Elite. Out of all the inaugural offerings to be found, Gore Infamous held our attention the longest due to old-school album art and twisted sense of rhythm that goes far beyond the ol’ eight-bar slam.
9. Omnivorous – Age of Maelstrom // “Purification of the Lost Manuscript” (2015)
While certainly Suffocation inspired, there’s a lot of uniquely tech moments to be found on this Indonesian gem, which we discovered on The Obituarist’s Halloween 2015 curation. The alternating vocals and odd division of time signatures are a lot of fun, and their uncanny sense of structure certainly earns them a place on the list.
8. Manifesting Obscenity – Attempts to Death // “Chemical Poisoning” (2016)
At the time of publication, these Russian death grind bizarros were going by a name we can’t help but deem superior: Spice Mutated Corpse. The chopped-up laser guitars kind of remind us of Car Bomb or Tony Tap Danza Extravaganza, and reversed bass drops add a real science fiction flare to the ensemble not unlike Rings of Saturn, but this is definitely slamming brutal death metal with a technical edge.
7. Artificial Brain – Infrared Horizon // “Synthesized Instinct” (2017)
On a personal note, this was the first record I fell in love with due to The Obituarist’s chronicles back in the day. Artificial Brain’s Infrared Horizon is filled to the hilt with cosmic disregard and timeless black metal riffs for those willing to think outside of tradition, and the trend thus far has only continued with their self-titled offering from earlier this year.
6. 01101111011101100110111001101001-S/2004S3 MCD – S/T // “KIC8462852” (2017)
Speaking of sci-fi, this binary-driven beatdown comes courtesy of Argentina, Germany, and Algeria all at the same time. It’s one of our favorite bands from Strnad’s 2018 return to the column after spending a lot of time on the road with The Black Dahlia Murder, and even though there’s mainly a lot of crushing blast beats and tremolo guitars here, there’s also a lot of strangely stimulating noise in the background to behold. Oh, and the name boils down to French code for UFO.
5. Gortuary – Divine Indigenous Sacrifice // “Sacrificial Bloodletting”
This one is pretty insane, taking grinding, non-linear brutality to the max, and eventually throwing in a blizzard of melodic shred into the mix as well. Hailing form Japan, this is actually one of the most straight-up entertaining offerings of 2018 if you’re into heavy or extreme music.
4. Contrarian – Their Worm Never Dies // “Exorcism” (2019)
Brainy and technical in a different way than most of what appears throughout the rest of this list, this one leans more in a progressive direction. As Strnad points out, that’s George Kollias on the drums, one of the most respected skin slammers in heavy music, and his playing here is filled (pun intended) with a lot more personality than you might be used to compared to his normal metallic mastery.
3. Desecravity – Only Time Will Tell // “Impure Confrontation” (2019)
This one goes for the jugular in terms of noodling, incomprehensible death metal, and it’s one of our favorite grabs from the column overall. Desecravity’s borderline comical approach to speed and technicality border on the grind, but their sense of melody and precision truly set these bloodthirsty madmen apart from the crowd. Shout out to Willow Tip records for always bringing us closer to the edge.
2. Skullsmasher – Rocket Hammer Brain Surgery // “High Altitude Saturation Bombing” (2019)
Another grind-flavored favorite, Skullsmasher is sort of what we imagine happens when brutal death metal and forward thinking grind like Gridlink get together. Every second is coated in the dust of crushed bones, but in a fun-filled way. And as far as artwork goes, it’s up there.
1. Equipoise – Demiurgus // “Waking Divinity” (2019)
One of the most astounding parts of this song is the bass mix. It’s certainly present, and helps solidify a gooey melodic center to the already piercing guitars and drums. There’s brutality and atmosphere to spare here, but it’s veritably star-studded cast (Wormhole, Inferi, Vale of Pnath, and Hate Eternal to be exact) helps nail down “Waking Divinity” as one of the most technical and downright euphoric offerings to have ever graced the columns of The Obituarist.
Rest in Peace, Trevor Scott Strnad, and thank you for everything. If you or anyone you know are facing a mental health crisis, you can call a crisis line or the National Suicide Prevention Line at 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Keep up to date with what’s coming next for the band at their website here, and be sure to wish them luck on their upcoming shows, which kick off tonight at St. Andrew’s Hall in Detroit with Darkest Hour and The Plague Years.