It had to be sometime in early 2003. I was on a bus heading home, and, while I still had probably fifteen more minutes before I reached my destination, I pulled out the latest issue of Revolver Magazine from my backpack. If memory serves me correctly, the magazine included a one-page section highlighting recommended up-and-coming bands. There were three bands, one definitely was Himsa (fucking absolute vomit!), and the only other band I remembered was some band called The Black Dahlia Murder, whose music the magazine categorized as “Megadeth Metal”.
That’s not a joke.
Time would go on and a whole year and a half would pass before I finally came across Unhallowed, The Black Dahlia Murder’s 2003 debut album, probably in Sam Goody. I remember that this was also the same day that I bought the very denim jacket that I’d cut the sleeves off of to make a vest out of.
Unrelated note: Don’t ever use the term “Battle Jacket” to describe your denim vest with patches and buttons and spikes on it. Or go ahead and do so and be as retarded as everyone else that uses the fucking stupid term.
Anyway, my dad drove me home, as I still didn’t have a car yet. I opened up Unhallowed and looked at the cover. What’s in a name? What’s in a cover image? In the early days of mp3 downloading and, with a whole decade to go before Spotify existed, I still bought CDs, and still do so to this day. Therefore, the only way to find out what any band sounded like, was to either download a track or two, or to simply BUY the album. I popped the album into my five-disc changer and the following two tracks fucked me up.
The music in this video is actually the opening instrumental title track to the record and it breaks right into “Funeral Thirst”, so it made sense to just post the video instead of two separate links of any kind.
Either way, upon hearing those two tracks now I remember EXACTLY what stood out to me those most. The music alone was not just balls-out heavy, but those minor chord harmonies happened to make me feel every single negative emotion I ever knew or felt in my entire life. I wanted to cry, I wanted to die, I wanted to choke anyone I could get my hands on. It was hopeless. It was beautiful.
Then I heard that fucking voice. It was like nothing I had heard at the time. It was a hell of a lot more screetchy than most Death Metal bands I’d heard, with the sole exception of Chuck’s vocals on The Sound of Perseverance, Death’s last record. He hit the traditional guttural style as well and I realized that he was using the two styles for the sake of a dynamic that was not there at the time. It changed things up in all the songs and it fucking made things far more exciting.
Clearly whoever described this band as “Megadeth Metal” in Revolver Magazine a year earlier must’ve been either high or just absolutely clueless. The Black Dahlia Murder, especially as made evident in their latter-day releases were more like the greatest Carcass disciples you’ve ever heard!
This was just the beginning of a long ride for the band for the better part of two decades, two decades that would especially see Trevor Strnad standout among the traditional Death Metal frontman stereotype. As serious as he was in the video posted above, his sense of fun and humor would become FAR more prevalent not just in the videos the band would make in the coming years, but in his persona onstage. The best thing about it all was Trevor manage to balance this act out to the point that his goofiness NEVER took away from the band’s or his onstage intensity. He never took himself seriously and that connected with all of us because we knew it was genuine.
But to be clear, his lyrics were as Death Metal, and as brutal as it got. He’s a line or two from “Christ Deformed”, one of my ALL TIME favorite TBDM tracks:
Diabolic ritual open the portal to damnation
Dark legions gathering for virtuous insemination
Molest and sodomize deride the seed of god’s creation
Impale the Nazarene succumb to a spiritual inversion
In our unholy father’s disgusting house of shame
We revel in endless hatred burning so absolute
Corrupting all who’d enter here surrender to darkness
We kneel to those no more who’d burden and beguilt
Within these wretched walls a summoning proceeds
What form will manifest of this abysmal devilry
The children now are bleeding, we eunuchate his sons
To evil blood and fire this earth will soon succumb
With hell reborn
Your Christ be scorned
Dead faith now torn
His love deformed
That’s why I intentionally waited before I wrote this piece. It was hard to let sink in, that not only is Trevor gone, but to think about how it just might’ve happened. But much like with my tribute to Chris Cornell, I will NOT discuss what happened. Enough people have written about that, and we still haven’t a clue as to the whole story. But I, like most fans of The Black Dahlia Murder, have memories of meeting Trevor and even talking with him at length. Things like this, along with his ability to ACTUALLY HAVE FUN are truly why he’s the single most important Death Metal frontman in DECADES. While my memories aren’t as amazing as others, they meant something to me then, and they without question mean something to me now. So, I’ll share them.
It was the summer of 2006, and I traveled with two friends (one of which eventually got what was coming to him via a heart attack) to the Starland Ballroom in Sayreville, NJ for the Sounds of The Underground Tour, which included The Black Dahlia Murder, GWAR, Behemoth (and you bet your ass I met Nergal on this day!) and several others. I walked by TBDM’s merch table when I noticed a tall, flabby looking guy with a tattoo that read “HEARTBURN” across his belly. It was Trevor. I walked up to him and introduced myself when he replied, “talk a walk with me for a second”.
“Do me a favor, will ya?”, he asked me, as we walked. “We’re shooting a video for “Statutory Ape” today, and I need you and everybody else in that crowd to go fuckin’ crazy. Can you do that for me?” “Fuck yeah!” I immediately said. Hours later, the band walked on stage and Trevor immediately called out the entire crowd “C’MON YOU PUSSIES!!!!”, as they grinded out “I’m Charming” off Miasma, the same record that includes “Statutory Ape”. Sorry to say that no, I wasn’t crazy enough to be a part of that pit, but once Trevor called them out all bets were off.
My last memory didn’t involve a request to sacrifice myself in the pit, no. I traveled to the now defunct B.B. King’s in Times Square, New York Shitty (I said what I said), to see TBDM along with Hate Eternal and 3 inches Of Blood in January 2008. There might have been one other band on the bill, but I forgot who it was. Anyway, my friends and I arrived at B.B.’s and almost immediately I spotted Trevor at the bar. He looked a lot like he did two years prior, funny looking shorts, topless, hair all disheveled. I walked up to him again and he laughed as we reminisced over our previous meeting.
We parted ways after that, and he eventually found his way backstage. But what I always remembered about both those times was that he made himself accessible. It’s a story we’d ALL go on to hear about him over the years. He always hung out with the fans. Upon moving to Brooklyn (and I’ve to this day no idea why he’d do that to himself!), he apparently hung out at St. Vitus on the regular and would support the local bands and talk with everybody there. He even wrote a column for Metal Injection where he’d recommend underground Extreme Metal bands.
I don’t know many other frontmen of legend status like Trevor’s who’d do all those things. We might not ever completely know what happened to the charismatic (that word doesn’t even do it justice!) frontman of THE single most important Death Metal band of this century so far. But he left an UNDENIABLE mark that can never be removed. There will never be another frontman as genuine as Trevor Strnad.
RIP Trevor Strnad 1981 – 2022