The Black Dahlia Murder

By Rob Barker

On the eve of their show in Newcastle last month, Push To Fire’s Rob Barker chatted to guitarist Ryan Williams about the current tour, their latest release and their touring plans for 2012.

How’s the tour going so far?
It’s been really good so far, we’ve had a great crowd reaction.
Has it been difficult reproducing the material from Ritual live since it has a lot of scored parts?
We’ve been playing about half the album, it’s been going over pretty well. We’ve been doing all the atmospheric stuff too, having that sampled.
You’re on tour with Skeletonwitch and Fleshgod Apocalypse, what’s it like touring with them?
We actually did a tour with Skeletonwitch in 2009, we did 50 something dates so that was a long tour, then we just toured with Fleshgod this past summer on the Summer Slaughter tour, but yeah, they’re all cool dudes.
It seems like the two bands represent different elements from Ritual, with Skeletonwitch having that real old-school vibe and Fleshgod with that symphonic feel.
Yeah they’re really neo-classical, it’s a great mix-up
So you joined in 2008…
Yeah, it was about 3 years ago this month.
Was Deflorate pretty much half written when you joined?
Yeah it was about 30% written.
Did you decide you wanted to go in a slightly different direction with Ritual since you had more input?
It’s a little different from Deflorate. The writing was pretty much split half and half on it so it’s obviously going to be different. Then with the strings and things like that it gives it a different vibe, just makes it kinda new, while keeping the old in there.
Did you have to approach things differently with having the scored string parts or were they added in at a later date?
They were pre-written, along side the songs, then it was just a matter of finding people to play it. Bryan Eschbach (guitars) knew some people he went to school with, so it was basically two people that did all the orchestral parts and then we brought a guy in to play the piano parts.
On the intro of Carbonized in Cruciform there’s piano alongside acoustic guitar, which is similar to some of your previous work with Arsis…
Yeah it’s definitely got a similar kind of vibe. It [Ritual] has a lot more chords with melodies passing over the top, there’s more depth, it’s got a little bit more of a different dynamic.
On Deflorate, a lot of the time there was that old school pedal riff type of thing.
Yeah, the melodies were presented more as a riff of within the riff. On Ritual there’s still some of that going on but there’s more of the melodies presented as chords with a separate melody over the top, which is still pretty old school.
Was there any pressure for adding solos, with this being the first album to feature you from the start?
I’ve never really felt any pressure, like on the first album [Deflorate] there were people who were like “Ohhh, I like John better” or whatever, but I never really felt any pressure. The only time I’ve felt any pressure when it comes time to solo is that I want to feel like, from album to album, that I’m progressing as a player, and that people can tell that. I don’t feel any pressure from the band at all.
I’ve seen from your Youtube videos that your playing’s really legato (left hand) based.
Yeah, I’m definitely more of a left hand player. I mean I could talk about guitar stuff forever, but I’m trying to get away from the tapping world, I’ve always been a legato player and the two styles just go hand in hand. I’m trying to add some more picking work, that’s what I’m trying to morph into for the next album.
Den of the Picquerist probably shows the old-school influence the most on Ritual, the intro almost has a hardcore vibe…
It’s kinda like a hardcore, punk rock, grind type thing.
It really stands out, the same the with The Window, the intro’s just so major sounding.
And it is!
Yeah, it’s in the old natural minor (scale) as opposed to harmonic minor [as used extensively by the likes of Slayer].
Yeah, it makes a change because that’s often all you hear in metal!
I still like it, but I think sometimes people think that if you use something else they’ll be like “Oh, well it’s not dark enough…” and they worry that it’ll sound too happy or something but you can’t be afraid to use different things, and the ‘happier’ scales are all over things like Iron Maiden anyway. People need to start exploring more with chords and things, there are bands like The Faceless out there who really push things   for the guitar geeks out there.
Has there been any material from Dahlia’s back catalogue that’s been hard for you to get a hang of?
‘Everything Went Black’ was definitely the hardest song, now it comes pretty easy, but there are still some hard riffs because John’s fingering on them was different, there’s a lot of barring with one finger and stuff. There’s probably some other songs, some of the stuff off the new album’s harder, but we’ve played it to the point where I’m pretty comfortable with them now.
So what’re the plans for the next year?
We wrap up this tour on like February 6th, then we go home for a week and we do Asia, then we do the Soundwave Festival out in Australia, then we come home for two weeks and do a headliner with us, Nile, Skeletonwitch again and Our Penance so that’ll be a month-long tour.
Have you toured Asia before?
We went to Asia on Deflorate, we did three shows in Japan. The rest of the band’s been there prior, I think as a band we’ve been to Japan around five times. This coming run we’re gonna go to Thailand, Indonesia, the Philippines, three shows in Japan.
Is there any difference with the Japanese audience?
They wanna hear what you have to say between songs. I think the last time we were there, definitely at one of the shows, they were kinda quiet between songs. The culture’s just so different, like when you’re on the bullet-train or an elevator you’re just not supposed to talk.
Is there anything about the UK you prefer to the US?
Yeah, like mainland Europe, you get the big festivals, we did Sonisphere last year and I think we’re doing Bloodstock this year.
Many thanks to Ryan for taking the time to chat to Rob.
‘Ritual’ is out now through Napalm Records.
The Black Dahlia Murder will be taking part in Soundwave Festival 2012 in Australia.
For more information, check out the bands Facebook page:

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