Teeth of the Divine Presents: Remembering Trevor Strnad (1981-2022)

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A dear friend of mine once gave me one the most profound pieces of advice I’ve ever been given in life: If you could choose one thing to have in life – choose fun.

Sounds simple enough, right? But life, I’m sure I don’t need to tell you, doesn’t always (or even often) make this so easy. In truth, we’re all just doing our best to try and get by and, when we can, find whatever time is left over to surround ourselves with the people and passions that make life worth the effort.

For us at Teeth of the Divine, as I suspect it must be for anyone reading this, Metal music is one of those great passions in life – the kind that feels more like a calling than just a personal choice. It provides us a means of escape, of motivation, and perhaps above it all, it gives us a sense of community – a place we feel accepted and understood. The metal community, like any other, is far from perfect – but it’s a world we love, one we work every day to support in our own small way. One that, just this week, lost one of its greatest champions.

The impact left behind by Trevor Strnad goes so far beyond the voice that lead The Black Dahlia Murder to become one of modern metal’s most iconic, influential bands. The effort he gave to helping build up the metal community, and the generosity he so often showed has left an indelible mark on an entire generation of musicians and artists, friends, family and fans alike. Here, we come together to celebrate his life, his work, and the ways he left an impact on all of us on the Teeth of the Divine staff – and in tribute to the vibrant light he gave to the Metal community, how he helped every one of us, in one way or another, have a little more fun. The more we hear about Trevor, the more we’re pretty sure that’s all he ever really wanted.

Erik T

Back when I was writing for Metal Maniacs, I covered the 2006 edition of the Sounds of the Underground Tour. The Black Dahlia Murder was still bright-eyed kids who had just released their second album with 2005s Miasma, the follow up to one of the 00s most trendsetting albums, their debut Unhallowed.

I sat down with Trevor Strnad and then guitarists, John Kempainen, and Brian Eschbach on their tour bus, all barely in their 20s at the time. Little did I know that the young, bespectacled vocalist Trevor Strnad would become one of the biggest names in the international metal scene, but I remember thinking ‘these kids have ‘it”.

He and Brian Eschbach remained the lone original members over the next  20 years and The Black Dahlia Murder (with its various members) would go on to be an icon in the scene, cloned over and over again, with few managing to capture the same longevity and consistency over their 9 album career, as well as continuing high octane live shows even as the band got into their 30s.

Strnad also delved into journalism writing articles reviews and a regular playlist over at Metal Injection, even introducing me to a number of great bands and albums.

It was hard picking a favorite song, but I found TBDMs transition from melodeath/metalcore into melodic Dissection influenced black metal their pinnacle, with albums like Everblack, Ritual and Abysmal and Nightbringers

So I went with “Blood In the Ink” from the band’s 2011 effort, Ritual, the somber strings add something more to the slicing intensity. And it wasn’t till I after I choose this song, that I found the last line of this song is “Suicide is the Only Way Out…”…….Fuck….

Frank Rini

The passing of vocalist, Trevor Strnad, from The Black Dahlia Murder, has taken the metal scene by surprise and shock.  I first saw the band live on the Decibel Tour with Carcass and Noisem.  I was blown away by the energy of TBDM and Trevor’s stage presence was excellent and he had such a connection to the live crowd.  His cracking of various jokes in between the songs made me laugh my ass off.  I had the pleasure of meeting Trevor in 2018.  I had returned to my original band, Internal Bleeding to front and tour with them for the BloodLetting Tour.  At the one show at The Kingsland in Brooklyn, NY, prior to us going on I was watching our merch booth.  Trevor walked up to me and was wearing a Disincarnate long sleeve shirt and we struck up a conversation.  He bought one of our tour shirts that night.  I asked if he would take a picture with me and he said absolutely.  He told me he was coming to see me back with Internal Bleeding and this was a bucket list for him.  He went so far to say I was a vocal influence on him and my work with Internal Bleeding is some of his favorite death metal, still.  I was blown away and told him I had seen them live several times, which I had, and his energy and vocals were just plain awesome.  After the show, he took the time to say it was great to meet me and my stage presence that night and crowd interaction were unparalleled.  I was blown away. He was a gentle and super nice person.  He loved his metal and he loved the fans.  He was an ardent supporter of the scene and bought tons of merch from bands and distros.  I also enjoyed all his metal reviews and he will be sorely missed.  All the best to his family, friends, and the rest of TBDM.  RIP metal brother. Such sad news😢  I selected the song The Leather Apron’s Scorn from the band’s last album, in 2020, Verminous.  The song is exceptional and Trevor’s vocals are so damn wild on this.  Quite varied.  Your music and influence will live on my brother.

J Mays 

Man, this one stings. As an owner of TBDM merch, including all albums, a hoodie, and multiple shirts, one could call me a fan. This hit hard and out of nowhere. I’m writing this on the morning after hearing the news, still trying to process it all. You truly never know what someone’s going through, only what they’re willing to share. Not to go too much into my story, but when you read the parallels, you’ll understand my feelings. I’ve been down the dark path. Recently. In fact, I was at a crossroads where I decided it was time to get help because I literally could not go on living that way… and that doesn’t mean I’m cured. Many of these stories end just like Trevor’s (assumptions made based on the band’s post). I don’t know what else to say, except that the world lost a kind, gentle soul, and an ambassador for the entire metal scene by all accounts. So, blast The Black Dahlia Murder. My personal choice will be my favorite album of theirs, Ritual. Rest well, brother in metal. I’ll think of you every time I take my heartburn prevention meds in the morning.

Steve K

I’m not sure I could actually count the amount of times in my life where Metal music came to my rescue, or conversely, how many times the best moments of my life were directly tied to my love affair with Metal. It can be anything you need it to be at any given time – a motivator, a healer, a cathartic outlet or rejuvenating force. It was there with me in my car with high school friends when we were young, dumb and just trying to find ourselves, it was there as an escape when I unexpectedly lost my father and just needed a minute to get away and gather myself. It’s been a constant, reliable companion at every twist and corner of my life.

I distinctly remember the first time hearing The Black Dahlia Murder’s Unhallowed nearly 20 years ago. By the time of its release in 2003, the New Wave of American heavy Metal and Metalcore scenes were really just starting to hit their stride, with the likes of Shadows Fall, Lamb of God, Killswitch Engage and countless others generating a ton of buzz for the American metal scene. As a teenager trying to figure out where he belonged in the world, it felt like I was getting in on a part of something, and that I wasn’t just some weirdo walking around alone in the world. But as much as I still, to this day, love those bands and so many others, The Black Dahlia Murder really struck a chord with me by really tapping in to that At The Gates-loving, Swedish Melodeath sound that by that point had become one of my biggest obsessions. And while The Black Dahlia Murder would grow to heights even then I never could have imagined, it was the man at the center of it all, Trevor Strnad, who would prove to become one of my generation’s biggest metal heroes – a unifying beacon of inspiration that time and time again proved his dedication not just to his own band’s interests, but worked obsessively to make sure more artists voices were heard, and more dreams were made reality. Where The Black Dahlia Murder continued to grow – the scene, it seemed, continued to grow around them.

I never had the pleasure of meeting Trevor Strnad in person. If I had, I’d have thanked him for being such a huge part of cultivating a community that would become such an enormous part of my own life. To that end, I’m actually choosing to highlight NOT a TBDM track, but instead a band that, like me, he loved and believed in, and to ALL of our benefit, lent his vocal talents to. It’s one of my favorite all-time collaborations, and I can’t think of a better way to celebrate his dedication to the world of Heavy Metal: Light This City‘s “Fear of Heights.”

Jeremy Beck

Last week, the world of Death Metal has lost a leader of the genre. Trevor Strnd of The Black Dahlia Murder has passed away at the very young age of 41. I am sad that I never got to see them live; not for lack of them not coming here, I just never was able to get a chance to go. 

From Unhallowed to recent Verminous, Trevor gave us soundscapes of horror and gore; inspiring a new generation of Death Metal hordes to further this music we love. His unearthly vocals and more, the man himself, will be sorely missed. My heart goes out to his family.

Kristofor Allred

I’m not even sure where to begin. I sit here, looking for the right words to say and they just don’t seem to come. Hell, before I even realized it I was putting down these very sentences before it kind of dawned on me; there simply are no “right words”. No matter how you’re perceive it or what angle you approach a situation like this, it is undoubtedly one of sorrow, sadness, apathy and empathy. I was taken aback like everyone else when I heard the news about Trevor. Any life ending early is a tragic thing in itself, but it seems doubly painful and confusing when it’s a person we seem to think of, or deem as to having it all, so-to-speak. Trevor/The Black Dahlia Murder achieved what is mainly a pipe dream for metal bands these days; to not only make a living off your band/trade, but to actually become a household name in metal itself. Touted by one of metal’s biggest labels the band broke the stigma of what an underground metal band could still accomplish in the 21st century. I mean lets be honest, love ’em or hate ’em, TBDM is an act that we metalheads have either heard or at least heard of.

I remember first hearing Unhallowed, shortly after its release, and being vastly impressed with its Carcass meets the Gothenburg sound. Funny, because it was Trevor’s forearm tattoo of Carcass‘ “tools of the trade”, from a publication ad, that piqued my interest a bit harder into checking out the group. The band had the ability to not only appeal to the death metal fans, both brutal and melodic, but the then exploding metalcore scene as well. With their own evolving death metal brand and identity, TBDM arguably became the spearhead for a big chunk of metal. Without Trevor’s versatile death like bellows and shrieks of grating insanity, his witty and appealing nature and humor, or his enegetic stage prescense, I doubt TBDM would have achieved the level of success  that they have. In no way is that intended as an insult toward any current or past member of the band, on the contrary, it is soley the recognition of a man whom achieved the damn near impossible feat of climbing metal’s ladder to beome an icon mentioned among the greats.

I chose to include the track “What a Horrible Night to Have a Curse” from the band’s third album, Nocturnal, it’s one of my favorite albums of theirs. I love the blacker/Dissection like vibe within the album as a whole and the directions the group spanned  into from here, as well as the songs title dating back to the group’s first demo, seemingly representing the bands origin as well as a newer beginning that Nocturnal seemed to begin.

Rest in Peace Trevor, as your work will live on in Power.

Mars Budziszewski

Reviewing the list of commonly regarded “gateway” metal bands The Black Dahlia Murder are not only the single band truly representative of extreme metal but also the likeliest to lead the most listeners through the stone gargoyle guarded gateway.   Certainly upon their debut.  This is in due part to Trevor’s compelling want to promote both the masters and upstarts of the genre, equally.  A deed I respect because I know I’d do the same given his and The Black Dahlia’s unique position as a then-new Web 2.0 era band that forged a consistent, tireless career.  Until a few days ago.

I choose this song because I am in fact only really have a history with Unhallowed. In 2003 I was curious if the band born of the metalcore and screamo world (their debut ep having come out on upstart label Love Lost Records that cultivated a more extreme cast of early death, and metalcore) that was one of the earliest to go fully death metal (albeit a heavy Swedish melo spine).  I recall appreciating that they weren’t cowards and had proper low death bellows where other bands were pleased as punch to continue feasting upon At The Gates’ corpse, only flirting with death and black metal tropes.  This was the track I downloaded to sample the new record.  Its meaty double bass throttle completely hooked me until payday came around when I could pick up the cd.  I listened to it a lot then and revisited it for the first time in some 15 years. It rather holds up.  In 2004 I caught them on tour with Vital Remains (doing Dechristianize with Glen.  Uh, wow by the way), and Cattle Decapitation, their star quickly rising.  I remember a young Trevor having already great presence, perhaps in a Suffocation shirt, and already having the remarkable medical instrument forearm piece.

Am I guilty of disinterest in the remainder of their career? Yeah.  As a firm “gateway” death metal act? Yeah.  But taking into consideration the current landscape of death metal.  How many killer bands exist now arr made up of people under 35 that count hearing The Black Dahlia Murder as a moment their tastes where awoken?  It’s undeniable that Trevor Strnad and his band are on a shortlist that have been a catalyst to many, introducing them to an underworld that would define who they became today. Energizing a generation to be curious enough to investigate the Godfather’s: Suffocation, Carcass, Cryptopsy, Mayhem, Devourment, etc, and most importantly, become participants themselves.


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