Trevor Strnad, the lead singer and co-founder of the American black metal band Black Dahlia Murder, has died aged 41. His bandmates confirmed his death on social media. No reason was given, but the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline’s contact information was shared alongside the announcement.
“It is with deep sadness that we announce the passing of Trevor Scott Strnad,” the Michigan group said in a statement. “Beloved Son, Brother, and [shepherd] of good times, he was loved by everyone who met him. A walking encyclopedia of everything that has to do with music. He was a hugger, a writer and truly one of the world’s greatest entertainers. His lyrics provided the world with stories and proverbs and horror and whimsy. It was his life to be your show.”
The band’s lead guitarist, Brandon Ellis, called him “one of the funniest and most entertaining people on the planet. The life of the party that is the Black Dahlia Murder, as well as any room he happens to occupy. A lyrical mastermind. A champion of the whole culture of heavy music. Also my biggest supporter.”
The wider metal world also paid tribute to Strnad. Matt Heafy of Trivium called him an “icon of modern metal”.
“He was such a sweet boy,” Machine Head’s Robb Flynn said. “Had him on my podcast about 10 months ago, he was very open about struggling with depression. It’s a sad day for the metal community.”
The Black Dahlia Murder was founded in 2000 and named itself after the unsolved murder of aspiring actor Elizabeth Short in 1947 and citing acts such as Metallica, Pantera and Judas Priest as influences.
After self-released several EPs, they signed to Metal Blade Records in 2003, which became their long-term home. Their most recent release for the label was 2020’s Verminous. The title referred to metal fans as bearers of a cultural scourge.
Strnad and rhythm guitarist Brian Eschbach were the only constant members of the group, which had a fluctuating lineup. Their highest-grossing album was 2011’s Ritual, which reached number 31 on the US Billboard album chart.
Strnad came to heavy metal as a child obsessed with horror movies and fantasy. “I used to drive down the metal aisle and look at all the artwork in the record stores,” he told Echoes and Dust in 2020. “When I really found out there was music about dragons, skeletons and shit like that, it felt perfect for me. As soon as I opened That book, I was unstoppable.”
He described horror and metal as “healthy outlets for negative energy,” although he admitted it could be isolating being the only metal fan in his teenage community. “I feel like the average person doesn’t see the merit of our culture and our world and don’t see how passionate we are, how it gives us so much life. It certainly helped shape who I am.”
In a 2021 interview with Metal Injection, Strnad was open about the toll of drinking on tour as a way of preserving the persona fans expected of him, and the aesthetic pressure he felt as the band’s frontman. “It’s piled up in some self-doubt, in more fear of me because the band has gotten bigger and bigger, and there’s more eyes and more pressure,” he said.
“I want my 40s to be great,” he said, expressing his wish that the Black Dahlia slaying would last 20 more years and that he “become an older metalhead gracefully.”
Strnad said being left alone with his thoughts during two years of the pandemic had been “so dangerous” for him, and that he explored psychedelic and ketamine therapy as a way to break out of old self-defeating thought patterns and help push him past a creative block. .
It had helped him to talk about his mental health in public, he said. “And I think it might help someone else to know that I’m human and that someone they might look to for inspiration is going through it too.”