I first met Trevor Strnad more than 15 years ago during the tour cycle for The Black Dahlia Murder’s third studio album Nocturnal. The band was on the ascent at that point and backing Cannibal Corpse on Metal Blade’s 25th-anniversary tour. What struck me the most about Strnad, then just in his mid-20s, was how different in temperament he was from so many of the artists I’ve met and talked to over the years. While it’s fashionable to say someone is different after they pass, no one would deny that Strnad was unlike any death metal frontman or any frontman in the metal genre, period. He was part ferocious frontman and part court jester with a peerless passion for and knowledge of heavy metal.
Strnad’s dedication to performing death metal and preserving the scene’s landmarks and elevating little-known bands was one of a kind. If Strnad never fronted a band, he still would have made timeless contributions to the scene. With his passing, we haven’t just lost an integral part of a band and a charismatic frontman but one of the most informed and passionate advocates for underground music of any generation.
Offstage, Strnad reminded you of the smartest guy who worked in the record store (which he was). Onstage he was a force: proudly rubbing his belly while shirtless and working crowds in a way few performers ever muster. Strnad was quick to laugh and never seemed to take anything seriously. At the same time, his attention to the smallest details was that of a completist who cared for what mattered most to them with abiding love.
That Strnad would take his own life at 41 seems almost impossible to anyone who has interviewed him, seen him perform, or knew him in real life. His life force was so strong that you can’t see him not existing. For starters, Strnad was a peerless lyricist who clearly drew on the best elements of Carcass and Jeff Walker while taking the storytelling in a completely different direction. Second, he was a consummate performer who turned BDM shows into moving parties, death metal’s version of the late Hank von Hell of Turbonegro. Finally, he was a death metal fan, historian, and archivist of the highest order. Even if you count the Decibel staff, few people on the planet loved death metal as much as Trevor Strnad.
Strnad was so funny that I can still remember portions of conversations we had for stories years ago. When I interviewed him in 2013, a question about how many writers asked him “how the tour was going” turned into a hilarious monologue. On another occasion he talked about the inadvisability of drinking Jager through a beer bong. Strnad lived large and indulged his passions – for life, music and partying – and invited other to join him for the ride. Despite the darkness of BDM’s lyrics, I never saw kids have more fun or party harder than I did at BDM shows.
Laughter, however, can be terribly deceptive. While it’s surprising, it’s not entirely unexpected when someone like Strnad takes this path. Depression and darkness can be all-consuming, and sometimes those who burn the brightest carry the heaviest burdens. Rest well, Trevor. You will be deeply missed.