The Black Dahlia Murder – Verminous [REVIEW]

As we all sit at home on quarantine, let’s consider the nature of the virus that has brought life as we know it to a stand still. Now let’s relate this current state of things to the new album by The Black Dahlia Murder – Verminous. When asked about the title of the album, lead vocalist Trevor Strnad had this to say:

“We, members of our beloved and hidden world of the heavy metal underground teeming just below the surface, are the verminous. The rats and roaches looming in the cracks and crevices of this fallen world. We are the pariahs that the world of normality finds loathsome and obscene. We are the carriers of a plague of knowledge so vile that it could bring the unsuspecting mankind to its knees. Always the underdogs. Our love for this music and what it means to our lives is foolishly underestimated.”

“The outside world of religion-warped ‘normalcy’ is the opposing viewpoint. We are the ultimate antagonist to their archaic ways of thought, the dreamers of the nightmares that shake them to their very core. Although we are but lowly vermin to them, the unseen and underestimated, our numbers are millions strong. We cast aside their ways and prefer to take solace in the hidden realm of the underground where the dark fruits of free thought can be enjoyed. We are our own Gods. The responsibility of our actions is ours alone.”

To me this perfectly ties into the COVID-19 epidemic and lockdown the world is currently going through. Something so small and undetectable as a virus has the power to completely halt everything in its path.

I’m going to be upfront and honest – I fucking love this band. The Black Dahlia Murder are easily my favorite metal band of the last 20 years. I have been listening closely since their 2003 debut “Unhallowed” – the track “Elder Misanthropy” being one of my favorites – the speed, the melodic guitars, the all out brutal assault of the music – this is a band that throughout the years has never wavered.

Fast forward a whole 17 years from their debut to 2020 and yet another epic death metal masterpiece in “Verminous”.

The burning question for a band with a sound as distinct and as harsh as TBDM has developed over the years is this: How do you keep it fresh without straying from the brutality that fans love? It seems the boys have figured out a way here. This album is concise clocking in at roughly 36 minutes and just 10 tracks. Still, it is jam packed with intricate detail. Lightning fast melodic riffs and a whole variety of sounds and rhythms that are new territory for the band.

Verminous might be The Black Dahlia Murder’s most dynamic, rousing and emotional release to date. It achieves this without compromising a single iota of heaviness.

“I think this is the biggest evolutionary leap we’ve ever taken from one album to the next. We stoked the creative fires with 2017’s ‘Nightbringers’ and it’s gone much further now in ‘Verminous’,” says vocalist Trevor Strnad. “It’s a very colorful, moody, and charismatic album that experiments with new sounds and ideas without losing the cutthroat Black Dahlia edge. There is a lot of minutiae to digest. Plenty of delicious little Easter eggs woven into the fabric of each song. Each one is a living, breathing entity that will stand on its own as some of the best music this band has ever created.”

The sliding back and forth opening riff of “Verminous” eventually takes off into the signature speed and death TBDM are known for. The speedy harmonic runs at the end are a taste of something you’ve never heard before on a Black Dahlia Murder record and a foreshadowing of what’s to come.

“Godlessly” is relentlessly brutal from start to finish. There is no build up or drop off… just speed and force. “Removal of the Oaken Stake” has a darker slant and melody. The guitar parts are eerily reminiscent to the soundtrack of a horror movie or even a horror themed video game like Castlevania.

The riff at the end of “The Wereworm’s Feast” is easily one of the coolest things I’ve ever heard TBDM play. It’s still heavy and death tinged but it definitely has a bit of a progressive rock vibe to it without losing the raw power the band is famous for. To be clear it almost reminds me of the type of riff you would have heard as an out take from Pantera’s classic “Vulgar Display of Power” record.

One of the most immediately evident evolutions is in how anthemic their ninth record is, the band inspiring fist-in-the-air responses, particularly in closing track “Dawn Of Rats”.

While the drums were recorded at The Pipeyard in Plymouth, Michigan by ex-bassist and longtime studio guru Ryan “Bart” Williams, the bulk of the album was recorded in New Jersey at guitarist Brandon Ellis’ home studio, the Shred Light District, then mixed by Tue Madsen and mastered by Alan Douches. Produced by Ellis and the band, Verminous sees Black Dahlia having a greater level of control over every facet of recording than on any previous release, enabling them to tweak and fine-tune all the small details right up until the point they sent it to Madsen in Denmark.

“To say we were anal-retentive would be an understatement. Tue did an outstanding job. His mix is organic. Classic sounding. Not too slick. It’s got an old school ‘real life’ feel to it rather than being the overly polished quantized-to-hell drek that is coming out these days. We wanted the album’s sound to have its own personality, and he helped us achieve just that. Finally, Alan did a great job of smoothing out the final details with his mastering. He beefed it up into what you hear now.”

The only other outside collaborators with which the band worked were soundscape artist Michael Ghelfi, who provided the sample that opens the record and “sets the pest-ridden vibe”, and Juanjo Castellano, who painted the cover.

“It’s amazing and classically death metal cover artwork. I call it an evil underground sewer world, home to the verminous ones. If you look closely you can find all kinds of rats and bugs and critters scattered throughout. The amount of detail Juanjo put in there is second to none.”

10/10 – The new Black Dahlia Murder record “Verminous” is available Friday April 17th everywhere!

The Black Dahlia Murder
Metal Blade Records
Release Date: 17th of April, 2020

Track List:

  1. Verminous 3:50
  2. Godlessly 3:28
  3. Removal of the Oaken Stake 4:26
  4. Child of Night 3:38
  5. Sunless Empire 3:58
  6. The Leather Apron’s Scorn 3:34
  7. How Very Dead 3:07
  8. The Wereworm’s Feast 4:36
  9. A Womb in Dark Chrysalis (Interlude) 0:48
  10. Dawn of Rats 4:28

The Black Dahlia Murder online:

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