Album Review: THE BLACK DAHLIA MURDER - Verminous
Artist: The Black Dahlia Murder
Genre: Blackened Death Metal
Review by Andrew Denning
Here we are with a monster of a release, brought forth by one of my first metal bands. I was but a small 11-year-old boy when The Black Dahlia Murder’s debut Unhallowed was slipped into my burnt CD case by a friend at school. 17 years later, they stand as one of my top bands and so I must do everything in my power to remain objective in this review.
That being said, this album sounds like the band has literally taken a plague infested rat and infused it with the best steroids available to them in a warehouse drug den. Filthy, hard hitting and vile in its description. A special mention should also go out to the D&D one-shot campaign based around the title track of the album which is just an amazing idea for a merch tie-in, if you play D&D it is definitely worth a look. I hope they do more things like this in the future. But onto the tracks themselves.
If you’ve heard a TBDM album before, the beginning will be a familiar sound. Looming instrumentals building to what will be birthed in mere moments, a sign of chaos to come. Though as soon as "Verminous" begins proper, you can tell the band has brought a very different beast to the table (or different rat if you will). The black and death metal elements that are usually more segmented in prior releases has achieved a new blend here, death metal guitar seamlessly chugging over blackened blast beats. Vocalist Trevor Strnad has also received a bit more love in the mix this time around and it shows. No time to rest here, "Godlessly" continues the hammering by bringing the pace up to 11. Guitar solos are a prominent feature in this one, sweeping in and out amidst the tremolo riffs and blasts. Some new vocal tricks come into play with roomier echoes added to emphasise certain sections. Very solid track all around, so far so good.
"Removal of The Oaken Stake" almost takes us back to 2011 and the Ritual sound. Ear catching use of off-beat riffs, muted guitar chords managing to harmonise with lead melodies, all very well executed. A fine example of the excellent mixing on this record, nothing gets lots in this tracks many layers. The band has clearly been listening in on my dreams, as "Child of Night" almost perfectly appeals to my taste (no, remain objective Andrew. Don’t give into its beauty). I had to come back to listen to this song again to review as on first listen, I may have decided rocking the fuck out in my living room was a better option. The chorus vocal layering adds that little extra punch at just the right moment to elevate the quality of the entire track, lending it a truly demonic tone. I’ve got nothing but praise here so I’ll move on and spare you my drooling.
Following that, what could the band even do to impress me? I’ll tell you what, Carcass styled death metal. "Sunless Empire", while maintaining the core of their sound, feels like a love letter to the 90’s death metal I have listen to for so long. The right blend of heavy coming from slower instrumental passages and delicate vocal work to balance it all. I wasn’t expecting a track like this here, and now I can’t picture anything else in its place. If I must remain objective (but I really don’t want to) then "The Leather Apron’s Scorn" is likely my low point in this release. Not a bad track by any means, but it doesn’t bring anything new to the table and almost feels like a Frankenstein’s monster of the other tracks. Who knows? Maybe that fits into the thematic elements. Regardless, the song writing on this one didn’t stick anywhere near as well.
Back into the 90’s style, "How Very Dead" is a showcase of the vocal power the Trevor is able to display. He has managed to make this song entirely his own with a fresh breed of Cannibal Corpse-esque guttural noises alongside his signature higher range. Guitars and drums take more of a backseat here, letting the man flex his vocal muscles. Though the guitar solo is, as usual, very tastefully written. "The Wereworm’s Feast" is a strange one. Not just the title, a lot of the elements here are almost alien to the band. That said, they harness them quite well. There is a rawness to the vocals in the verses of this tracks that are almost hardcore-punk influenced, though still performed in a death metal styling. Guitars are less frantic and more controlled, aided the drums this all blends together into a very different experience for the band. Bonus points are going on for that bass note drop into the song, very sexy execution there.
Acoustic guitars you say? Alright I’ll bite. "A Womb in Dark Chrysalis" feels less like an interlude a folk band may throw in to fill time and more like a warning sign to come. The final tracks of TBDM albums are known to be beastly, perhaps the moment calm is to prepare the listener. I lie, there is no preparing. "Dawn of Rats" hits fresh out of the gates, no energy was spared here. Technical blasting and tremolo in the verses, large spacey choruses, a big crashing outro. All you could ever want in a final track; this almost plays out like a death metal anthem. I’ve said it before but so much effort was put into the mix of this release, nothing gets lost at any point. Very rare day when I can hear a bass guitar properly in the mix, especially in a five-piece band.
I did my best to review unbiased but I think I may have failed. While it doesn’t quite rise to the heights of 2009’s Deflorate (which I almost class as perfect), Verminous is an absolute monster of a release that you cannot miss out on this year. The song writing is some of their best in many years, giving you more than enough reasons to bang your head and thrash around your living room during your isolation period.
Verminous releases April 17th 2020 through Metal Blade Records.