WORDS: SEAN HUBBARD

The Black Dahlia Murder have just put out their epic ninth album Verminous, which draws upon plenty of rat, rodent and post-apocalyptic imagery, in a sense of universal irony during a time of a global pandemic and worldwide lockdowns. In a way the band think “it’s definitely timely in a sick black humour way. It’s gonna make this album resonate extra hard because there’s nothing but time to listen to it, and there’s all these plague themes.”

The main theme of the album is reflected in its’ title Verminous which vocalist Trevor Strnad says is about “the hidden world of death metal is a plague of knowledge and we are the rats and roaches spreading that.” Within the album “there are a lot of metaphors drawn between the underground scene and the physical underground” which is reflected in the album artwork that depicts a physical underground and a sewer system. Strnad feels that “metal is underdog music, still on the outskirts of society looked at as weirdos with our black t-shirts and love of the macabre,” but like those rats and roaches “there’s real strength in our numbers and people don’t realise how seriously we love this music.”

“The hidden world of death metal is a plague of knowledge and we are the rats and roaches spreading that.”

This underground mentality has been key to the Black Dahlia’s success, and when asked if they would ever sacrifice any heaviness for accessibility and commercial success like so many of their contemporaries Strnad vehemently denied ever going down that route by saying: “It’s not something we’re interested in. We’ve had so much success by just staying the course that we have. I don’t know if I could live with it. My heart is with the underground and that is what inspires us.” There is a pride in their work, and while “there are efforts to make the music more catchy, epic, and gripping” there is not an iota of compromise in anything that The Black Dahlia Murder do. Trevor said it was great to be mentioned on the 2019 Bring Me The Horizon track ‘Heavy Metal’ as “I was flattered that we got the nod for being so painfully metal.” Despite BMTH having moved towards that commercial sound that he never would, Strnad felt that there was a really good story arc in their career seeing as “they started as being highly influenced by us.”

Of course the entire music industry has turned upside down since March with COVID-19, and while Verminous may be oddly prescient and as Strnad stated earlier that “there’s nothing but time to listen to it,” it has completely blown all of the band’s plans for 2020 off-track, with “our biggest tour ever with Testament being dashed – which is a huge amount of promotion and money that’s down the drain for us and our crew.” Strnad admitted that “it’s very painful to lose that, and to lose the sales that we’d get during that first week promoting the album and making puppy dog eyes at people at merch.”

“I was flattered that we got the nod for being so painfully metal.”

However the band aren’t going to let a little thing like a global pandemic stop them, with Trevor announcing he’s going to begin streaming on Twitch at @TrevorStrnad. While admittedly he is “a bit of a latecomer to Twitch” and hailing “Matt Heafy who has mastered Twitch. He’s been very smart and maximised what you can do with that, blazing a trail.” Strnad also reckons that this can open up the multiple uses of the internet in music even further, saying that “people are scrambling to maintain their presence on the internet and it’s very smart to have content coming out when people are sat at home aimlessly. Anything you can do to keep ‘your product’ in the minds of people is a good thing to do.”

Verminous is an incredible release by one of the most dominant bands in extreme metal over the past decades, with the band having realised that “it’s not a race to be the most extreme or most technical anymore” and always challenging themselves to make “each record harder to play live when we come back to it.” With this release they have certainly achieved their aim, and it is inspiring to see them find exciting new ways to get their music out there in a time of mass lockdowns.

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