ARTIST: THE BLACK DAHLIA MURDER
LABEL: METAL BLADE
WORDS: SEAN HUBBARD
The Black Dahlia Murder are not an accessible band. The death metal icons have avoided going down the route that many of their contemporaries have taken in softening up their sound in exchange for commercial success, but instead have achieved success on their own terms. Vocalist Trevor Strnad sees it as “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.”
Creatively Verminous is incredibly vast, and whilst it may seem odd to describe a brutal death metal album as having melodic hooks and modern-day anthems, that is exactly what The Black Dahlia have done! Opening with title track ‘Verminous’ which contains everything from brutal double kick drums and blastbeats, to a chorus that could truly be the most melodic thing to ever come out of death metal – it entices the listener to sing along, despite the fact that Strnad is screaming his lungs out it just feels catchy.
“We stoked the creative fires with 2017’s Nightbringers’ and it’s gone much further now in Verminous.”
As well as adding unforeseen melody to the Black Dahlia formula, Verminous also dials up the musical complexity yet another notch – something the band have been doing album by album over their entire career, which is perhaps why they have endured where several of their contemporaries have failed or changed sound entirely – simply because they challenge themselves further on each record, making each one more complicated than the last. The excitement for the challenge of playing the increasingly complex record live is described by Strnad as being “like a drug, the challenge of it all. There is a masochistic thrill in performing this technically demanding music that you just can’t get anywhere else.”
As well as dialling up the difficulty, the entire band have also dialled up their involvement on the record from start to finish, having recorded the majority of the album at guitarist Brandon Ellis’ home studio: “the Shred Light District.” With Ellis taking control of production of Verminous this has led to the Black Dahlia focussing even further on the minutiae of the mix, and achieving their goal of “wanting the album’s sound to have its own personality.” Indeed their perfectionism is made fun of by Strnad, who felt that “to say we were anal-retentive would be an understatement!”
“To say we were anal-retentive would be an understatement!”
It is impossible to single out one member who made the most important contribution to this album – of course Strnad’s vocals are impeccable, from the heaviest of growls to pig squeals, but we have come to expect this from the frontman who never falters – with every single member pulling their weight, the rhythm section is immense at driving the pace forward, whilst the guitars feel epic – in the classical sense of the word – giving this album a stadium feel, a rare compliment for a genre that has often felt held back by mainstream opinion
Verminous is a ride from start to finish, and unlike many others in the streaming age, it is an album designed to be listened to in full. Peaks and troughs are present in the record that only make sense in the wider context, and while each individual song is incredible in its own right, it is the sum of all of the parts that makes Verminous a true masterpiece of death metal, and gives it that oxymoron of melodic brutality. It feels like this is said with every single album that The Black Dahlia Murder put out, however this is truly their best work yet, and long may they continue to be a permanent fixture that we can all count on.