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Album Review: The Black Dahlia Murder – Verminous

I’m sure most reading this are well aware of the band’s musical history, so I’m not going to go into too much detail about that other than stating that The Black Dahlia Murder are a melodic technical death metal band hailing from Detroit, Michigan. The current line-up consists of Trevor Strnad on Vocals, Brian Eschbach on Guitar and Vocals, Brandon Ellis on Lead Guitar, Max Lavelle on Bass, and Alan Cassidy on Drums.

Stoking the fires of creativity spawned from the band’s previous album Nightbringers (2017), which received much praise from new and old fans alike, Verminous (Out on Metal Blade Records 4/17/2020) is meant to take what Trevor considers to be “The biggest evolutionary leap the band has taken from one album to the next.” In other words, taking what they accomplished on Nightbringers and the multitude of albums before it and pushing it a step further, putting the pedal to the metal of what they’re known for, all the while adding in newer elements to their sound that perhaps might’ve not been heard before in previous albums.

The album opens up with the title track and leading single of the album, which musically is already sounding slower in pace and reminiscent of Everblack (2013) in some instances. Coming from a band that usually rides the wave of being swift with their riffing style, it serves as a nice palate change but not in a detrimental way. However, soon the band puts their foot on the gas and sports their fast fretboard Olympics with chaotic but controlled drumming and bass playing that gives them their signature sound. This single serves as a nice introduction for fans to remind them that The Black Dahlia Murder isn’t planning to shed their signature skin anytime soon.

That being said, where the music really starts to stretch its wings is on the following tracks, “Godlessly,” “Removal of the Oaken Shake,” and “Child Of Night.” On these tracks, they are perhaps some of the most melodic music the band has ever put together to date, especially with some of the riffing textures laid out in “Child Of Night.” With the slow grind of “Removal…”, I can see it as nice mid-paced (by the band’s standards anyway) banger that ensues the mosh pits, but keeps all the music geeks like myself intrigued. The intro leading into the verses is quite an earworm, and they’re really showing their melodic death metal roots here. It’s somewhat reminiscent of Carcass’s Heartwork in some areas, with traces of At The Gates, and a little bit of early Dark Tranquility in there. These influences in the band are nothing new, but they’re really paying tribute to the gods here, but in a flattering manner that allows for them to paint their own canvas. It’s a way that unless you were truly paying attention, you wouldn’t notice entirely, and that’s what I like about this record the most.

The shining star here is Brandon Ellis’s exquisite lead work. His phrasing and ear are simply second to none in Verminous, and it serves as excellent ear candy for guitar players like myself. One of the best examples of his lead work is the solo in “Sunless Empire.” The addition of Brandon on Nightbringers was one of the best moves that the band could’ve ever made in terms of line-up changes. His melodic touch really brings everything up a notch, while the band still lays down the brutality. The musicianship in The Black Dahlia Murder, as always, is top-notch for the genre, and you’d be hard-pressed finding tighter players.

While usually their albums bank on technicality, the band dials things back a bit in that regard, leaving way for more melodic textures, chord layers, and grinding riffs. The drums and bass lay down the groove giving the music a sense of urgency and momentum with fast double bass and grinding clank from the bass guitar. All of which are key elements for the genre.

Then they often crank up the speed once again to remind everyone that they still like to play fast. A vast array of dynamics like this can be displayed in tracks like “The Leather Apron’s Scorn.” But, to close the album, “Dawn Of Rats” brings things back to fast-paced affairs and simply does not let up during the intro and verses. Still, then the chorus and solo section hits you over the head with layers of heavy chords and licks that add up to a mass of melodic goodness that makes a good chorus. Don’t worry; I promise it’s a good thing and not a matter of The Black Dahlia Murder trying to appeal to the mainstream. If anything, it displays what I consider to be a proper ending scene to the multi-dimensional grotesquely beautiful gallery of music that makes up Verminous.

On Everblack (2013) and Abysmal (2015), while both being good albums, I often felt that the band was sort of “phoning it in” and not necessarily taking any chances. This is not to discourage anyone from listening to those albums. They have good songs, and I recommend them, but fans of the band, often recommend listening to Miasma (2005) or Nocturnal (2007) first, which the latter is often seen as their best. That being said, once Nightbringers was put out in 2017, it immediately piqued my interest again. The band sounded like they were on fire again and putting out music that was inspired. I believe it’s safe to say that Verminous is no different. This album feels like the band is riding on the wave of what could perhaps be their second wind; a newfound musical renaissance if you will. The group is taking chances, and they’re really tugging on the ears with this one. Verminous has tremendous replay value, and you can tell they spent quite a bit of time making this one. Once Verminous gets released on April 17th, 2020, I would wager that this might end up being another album alongside Nocturnal and Nightbringers that will be seen as one of the band’s best. Obviously, time will only tell, but I believe that it’s a safe bet.

Highlights:

“Removal Of The Oaken Shake”
“Child Of Night”
“Sunless Empire”
“The Leather Apron’s Scorn”

Editor Grade

A

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