Cess and Filth(y riffs): Jake's review of The Black Dahlia Murder's Verminous
Updated: Jul 10, 2020
While I anxiously awaited the release of Verminous, the ninth album from metal titans The Black Dahlia Murder, from the day it was announced, I tried to mitigate my expectations. Truth be told, The Black Dahlia Murder are among my most favorite bands of all time, so I knew my opinion would be skewed positively. Nocturnal has long been my absolute favorite metal album ever conceived, and I gotta say, the more I listen to Verminous, the more it gives Nocturnal a true challenge for the throne of supremacy, and in many ways feels like a spiritual successor to Nocturnal. Verminous is a must-own for any fan of heavy metal.
The album opens with the eponymous track Verminous, a clear thesis of what's in store both sonically and lyrically. The Black Dahlia Murder leave no question to the listener that the next 36 minutes will be a festering foray into a fetid soundscape. No pit stops, no brakes, only the crushing momentum of a gelatinous cube riding a Skaven Rat Wheel (shoutout to my OG Warhammer homies). The opener also showcases some of my favorite drumming to date from Alan Cassidy, whose technique shines through the entire song. Moving on to Godlessly, we are taken from the highly visual themes of rats and roaches to a more somber contemplative place, deeper in the human subconscious where we absent-mindedly fear the march of time. Removal of the Oaken Stake returns to one of the band's favorite themes—vampires, and it does so with flamboyance and the macabre prose we all love from Trevor Strnad. Child of Night, the second single from this release, explores the occult and displays some of my favorite lyrics on this record. Sunless Empire returns to the main theme of the record, illustrating the metaphysical dark and dank underworld inhabited by we slimy metalheads. This track also features an absolutely soaring solo from Brandon Ellis. Jack the Ripper then abducts us all and drags us through the riff-laden slasher The Leather Apron's Scorn, highlighted by some very tasty bass riffs from Max Lavelle. The bassline after the first chorus cuts as sharp as a blade at one's throat in old Whitechapel. How Very Dead continues to change the pace. Strnad's vocals are a bit more staccato, an overhead stab in contrast to the swathing slashes of previous verses sung. From here we move into The Wereworm's Feast, which grew on me and became among my favorite tracks on the record. Strnad does some interesting new vocal style that I really dig, almost like what Travis Ryan has been doing in Cattle Decapitation, albeit slightly less melodic. It sounds great and adds even more breadth to his vocal arsenal. Lyrically, the song is really cool, invoking the tale of a guy that turns into a maggot by full moon's light, which is just fucking sick, right? A Womb in Dark Chrysalis instrumentally lulls us into the album's final and most impactful track, Dawn of Rats, rounding out the Verminous trilogy of songs. This song is by far my favorite for a few reasons. First, the lyrics are seemingly a scathing accusation of some of the atrocities perpetuated by the Roman Catholic Church. Second, the guitar solo from Brandon Ellis is the kind of virtuosity that only appears every so often. The weight of the emotion in his solo here (and pretty much every other solo on the record if we're being honest) is absolutely crushing. It would be foolish of me to ignore Brian Eschbach's performance throughout Verminous as well. His persistent and reliable riffing has always been the basis of the band's entire sound, and he continues to solidify himself as one of the single best guitarists writing metal music.
It has been said a thousand times and deserves to be said again, but listening to Trevor Strnad sing is akin to being cast under a spell of enchantment. The audience metaphysically bound to every syllable he bellows into the air, hypnotized by the auditory barrage backing his imbued words, the crowd moves as a single swarm, another return to this album's thematic elements. Strnad's lyrical composition is unparalleled, an Edgar Allen Poe for our generation. It's a bold comparison to make but one that I stand by.
Regarding the musical composition and performances from Trevor, Brian, Brandon, Max and Alan, it is hard to deny that Verminous is a bold step forward for the entire group. If Nightbringers was our herald of what was to come with Brandon Ellis' arrival, Verminous is the army to represent the power that has become The Black Dahlia Murder. Strnad has expanded his vocal range, showcased on The Wereworm’s Feast. Eschbach continues to showcase his permanent stature as one of the most solid composers and guitarists in the entire metal music sphere. Lavelle and Cassidy are among the most solid rhythm sections in the world, and I am very happy to hear Max get some spotlight on this record. It would also be foolish to disregard the engineering and production done by Brandon Ellis, showcased by the clarity with which each performer shines through. Ignoring all the immaculate composition of the record, the production is also of peak caliber. The more I listen to this record and try to find criticism or something I wish there were more of, the more I just enjoy the ride. We are indeed the Verminous.
The Black Dahlia Murder have done it again, and quite possibly better than ever before with their new record Verminous, out now on Metal Blade Records.