A Throne of Skulls Built to Last
The first single released this album cycle from The Black Dahlia Murder was the eponymous Verminous. It was received well among fans and critics and the lyrics video was fun to watch. The song itself tied into the grotesque art (done by the magnificent Juanjo Castellano) and all of the merchandising, and murmurs about the album alluded to a unifying theme throughout. While that's not totally unheard of within their catalog, theme hasn't been so suggestively deliberate.
The second single to be released was the unpredictable Child of Night. When the video dropped, the polarization of the album really took hold within the fan-base and the murmurs around the internet began. Opinions about the album had already been focused regardless of the incomplete absorption of its entirety.
As the needle touched down onto the wax, the familiarity of the title-track started the journey off comfortably, agreeably. The green and black splatter whirled around on the platter and a song with lyrics already memorized danced through to the next.
It was here, with Godlessly that a truer understanding of what this album is bored through this listeners brain. The machine-gun drum exposition revealed an attitude hidden on the track previous. While this track is new, fresh even, the sound was simultaneously effortlessly classic. They've made songs like this, but never this exact song. Never with this kind of emotion. When Trevor screeches "Quietly" and an echo of the exasperated "Tirelessly!" reverberates back, it is then that we can see why this album is different, why this album is their most ambitious, their finest and most complete and realized artistic endeavor.
It's generally accepted that The Beatles' first evolution in their sound was with Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. Their sound became an experimental version of a sound the world already found familiar. The band was growing as artists and wanted to express themselves as such. Then, much later, their sound transmuted again with The White Album, an album regarded for its maturity and spectacular songwriting.
There is a very interesting comparison that can be drawn in terms of discography progression and evolution. Deflorate was their Sgt. Peppers. Each release through Nocturnal was a perfection of their sound, a clear trajectory showcasing what they were after. And that sound peaked within the depths of Nocturnal. It was with Deflorate that their experimentation came. Leaving a lot of the "-core" elements behind in favor of new technical or melodic elements would become the new sound anticipated from that point on. They were no longer a band in the vein of At The Gates; they forged a new path for themselves, a path drenched in Ryan Knight's melting solos, a style curated tenfold with Brandon Ellis.
The Black Dahlia Murder have now released what could be regarded as their White Album. Verminous is more imaginative, more ambitious, more meticulous, and more masterful than anything else in their discography. The sheer breadth of artistic expression materialized within the flesh and bones of this record stands out, not only within their discography, but the genre as a whole.
From Godlessly through Sunless Empire and all the way through How Very Dead and Dawn of Rats, the emotion of the album is unrivaled within their oeuvre. Each track demands attention in their own ways, but the first large set-piece moment comes at the start of the guitar solo in Sunless Empire. The sheer wailing conveys longing, sadness, but at the same time pride. It sounds like how an embittered king wading through the sewer finding his confidence would feel.
That feeling persists into the album closer, that same kind of resigning sorrow giving way to pride through Dawn of Rats. Again, with wailing guitars through the chorus telling the listener exactly how to feel and a bass break, reminiscent of the same groove on The Leather Apron's Scorn, that captures the absolute power of the record.
In terms of technical achievement, The Leather Apron's Scorn is a magnificent example of the growing ability and their willingness to push themselves as a band. With riffs that would feel at home on a Necrophagist album, it's the kind of track that forces the listeners' face into a contorted mess. Following that only six minutes later is The Wereworm's Feast, a track with such delicate precision on all fronts. Not only are the drums, bass, and guitar moving at breakneck speeds while maintaining their signature melodious sonorousness, the vocal rhythm, style, and rhyme scheme are nothing short of simply impressive.
It would appear that The Black Dahlia Murder have built a throne of skulls made to last. Through the most commanding lyrics, the most technical and melodic guitar work, the most inventive drums, the most pronounced and characteristic bass lines to date, this album is their most mature, their most ambitious, and most unifying record of their career. This is what it sounds like when a band fully actualizes their most articulate intention. The Verminous will live on.