In these unreal times, while we are stricken with fear as an entire species, our favorite music may offer some solace. Somewhere in between the chaos, I ended up with some time to check up on the latest releases and found out that Detroit-based melodic death metal act THE BLACK DAHLIA MURDER will soon unleash a whole new plague upon the scene. This rat-infested record, fittingly called “Verminous” and released on 17 April 2020, is everything I expected it to be and more.
I discovered THE BLACK DAHLIA MURDER back in my teens, through my fascination for true crime and the band’s name being derived from the 1947 unsolved murder case of Elizabeth Short, also referred to as the Black Dahlia. Even though I wasn’t particularly into their earlier material, I kept following them over the years and had them slowly but surely change my mind about their music. Their style is no-nonsense, adrenaline-packed, and brutal, but in an infectious way. They seem to have built a bridge between the more extreme side of metal and the scene in general, and I ended up crossing it.
After 2017’s “Nightbringers,” a bomb of a record that wiped away all the earlier doubts I had about THE BLACK DAHLIA MURDER in one blast, I was curious to see where they would go next. I say this because, to me, “Nightbringers” seemed to have it all: rage-fueled riffage, blastbeat mayhem, contagiously melodic choruses… only a handful of bands have peaked like this and managed to surpass it or at least stay on that same level. “Verminous” thus turned into a moment of truth for me.
The first playthrough was a huge relief, as I soon realized the winning formula is still present all the way. However, intricate details I hadn’t noticed before kept popping up with every replay, dragging me deeper into the abyss the band has created. The melodicity has been tuned down a little in favor of a pitch-black atmosphere and riffs that seem to come from the deepest vaults of hell themselves. This is a subtle evolution, so it doesn’t hit as hard as one would expect, and the band still provides an array of signature elements from their intricate repertoire.
A fitting audio sample leads us into the dark, murky sewer where the beady-eyed critters creep and we are off with title-track “Verminous.” I thought I heard some wanderings into thrash territory there, reminiscent of material on “Revocation.”
“Godlessly,” however, drags us back to melodeath with its fast-paced, catchy riffs. By now I am already quite immersed in the record and that is probably why “Child of Night” caught me a bit off guard. This slower, restrained track is an abrupt change of scenery, but give it a minute and a relisten or two and I’m sure you’ll find it’s a skilfully written composition. The song also contains guitarist Brandon Ellis‘ best solo, although it might be competing with “Sunless Empire,” which has a more technical and pompous approach.
The vocals on “Removal of the Oaken Stake” are to die for (literally). Trevor Strnad is a skilled vocalist, delivering every grunt and growl with as much ease as precision. On the other hand, songs like the moody “The Leather Apron’s Scorn” and “How Very Dead” are amongst the vilest and aggressive songs THE BLACK DAHLIA MURDER ever has created. With “Dawn of Rats,” the band ends “Verminous” again on an epic note.
Needless to say, I was pretty thrilled to find out how this record exceeded my expectations. They have done it again. The recognisable sound, enriched with surprisingly melodic leads from guitarist Brandon Ellis, has crafted an album to die for.
Written by Jana De Boeck
- Removal of the Oaken Stake
- Child of Night
- Sunless Empire
- The Leather Apron’s Scorn
- How Very Dead
- The Wereworm’s Feast
- A Womb in Dark Chrysalis (Interlude)
- Dawn of Rats
Brian Eschbach − Guitar, Vocals
Trevor Strnad − Vocals
Max Lavelle − Bass Guitar
Alan Cassidy – Drums
Brandon Ellis – Lead Guitar
Metal Blade Records