The Black Dahlia Murder – Verminous
Metal Blade Records
Release Date: 17/04/2020
Running Time: 35:53
Review by Dark Juan
It is pitch black, so dark you can’t even see your hand in front of your face. A sinister pall hangs over the place where I am walking and a hunter’s moon feebly tries to shine down through the scudding clouds and the wind howls through the trees and down the narrow track I traverse. Somewhere in front of me I can hear the hurried breathing of another person. I know where they are. I have been following them for quite some time. Silently and without hurry. My boots make no sound against the damp earth and the smell of petrichor floods my senses. The breathing has turned left and is currently waiting (or concealing themselves) behind a large and venerable oak tree. I stop dead, and make no sound. Not even my breathing is audible. Clad as I am in black from head to foot there is no way I can be seen in the eldritch dark.
Movement! From behind the tree there is a rushed and panicked lurch towards the path. I reach forward, obtain a fistful of hair, pull back and draw my beautiful blade across the exposed throat. When you do this, your victim can still scream. It’s not like in the films where a razor-sharp blade instantly shuts someone up. In reality, you keep sawing until you’re through the windpipe and you’re virtually holding a severed head in your hand. Death is a messy business…
Ah, hello! I didn’t hear you come in. No, it’s not blood, it’s an art installation I’m playing with. Good evening. I’m Dark Juan and you are no doubt here to be educated and entertained by my thoughts on “Verminous”, the latest offering by the rather splendid The Black Dahlia Murder? As I suspected. Please do be seated in this sumptuous wingback chair by the fire and perhaps I can offer you a warming brandy? A rich burgundy? No? Absinthe? As you wish…
TBDM (I keep spelling murder wrong and it’s getting on my tits!) were formed in Waterford, Michigan in 2001, and it was around 2004 that they came to my somewhat dubious attention as a band that were happy to play with genres, much still be heavier than all the female members of your family in their very best depleted uranium pants. “Verminous” is their ninth album release and it really should be illegal under Strategic Arms Limitation Treaties as this is not a record I’m listening to, it’s a fucking weapon! Opening with the title track after a bit of a TBDM hiatus, I’m immediately looking for the skin off my face, because it has been instantly torn off. The band has lost none of the savagery that permeated early releases, instead honing and sharpening their sound, and forming delicate scalpel bladed death machines instead of charging at you and clubbing you to death with the nearest rock. However, here be melody and structure instead of blastbeat driven histrionics. This is a very thoughtful record. On first listen, it’s almost superficially simple, but then you listen again and you hear some magnificently complex arrangements played at warp speed. On repeated listens the album opens up in front of you like a carrion-reeking corpseflower, showing you incredible beauty within the stench. There are simply some sublime arrangements on here. TBDM describe themselves as a melodic death metal band but they are something much, MUCH greater. Effortlessly taking black metal influences, prog, death metal, tech death and classic metal and welding them into some kind of horrific matt black murder machine belching everything short of Zyklon B from its exhausts as it cuts a bloody swathe across an unsuspecting world, TBDM redefine just what extreme metal is. And this is even before you get to the powerhouse vocalist that is Trevor Strnad. A man who appears to be possessed by at least four different demons, judging by how his range encompasses earthquake inducing low tones, the kind of midrange a buzzsaw emits as its blade passes effortlessly through your midsection to the high notes emitted by the swarm of killer hornets currently enveloping your head, plunging their venomous stings deep within it, Strnad remains one of this hellpriest’s favourite vocalists.
The album steamrollers you on the first three tracks. TBDM are out to kill you, pure and simple. How good a strategy this is for creating a fanbase I don’t know, but they are all clearly psychotic and every song is a finely crafted piece of complexity and dare I say delicacy. The violence is placed upon a teetering precipice of musicianship as the band ask the listener the question, “Just how far do you want to go?” The production of the record by the band themselves is another high point. Arctically clear and cold, the production is superb and utterly fits the music although the band have managed to still retain soul and personality in the music – most modern tech or melodic death opts to have a sonically sharp, but utterly lifeless production that shows off the instruments, not the songs. Here the production manages to weld the instruments into a cohesive whole, where no one part overshadows another, yet every instrument has its personality shining though. Bonus marks for excellence.
Highlight of the record for me is the simply hypersexy ‘The Leather Apron’s Scorn’. Six songs in, an extremely complex opening sequence breaks into staggeringly heavy chugging and Strnad howls like he’s about to have an embolism. There’s even fucking cowbell! TBDM literally have covered all bases on this one. It is just staggering, there are time changes, polyrhythms, vocals that go from the depths of hell to the heights of the upper atmosphere before the middle of the song reminds us of classic death metal with the guitar soloing, then there’s some black metal speed and it is just jaw dropping in intensity. This is just ONE song. The whole album is this sonically complex, which is why I have decided to concentrate on just one song. Otherwise we’d be here all fucking day.
Dark Juan is currently just sitting quietly in his seat, staring aimlessly into his computer screen, trying to put words to what he has just heard.
There are no words.
The Patented Dark Juan Blood Splat Rating System has decided that this is the first record in the history of heavy metal that does not need more cowbell. 10/10.
03. Removal Of The Oaken Stake
04. Child of Night
05. Sunless Empire
06. The Leather Apron’s Scorn
07. How Very Dead
08. The Wereworm’s Feast
09. A Womb In Dark Chrysalis (Interlude)
10. Dawn Of Rats
Trevor Strnad – Vocals
Brian Eschbach – Guitar, Vocals
Max Lavelle – Bass Guitar
Alan Cassidy – Drums
Brandon Ellis – Lead Guitar
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