Review: “Verminous” by The Black Dahlia Murder

In 2001 when The Black Dahlia Murder first appeared on the scene, they were lumped in with heavy end Metalcore acts despite their clear Death Metal stylisations. Taking their name from the 1947 unsolved murder of Elizabeth Short, often referred to as Black Dahlia, 2020 sees the Waterford Michigan act delivering their ninth studio album via long term label home Metal Blade Records. No strangers to a line up change, this time out the band remain that which delivered “Nightbringers” in 2017, vocalist Trevor Strnad, rhythm guitarist Brian Eschbach, bassist Max Lavelle, drummer Alan Cassidy and lead guitarist Brandon Ellis, for whom this is the second record after he replaced Ryan Knight last time around. Ex-bassist and longtime studio engineer Ryan “Bart” Williams recorded the drums at The Pipeyard in Plymouth Michigan, while the rest of “Verminous” was recorded in New Jersey at Shred Light District, guitarist Brandon Ellis’ home studio with Ellis and the band producing themselves. Tue Madsen (Heaven Shall Burn, Meshuggah) Mixed while Alan Douches (Cremations, Kvelertak) Mastered.

How do you follow up an album which many see as your finest work? There is no doubt that “Nightbringers” was an album that found The Black Dahlia Murder at their best but three years on Brandon Ellis should be feeling less pressure that he did when filling the much loved Ryan Knight’s shoes. Double kicking off with the percussive power of title track “Verminous“, which is a so much more than a tone setter for the record. It launches flares into the dark skies and signals that the band are back with breakneck speed riff tornadoes and a couple of Thrashier moments. “Godlessly” then changes the gears upward, throwing gasoline on the already raging fire with some tremolo-picked arrangements of high end Technical Death Metal mastery and a face melting solo adding a melodic curve. Neither track is anything the band haven’t done before but they are both razor sharp and masterfully created. Release day single “Removal Of The Oaken Stake” changes gears once again with bright leads cutting through the dark waters like a hot knife through butter and delivering an ethereal touch that rips from the underbelly of a deliciously fat mid section.

That same feel is brought into “Child Of Night“, with soaring leads and solid riffs that defy the odds, which seemed stacked against The Black Dahlia Murder pulling out such a polished record this time around. Strnad is a master storyteller and vocally he brings his “A” game. As the album plays out, it’s clear that the band are not as reliant on his work this time around with longer instrumental passages loaded with headbangable riffs and dark atmosphere that The Faceless would kill for. “Sunless Empire” emerges from the mist like a beast from beyond and is just as razor sharp while having some neat tempo shifts that ooze Death Metal class with a mesmerising solo from Ellis. It’s an ode to the 90’s Death Metal that was no doubt influential and perhaps to Carcass as much as anyone else. “The Leather Apron’s Scorn” has an infectious groove and furiously frenetic riffs while some short whammy bar moments are a welcome addition. It grows in pace and energy with the the final flourish it takes it to another level.

If the album up to “How Very Dead” was as much about the band as anything else, this track is all about the vocalist with Strnad delivering his finest performance of the record with powerful gutterals to off another fine solo. Wasting no time with an introduction, “The Wearworm’s Feast” launches head long into a solo before dialing things back with more control than some of the earlier hell for leather cuts. Clever use of the whammy bar once more without murdering the sound is on point while the sheer gallop of the track is very well executed indeed. The false ending before a Thrash influenced final 60 seconds which owes much to the Bay Area is masterfully crafted. You might not think it, but The Black Dahlia Murder might have an Exodus cover in them. Bringing back the sounds of dripping water in a sewer of rats with some acoustic guitar for “A Womb In Dark Chrysalis (Interlude)” is just a pallette cleansing moment, although it could have introduced the album as a whole. It sets the scene for “Dawn Of Rats” which saves the best until last. Throughout their career The Black Dahlia Murder have been known to produce a beast of a track to close a record and this one is no different. Tight tremolo and technical blasting, it’s a Death Metal anthem of gargantuan proportions [8/10]

Track listing

  1. Verminous
  2. Godlessly
  3. Removal Of The Oaken Stake
  4. Child Of Night
  5. Sunless Empire
  6. The Leather Apron’s Scorn
  7. How Very Dead
  8. The Wearworm’s Feast
  9. A Womb In Dark Chrysalis (Interlude)
  10. Dawn Of Rats

“Verminous” by The Black Dahlia Murder is out now via Metal Blade Records

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