Somehow, The Black Dahlia Murder found the time during their almost-constant touring schedule to record their ninth full-length album Verminous. Before diving headfirst into the music, let’s take a moment to appreciate the album art by Juanjo Castellano. Have you ever noticed that almost all of Black Dahlia’s covers, going back to 2007’s Nocturnal,feature a path leading to a throne or steps to a gloomy castle? This particular cover shows the ruins of an ancient city, overflowing with sewage, abundant in skulls and cockroaches.
The album opens with a soundscape of echoes of water dripping in a cavern with the screech of bats in the distance. But that ambience quickly shatters as Alan Cassidy rolls on the drums, bringing the listener into the title track. Throughout, Brandon Ellis pulls off extensive soulful solos that border on power metal that would make your boomer dad follow along on his air guitar. Max Lavelle is given a brief spotlight in “The Leather Apron’s Scorn” to show off his badass bass tone that would otherwise be buried under dual guitars.
The soundscape returns on the 50-second “A Womb in Dark Chrysalis,” as a build up to the closing track “Dawn of Rats.” Despite the album’s theme, the production is as clean as you would expect from a death metal band. The vocals are distinguishable and don’t sound like Strnad screaming into a toilet bowl. Every guitar note and hit on the drum is heard clearly, even at a fast-pace.
Black Dahlia stay on brand, providing music that’s fun and exhilarating, yet remains in the darkness, never venturing into upbeat territory. While I won’t call this their most musically diverse album, it solidifies their style of dark yet melodic technical death metal. Frontman Trevor Strnad claims the vermin referenced in his lyrics are a stand-in for the “heavy metal underground.” In any other genre, fans would probably not appreciate being likened to a legion of rats and insects, but in the world of metal, fans would wear that distinction as a badge of honor.
Written by Chris
*Edited by Dominic Abate