The Black Dahlia Murder – Verminous (Album Review)

Tragically, in January of 1947, the murdered and mutilated body of one Elizabeth Short was discovered in Los Angeles, leading to a now infamous case that would crown Short as ‘the Black Dahlia.’ Her untimely death would impact pop culture for decades to come, and give name to a Death Metal band out of Michigan.

Birthed in 2001, in Waterford, The Black Dahlia Murder would release their debut studio disc, Unhallowed, in 2003, immediately establishing themselves as a vital and brutal name in Extreme Metal. An additional seven full-lengths followed over the next 14 years, delivering the band impressive Billboard showings with 2005’s Miasma and 2009’s Deflorate. In total, the quintet have produced 2 demos, 2 EPs, and 8 full-lengths throughout their career, to date.

But it’s time for lucky number nine: Verminous, which arrives on Friday, April 17th, 2020, via the band’s long-time label, Metal Blade Records. Mixed by Tue Madsen and mastered by Alan Douches, the 10-song LP contains 9 pummeling pieces of the heaviest of Metal, along with the interlude “A Womb in Dark Chrysalis.”

Verminous opens to the sound of an echoing cavern filled with bats and dripping water, and the titular “Verminous” has begun. Guitars tear through the air with a frantic pace, cavorting in a layered movement over the clattering of the drums. Vocalist Trevor Strnad screeches and howls like a madman before the song winds down into a swirling black hole. Second track, “Godlessly,” is a gnarly patch of vociferous guitar work and percussion as Strnad weaves a tale of blackened, godless existence marked by nothingness in the beyond. The drums pound away like a death march, the guitars are a Stygian symphony meant to accompany one as they fall endlessly through emptiness.

“Child of Night” builds up with the lower end of the guitars before an explosion of chugging, rhythmic work. As the drums burn the candle at both ends with the speed of a heartbeat, a brief but coherent chorus of echoing screams pleads for his incubi brothers and succubus sisters to rise. Here, Strnad begs, Won’t you burn in Hell with me?,before the song drops into a breakdown complete with a lush and haunting guitar solo. Then, the more melodically-based introduction of “Sunless Empire” prepares the listener for a descent into pulsing cadence, crafting a track that is wicked and despairing in a truly alluring sense.

Continuing to envelope itself in the macabre, the album delivers “How Very Dead,” simplistic but somewhat lyrically poetic as the drums slam and clatter in the space above the virulent guitars. Then it all concludes with “Dawn of Rats,” a savagely ferocious blend of earth-quaking percussion that backs the guttural shrieks delivered by Strnad. However, it is the side-winding and perilous guitar work from Brian Eschbach and Brandon Ellis that makes the song what it is. In this, the album’s finale builds upon itself in a descent of articulately chosen chaos and fervent pacing, serving as the perfect end to a phenomenal collection.

Verminous is rhythmically diverse, as it often maintains a face-melting momentum, only switching off for brilliant rhythm changes. Between its metric is a masterpiece of canorous guitar solos that evoke feelings of morose and foreboding, as well as the melodic overtones brought in by Ellis’ lead guitars that stand out on songs like “Removal of Oaken State.”

Throughout, the content of the album is nefarious and abominable, just the way fans of the band like it. With tracks like “The Leather Aprons Scorn” and “The Wereworm’s Feast,” which may or may not be a Lord of the Rings reference, the songs bring a wickedness to otherwise placid things. Sonorous, with a crystal clear authenticity in its audio, Verminous is a triumph in the hands of The Black Dahlia Murder. For this, Cryptic Rock rates the album 5 of 5 stars.

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