As the old saying goes—nothing is certain but death, taxes, and consistently stellar albums by The Black Dahlia Murder. Spoiler alert, Verminous is no exception. The band has crafted intricate death metal since their inception that is both melodic and uncompromisingly heavy, and their discography is bereft of any blatant bids for mainstream rock radio play. That doesn’t change here.
This album doesn’t recreate the wheel for metal, or even The Black Dahlia Murder, but it progresses their music into sweeping, ominous soundscapes. In fact, I would say this may be one of their most calculated albums. It reminds me of a defensive prize fighter. Where Nightbringers pummeled the listener with an aggressive offensive attack, Verminous ducks and weaves while delivering meticulously planned blows.
“Verminous” starts, appropriately, with the sounds of sewage and rats rooting around before igniting into a grand opening riff. The song quickly descends into the chaotic riffs and vocal acrobatics that The Black Dahlia Murder are known for. This song is an effective opener as it contains staples of the band’s past while introducing the grandiose, sweeping soundscapes I mentioned earlier.
That leads us into a ripper of a song, “Godlessly.” This track is classic Black Dahlia. It’s unrelenting from start to finish and keeps the momentum of the album moving into “Removal of the Oaken Stake.” This is the first track that fully exhibits the evolution in sound compared to previous releases. I can’t imagine this track being on Nightbringers, for example. It takes its time with mid-paced riffs, melodic leads, and a looming chorus that contrasts the classic Black Dahlia fury of the tracks that preceded it. There is a Gothenburg quality to the overall feel of this track, and this is not a bad thing. I’ll take Black Dahliaburg any day of the week.
“Child of Night” is a thrashy anthem track perfectly tailored to get fans involved at live shows, which is fitting for these road dogs. The track is infectious and likely to remain stuck in your head long after it’s over. The pacing is similar to “Removal of the Oaken Stake,” with different artistic strokes to set it apart.
“Sunless Empire” is a thudding track marching along at a similar pace to the songs that preceded it. This isn’t necessarily a detriment as we get some of the most impressive fretboard gymnastics displayed on the album. “The Leather Apron’s Scorn” continues the precedent established set by “Removal of the Oaken Stake.” How this track stands out compared to the three mid-pacers that preceded it is the tremolo picking, slow chugging, and catchy riffage. I had this main riff stuck in my head almost as much as the chorus to “Child of Night.”
“How Very Dead” injects the listener with some much-needed adrenaline. It reminds me more of the first two tracks on Verminous than any others previously and was perfectly placed to avoid listener fatigue. My favorite part of this track is the chaotic, sliding power chords utilized around 1:28.
Verminous continues at its accelerated pace with “The Wereworm’s Feast.” Let me just say, when I first read the title to this song on the tracklist, I had high expectations. I am a GIGANTIC fan of The Lord of the Rings. One does not simply name a song after a Tolkien creation to have it be a dud. Drum roll please… this song is not a fucking dud. In my humble opinion, it is the strongest track on the album flush with epic riffs and soaring leads that would make Sauron blush. This song will take you there and back again. I promise I’m done with The Lord of the Rings references, but if Black Dahlia ever did a cover of this I’d shit my pants. Imagine it right now. It would fucking kick ass and you know it. Can we start a Kickstarter for this? Maybe the guys can just do us a solid because the world is ending anyway.
We end with the hauntingly grotesque instrumental, “A Womb in Dark Chrysalis (Interlude),” with the sounds of sewage and rats returning. In comedy, they would call that a callback, folks! As the instrumental morphs into “Dawn of Rats,” our journey has come full circle. The grand finale is a hulking and grandiose track rather than a straight ripper. I think it is fitting considering the direction they were going for on Verminous. It ends ominously rather than thunderously.
Overall, this album is devoid of the over-production that many modern bands utilize. Rather than sounding like a recording software program pummeling my eardrums, this album has palpable “live band” energy coursing through it. The Black Dahlia Murder genuinely takes chances throughout Verminous by injecting more dynamics in the songwriting. I respect any band willing to progress their sound to avoid making a stale record, which must be unequivocally challenging for a band that makes nothing but solid albums.
With Verminous, the band has evolved their sound into the next decade with ease. Even though there are parts in the middle of the album that don’t quite match the songwriting prowess displayed at the beginning and end, there isn’t a weak track on here. I can see some people being let down by the increased number of mid-paced numbers, but I think they offer the album more variety and originality than your standard death metal affair.
Death sucks. Taxes suck. The Black Dahlia Murder? They still don’t suck, and I bet you can set your watch to it.
Favorite Songs: “Godlessly,” “Removal of the Oaken Stake,” and “The Wereworm’s Feast”
Release Date: 4/17/2020
Label: Metal Blade Records
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