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Album Review: The Black Dahlia Murder’s Venomous Verminous

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I have a great fear that the metal community may, at some point, come to take The Black Dahlia Murder for granted. For seventeen years now, the band has consistently released an excellent new album almost every two years like clockwork. Even line-up changes don’t derail them: guitarist Brian Eschbach, who never seems to run out of incredible riffs, and vocalist Trevor Strnad, who is inarguably one of the most charismatic metal frontmen working today, have been the only consistent members of the group since their 2003 debut, Unhallowed. The fact that a new TBDM album is killer is about as surprising as the fact that the sun came up this morning.

But think about how truly remarkable that is! Verminous — the first Black Dahlia Murder album to come out three years after its predecessor — is the band’s ninth full-length, and the ninth time they’ve hit a creative home run. What other metal bands can make that kind of claim? I don’t think any of the Big Four bands have been so reliable. TBDM’s legendary death metal forbearers, like Carcass and Morbid Angel, have lacked that level of steadiness. Maybe Cannibal Corpse? AC-friggin’-DC? Even that’s kind of up for debate. Strapping Young Lad or Nevermore might have gotten there if they hadn’t broken up too soon. At the Gates haven’t had a misstep, but they also broke took a twenty year break. That The Black Dahlia Murder are so invariably great makes them highly unique.

So yeah, I can tell you that Verminous rules, that it has another batch of songs that are so good I can’t even fathom how the group makes their set lists at this point without disappointing someone, and that it’s gonna be on countless Best Of lists at the end of the year, and you can say, “Yeah, no shit, tell me something I don’t know”… but that would be doing Verminous a serious disservice. The Black Dahlia Murder deserve a goddamn motherfucking parade, motherfuckers.

This is especially true because Verminous is the band’s meanest, most unforgiving album to date. Sure, “Removal of the Oaken Stake” and “The Wereworm’s Feast” are the kind of cinematic, groove-laden tracks for which the band is best known, and the most-excellent “Dawn of Rats” continues their tradition of ending albums on an especially epic note… but the rest of the album is considerably less inviting. Songs such as the stuttering “Sunless Empire,” the moody, brass-knuckled “The Leather Apron’s Scorn,” and “How Very Dead,” which sounds like the necrophiliac “couple” from “Deathmask Divine” getting a divorce, are among the most abusive songs TBDM have ever produced.

Whatever respite from seething sonic scorn the album has to offer comes mainly from the fluid, surprisingly melodic leads of guitarist Brandon Ellis, who truly comes into his own on Verminous. Don’t get me wrong — the dude has always been impressive as fuck — but I didn’t think anyone could ever match Ryan Knight as my favorite Black Dahlia guitarist. I stand corrected: Ellis totally slays it here.

(And while I may be singling Ellis out for praise, that should not lead you to believe that the rest of the band, including drummer Alan Cassidy and bassist Max Lavelle, give performances that are anything less than top-notch. Every member of The Black Dahlia Murder should be awarded as much oral sex as they can handle.)

So, yeah: Verminous is just another great Black Dahlia Murder album, but it’s not JUST another great Black Dahlia Murder album. It’s yet more evidence that The Black Dahlia Murder are truly in a league of their own. Do NOT take a gift like this for granted.

The Black Dahlia Murder’s Verminous comes out Friday, April 17 on Metal Blade. Listen to the title track here and pre-order the album here. Check out Trevor Strnad’s recent interview on The MetalSucks Podcast here, and take a video tour of his home here.

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