The Black Dahlia Murder:
Bloody hell. What an album.
I’ve been on the melodic death metal scene for a long time. I’m a huge fan of In Flames, Children of Bodom, Amon Amarth. I like everything I’ve heard of Dark Tranquility, At The Gates, Arch Enemy, and Soilwork (Forgive me if I’m mis-genre-ing these artists by the way. I’ve stated before how bad I am at identifying musical sub-categories). But for whatever reason, I had never gotten around to listening to The Black Dahlia Murder until last week.
They’re so good! Goddamn. I know I overpraise everything in my reviews (mostly because I only bother reviewing things that I like), but seriously this is close to a flawless album. The intensity never lets up for a second. Each track bangs with a massively diverse range of energetic beats and riffs. The vocal range on display is simply mind-boggling. The guitars break out from grungy, rhythmic blasts into high-flying melodic solos so seamlessly you’d barely notice the transitions back and forth – not a moment of unnecessary shred-wank. The singer’s high and low screams intertwine effortlessly on top of breakneck but superbly intricate drum lines to create a non-stop tumultuous tidal wave of raw, explosive musical power. I was hooked from start to finish.
They’ve been doing this for nineteen years now, so you’d expect them to be pretty good. Having loved Verminous so much I now intend to delve back in time through their entire catalogue, and I predict I’ll be just as enamoured. I think the thing that impressed me most with this one, aside from the general cohesiveness and complete feel of the whole album, was the vocalist. He truly is phenomenal, and I find myself appreciating it more on each subsequent listen. I’ve personally been a bit of a fence-sitter in the past where screams and growls are concerned. I’m no fan of Dying Fetus or Anal Cunt’s grunted mumblings that sound like the death throes of a horny toad, but then most people aren’t. I have no problem with rough, heavy vocals such as Amon Amarth’s, but I generally prefer my screams with a bit of clean vocals mixed in for contrast (think In Flames, Killswitch Engage, Children of Bodom). Listening to Verminous, however, gave me a deeper appreciation of what sort of diverse effect is possible through screaming alone. In some songs such as Removal of the Oaken Stake and How Very Dead it almost sounded like two different singers having a dialogue with each other the way he switches so quickly between highs and lows. Also, in a way, because I have no clue what he’s actually saying, I found that the screamed vocals allowed me to see them more as another instrument and a piece of the musical puzzle than something separate from the music as cleaner vocals sometimes seem.
It’s well worth reading their lyrics, however. Though it’s not a concept album exactly, it is very heavily themed. As the title and artwork would suggest, Verminous is closely inspired by horror imagery and tropes, generally taking on one particular subject therein for each track. Removal of the Oaken Stake is about vampires for example, The Leather Apron’s Scorn about Jack the Ripper, and so on. This also helps to lend the album a distinct personality and feel and adds an extra layer of intrigue with some of the less obvious themes such as Dawn of Rats or A Womb in Dark Chrysalis which are great fun to research during or after your first listen.
I think if I was to try to explain why I like death metal to somebody with absolutely no experience of it, I would show them this album, probably In Flames: Come Clarity, and maybe Amon Amarth: Twilight of the Thunder God. It’s right up there with the best examples of the genre for me. Just for the sheer musical talent exhibited in every single moment, I think even somebody who wasn’t a fan of the genre would have to admit that it’s technically astonishing, makes you want to move, and draws in your attention with its exuberant energy.
And that’s about all I’ve got to say – can’t praise it enough. I don’t really have any negatives to point out. If you’re into any of the other bands I listed above, or have wondered at some point what all the hype surrounding melodic death metal was about, do yourself a favour and check this one out. I’m giving Verminous a contextual score of 9 out of 10.
Thanks for reading.
Written – June 2020
Published – June 2020