The Black Dahlia Murder – “Verminous” (Metal Blade Records)
19 years on. 9 albums on. 9 tracks on. The Black Dahlia Murder are back. Having stoked the creative fires in “Nightbringers” 3 years ago to much acclaim, “Verminous” continues that evolution both overtly with new sounds but also in the minutiae of the new material. As they say, the devil is in the detail although I’m pleased to say there are no radical departures from the band’s core sound fusing American and British death metal with Scandinavian melodic death to great effect over the years, but rather extending 2017’s refinements which this time around, are more confidently employed. Call them obsessive, but I give The Black Dahlia Murder resounding credit for wanting to quality control their music with the drums being recorded at The Pipeyard in Plymouth, Michigan by ex-bassist and longtime studio guru Ryan “Bart” Williams, while the bulk of the album was recorded in New Jersey at guitarist Brandon Ellis’ home studio, the Shred Light District, then mixed by Tue Madsen and mastered by Alan Douches. As such, the sound here is very much focused on being as true to the band’s technically demanding live performance as can be in keeping in line with this heavy touring band’s desire to destroy themselves onstage every night! Blasting out with the title track ‘Verminous’ through heavy, grim riffs and Alan Cassidy’s excellent precision double bass beats before hitting stampeding speed, the overpowering Scandi melodies bolstered by even more neo classical guitar scaling really hits the detonation button in every aspect of brutality, technical wizardry and catchy beauty – what a start! Rolling in with even more passion, the spiraling Scandi melodies hit home again on ‘Sunless Empire’, contrasted to great effect by a perfectly arranged set of different vocal styles from Trevor Strnad’s harshness to roars and backing shout outs resulting in a superb example of death metal finesse especially when the beautifully wailing and soulful twin guitars of Brian Eschbach and Brandon Ellis take the song to a blissful finale. Squeaking, warbling and wailing to ‘The Leather Apron’s Scorn’ along to some deep bass lines from Max Lavelle and power pistoned on by Cassidy, the song rips and roars, driven by Strnad’s sandpaper raw vocals and the technical guitar work that constantly captivates you through its twisting drama – definitely a heart stopper. Soloing in on ‘The Wereworm’s Feast’ before the hooks of this beast sink in and the band hit the speed pedal, once again the twin guitar Scandi melodies, whether fast to mesmerize or slow to allow their heartfelt soul to sink in, do the deed magnificently as does Strnad’s relentless screeching throughout before the blast beating frenzied run to its finale. Dude, don’t ask me what some of the song titles mean but this is fucking great shit!!!