When you can manage an entire Dungeons and Dragons campaign out of the story of an album, you know you have created lore and depth in a medium. I can’t say I expected that medium to be a death metal album, much less a Black Dahlia Murder disc, but with Verminous, we have just that, as the band released a special edition of this album complete with themed dice and a full campaign, titled “Depths of Drasted.” Marketing campaign aside, this speaks to the layers of the album as a whole. While it is rooted in melodic death metal, as is most native to the band, there are flirtations and dips in the pool with grindcore, black metal, and power metal that make this 36-minute package well worth the price of admission.
The title track starts in with some great drumming from Alan Cassidy, before the pace quickens and all hell breaks loose. The guitar solo is among the most melodic the band has ever put out, and it adds to this monster of an album opener. “Godlessly” is full of blast beats and elements of grind and thrash, creating a gruesome, violent sound that is less melodic and more menacing. A glimmer of power metal riffing comes through on “Removal of the Oaken Stake,” which gives way to blast beats before returning to the main riff. The doubling of the main riff in the chorus is the melodic edge the song wholly benefits from.
“Child of Night,” the second single from Verminous, is dripping with black metal tendencies and furious rhythm guitar riffage. Somehow, on an album full of dark heavy music, this track stands out above the rest of the pack. Also, if the “ih-ah ih-ah!” chant doesn’t get crowd participation at live shows, I’d be sorely disappointed. The guitar work on “Sunless Empire” is excellent as well, with a palm-mute-heavy verse riff. Tempo is traded in for methodical, hulking pace on “The Leather Apron’s Scorn,” as vocalist Trevor Strnad goes for deeper growls over the palm-muted rhythm guitars.
The intro to “How Very Dead” feels very different for Black Dahlia Murder. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but before long, the song sounds like quintessential TBDM, as the blast beats and urgent pace return to the fold. More power metal influences bleed through on “The Wereworm’s Feast,” especially in its intro lead. It’s the most against the BDM grain track on the album, but enough elements of the band’s signature sound make cameos to make it fit in with the rest of the album and the band’s extensive catalog.
As the track fades into the interlude “A Womb in Dark Chrysalis,” we get an acoustic calm before the storm, with a sub-one minute intermission that brings memories of In Flames and some of their acoustic-tinged melodic sections. The brakes are released and “Dawn of Rats” unleashes everything, with machine gun kicks and more black metal tremolo picking. It’s a manic, untethered ender to a blistering slab of melodeath, a last burst towards an arbitrary finish line.
Not since Deflorate have The Black Dahlia Murder been on their A-game quite like this. Seeing as the album reached number 4 on the Billboard album charts in its first week out, it seems as though the verdict from the court of public opinion is in, and that is that Black Dahlia Murder, now nine records deep, aren’t just capable of great music, but of great albums. Verminous is a roaring success for the band, and for heavy music as a whole.