Review Summary: The band's ninth full-length shows no signs of giving up.
When a death metal band is nine albums into their career, generally there's an expectation that consistency will have dwindled and creativity has saturated into a state of stagnation. Not for The Black Dahlia Murder, who seem to be getting stronger and stronger with every release. It seems hard to conceive that the band have been around now for nigh on two decades, yet even with that knowledge you feel Trevor Strnad and co. are just getting started. The Black Dahlia Murder is ultimately one of the more consistent groups in the world of death metal, and latest album Verminous
is only more proof to back such a statement up.
The band's ninth full-length in no way shows signs of giving up. Sure, it slows down in the second half but doesn't ever give you the impression TBDM are being lenient in their performance. The opening title track is a riveting listen, speedy and menacing as we all expected but also sharply precise thanks to those note-perfect changes from one part of the song to the next. Strnad as usual goes the extra mile to stretch his vocal work beyond limitations, seething screams and bloodied gargles portraying a vocalist clearly at the top of his game. “Godlessly” is initially similar to its predecessor but demonstrates more of a melodious and ambitious affair, the guitar work aspiring to creative heights as it spirals into technical flair with as little OTT as is needed for such a sound. It's here where all band members seem to be playing out of their collective skulls. The pace is still frenzied but allows room form the instrumentation to settle down, and though this is only apparent during that well-refined solo section, it's well-placed and certainly demonstrates maturity.
The album's second half seems somewhat worn out compared to those first five songs, but not necessarily in a bad way. Although “The Leather Apron's Scorn” barely moves from its initial descent into a doomier death metal soundscape and “The Wereworm's Feast” has a bit too much horror storytelling to be taken seriously, both songs maintain a confident instrumental presence to ensure the listener's attention is on the advantages rather than the disadvantages. That said, Strnad's neverending vocal force is one to be reckoned with, and he injects a hell of a lot more excitement into this album than most other death metal groups. One thing that does turn out to be a bit of a downer for the album however is that the general change of pace from “Sunless Empire” to “The Leather Apron's Scorn” seems a bit jagged, though really this may be a song placement issue than anything else. Even if you think the tension is lifted a little in the second half of the album, closer “Dawn of Rats” brings that crushing TBDM sound back to the forefront and ensures Verminous
finishes on a memorable high.
It would be remiss to say that The Black Dahlia Murder are past their best, and though the question of the band's best era continue to divide fans, everyone can surely be grateful that 9 albums and two decades into their career, they still manage to sound as fresh and as full of beans as they were when forming back in 2001. They've certainly done the job on Verminous
, and then some.