The Black Dahlia Murder – Verminous (Metal Blade Records)

The Black Dahlia Murder have a unique place in modern death metal. Fierce as hell and rooted in Swedish melodeath, the US quintet were (unfairly) branded as a deathcore act early on – so were often deemed as personae non grata by veteran DM heads. The band have always seemed to occupy their own space. Even vocalist Trevor Strnad’s relentless championing of the underground death metal scene will not convince some old schoolers of his band’s credibility.

However, The Black Dahlia Murder have just got on with it, nurturing a substantial global fanbase and relentlessly releasing raging album’s like 2017’s formidable Nightbringers as the years have unfolded.

Verminous, their ninth full length, is no evolutionary leap for the band. It’s not going to suddenly win over death metallers whose holy grail is Dawn Of Possession or Onward To Golgotha.

It’s still unmistakably TBDM and still bears all of their hallmarks.

Godlessly and How Very Dead blast away remorselessly, with founding guitarist Brian Eschbach and partner in crime Brandon Ellis fuelling the onslaught with their scything, melodic axework. Strnad rasps with all the venom that he first showed on Unhallowed and Miasma. And Max Lavelle and Alan Cassidy are the turbo-charged rhythm section steering the ship on course.  

So what’s different?

Well, this opus bows more reverently to classic heavy metal than many of its predecessors. The Wereworm’s Feast has a graveyard-lurking vibe that brings to mind Mercyful Fate, The Sunless Empire deals in colossal, 80s rock solos as well as deep melancholy, and album closer Dawn Of Rats is one of the most anthemic ditties in The Black Dahlia Murder canon, the hyperspeed verses merging into sweeping, all-conquering choruses.

The ace in the pack, however, is the title track: Eschbach and Ellis keep their fretwork (relatively) simple, the fine-tuned dynamics ensure it’s locked on target, and the menacing mood shifts give it an unsettling, bloody hue. The song is the best of The Black Dahlia Murder rolled into four dramatic minutes.

Like much of TBDM’s work, the album can seem frantic, but there’s a greater emotional weight to Verminous than some of the band’s previous efforts.  

So take your time with this record. You’ll be rewarded for it.