Editors’ Notes On their ninth album, melodic death metal vets The Black Dahlia Murder descend to new lyrical depths, using the sewer as a metaphor for the metal underground. “With Verminous, I’m saying that this sacred knowledge that we have of our beloved underground is a kind of plague,” vocalist Trevor Strnad tells Apple Music. “We’re the rats and the creepy-crawly creatures that the white-picket-fence world doesn’t want to acknowledge, and we’re spreading this plague.” Given the album’s release during the global coronavirus lockdown, Strnad’s chosen theme has proven oddly prescient. “It’s very timely, unfortunately,” he acknowledges. “But I think if anything, it’ll make people remember this record. They’ll have nothing to do but sit there and listen to it.” Below, Strnad plunges us into the band’s Verminous underworld.

Verminous
“I think this is the most traditional Black Dahlia song of the record. It's high-energy death-thrashing madness. Lyrically, that's where we really bring home the theme of being underground, where the slime live—and we're the slime. We are the nightmares of the normal world and the antithesis of religion. I’m basically saying that death metal is the music of freedom. The idea is that when you dive into this world of metal, there's no going back.”

Godlessly
“‘Godlessly’ is about a post-apocalyptic, zombie-ridden world that has turned man against each other—and man is more deadly than the dead. It’s also a world without God. You can't dispute it at this point, because the whole world is ruined and wrecked and covered with zombies. It’s a very fast song, with definite At the Gates vibes in the verse riffs and some great blasting by [drummer] Alan Cassidy. I tried to do a little bit of a new voice for the song, which is also kind of At the Gates-y, a little bit Tompa [Lindberg]-styled.”

Removal of the Oaken Stake
“This is probably my personal favorite from the record. It's a very different song for us. It's a little bit more mid-paced, a little bit more rocking, a little bit more groove than we'd normally do. We closed the hi-hat, which is wild for us. It reveals the entire verse and the entire chorus of the song without any vocals, first thing. I’ll be onstage mixing a cocktail or something during that. It’s very different for us to have so much breathing room. That’s something I’ve tried to give this album—more space and less crammed-in vocals, in hopes that it would up the catchiness factor. Lyrically, I was influenced by this role-playing game, Rifts, that I used to play in school. There was a comic strip in the book—four panels of this vampire that was a skeleton, with a stake in his chest, just sitting there, collecting dust. In the second panel, the stake was pulled out. The third panel showed him with sinew and muscle growing back over the bones. And then the fourth panel was him as a full-blown vampire. So the lyric is about being in that purgatory where you're a staked vampire in a coffin as human history is going by. And you’re just sitting there for centuries, in hopes that someone's going to foolishly pull that stake out for you.”

Child of Night
“This is one of [guitarist] Brian [Eschbach]’s songs, and musically it’s very Morbid Angel. We’ve definitely mined some Morbid Angel in the past, but it's traditionally the more slimy slow stuff. So this is our fast Covenant jam right here. I had just seen Morbid Angel the night before I wrote the lyrics and tracked the demo, so I was just feeling that vibe so hard. I tried to write a Lovecraftian sort of stream-of-consciousness lyric to match that old David Vincent style. For the voice, I was thinking of a kind of bridge between Dave and Steve Tucker. It just felt like it demanded a low vocal. There’s also a really nice melodic instrumental section before the solo, which—again—circles back to me shutting up every once in a while on this record.”

Sunless Empire
“This has got a lot of musical parts that would elicit an emotional response, I think. There’s some gripping melancholy there. The lyric goes back to the whole underground thing, talking about us being the rats and the roaches down in the deep, shunning the normal world. It’s just a thinly veiled take on the underground scene and championing our underdog status in the world.”

The Leather Apron’s Scorn
“This is about Jack the Ripper. It’s very tried-and-true, clichéd metal stuff, but that’s where my heart is, honestly. I’m never going to stop singing about vampires, man. I’m never going to stop singing about zombies, no matter how cliché. It’s just what metal is to me. There’s a lot of great Jack the Ripper songs out there, and Judas Priest’s ‘The Ripper’ was a big influence for this. I was just trying to embody how fearful people were at that time, hiding behind locked doors in London while Jack the Ripper ruled the night.”

How Very Dead
“Musically, this is a Carcass tribute. It definitely has a sort of bridge between the Necroticism and Heartwork eras of Carcass. We've got some molten vibrato on the guitars there. I tried to sound as English as I could with the vocals and do my best Bill Steer impression for the lows. The lyrics have a sort of forensic slant, honoring Carcass. It’s a story I heard about someone in Russia who was embalmed alive. They thought she was dead and shot her full of formaldehyde. She woke up screaming and was killed very painfully on the spot by it. Sometimes the real world is creepier than anything you can dig up in a horror movie.”

The Wereworm's Feast
“This is more of a classic heavy metal song, which has been a flavor that [guitarist] Brandon [Ellis] has been injecting into the band since he joined for [2017’s] Nightbringers. It's kind of got a bouncy King Diamond vibe and starts with that ripping-ass solo. Vocally, I tried to do something with an early Slayer attitude, but I tried to bedazzle it a bit. And the lyric is about turning into a worm at night—instead of a werewolf, it’s a wereworm. We came up with the idea on tour, when we were doing European accents and talking about that band Verbum.”

A Womb in Dark Chrysalis (Interlude)
“It’s a classic trope of melodic death metal records to have that little acoustic passage. A lot of At the Gates and Dark Tranquillity records have it; this one has a bit of a Dissection flair to the melodies. It’s a sad little piece that sets up the last song, which is very neoclassical. In the background, there’s a return of the sewer sounds you hear before the album starts. This guy Michael Ghelfi makes these soundtracks for role-playing games, and he was cool enough to let us use this sample in return for promoting him a little bit.”

Dawn of Rats
“This has an intensely epic feel. It's definitely got that fugue-y thing going on where both guitars are doing something different and the bass is doing something different, in a very neoclassical approach. It's kind of steeped in Swedish black metal, sound-wise. The lyric is about these rats that live in an old church. They’ve been observing molestation there for a long time, and after a while they organize and attack the preacher and devour him in a big frenzy. It’s the big climax of the record.”

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