Written by Sean Tanner
THE BLACK DAHLIA MURDER'S TREVOR STRNAD DISCUSSES SONIC EVOLUTION AND GRIM LYRICISM OF NEW RECORD
A classic dilemma of any band is how to keep their sound fresh without losing the essence of who they are. Countless bands have struggled and floundered, either becoming stale in their attempt to stay true to who they are and not stepping outside their comfort zone, or taking those steps and not having it pan out in a positive way. This tends to be an especially strenuous journey when dealing with a fanbase as passionate and outspoken as the one in the world of metal.
The Black Dahlia Murder is an anomaly. Nine full albums in and you’d be hard-pressed to find any fan who would claim the band has misstepped at any point. The melodic death metal veterans from Michigan were already flying high after the release of Nightbringers in 2017, and they’ve continued to break new ground on their latest release, Verminous.
“There’s always that straddling of the line of doing what we know the fans are gonna like and doing what we want,” says frontman and co-founder Trevor Strnad.
“I feel like there’s a certain amount of growth on every album that we do, but I feel like this one is the biggest leap, the most amount of change,” he continues. “I think it has the most individual personality between songs. It’s more various, more dynamic, more colourful.”
Whenever a band explores new ground, it’s a risk. Audiences can see change as an improvement or a detriment to a band’s sound. With Verminous, the Black Dahlia Murder delivers what audiences have come to expect, plus more.
“Pretty much every record we write is harder to play live,” he says. “As the band gets more technical with every record, I feel like I’m trying to keep up and respond to the new level of musicianship.”
Not surprising, as Strnad bounces up and down his vocal range more fluidly on each album. This is brought to another level here on Verminous with tracks like, “How Very Dead”, a song about being embalmed alive. The song was inspired by the true story of a Russian woman who, after being mistaken for dead, was injected with embalming fluid.
In another song, “The Wereworm’s Feast”, Strnad shares another grizzly scene.
“At night this guy turns into a maggot, and he crawls through a bunch of dead bodies eating them,” he explains. “He wakes up every morning covered in dirt and mud. I’ve written a lot of songs about turning into a werewolf or something powerful like that, I wanted to do one about turning into something that you REALLY don’t wanna be.”
Strnad’s focus on the intricacies of his vocal range could be owed, at least partially, to his conscious “less is more” approach with the lyrics, using fewer words to each song this time around. Thoughtful lyrical placements and breathing spaces lend themselves well to the album’s thematic message. A metaphor for the heavy metal scene.
“It’s kind of embracing that underdog status of, yeah, we’re the rats and the roaches and the nasty creatures that the white picket fence world doesn’t want to acknowledge,” he says. “Like the antithesis of what ‘they’ are and what ‘they’ want. The pariah of society with our black t-shirts and our love of weird things and macabre. I think the average person thinks that metalheads are weird still. I also feel like rats and cockroaches are, especially, some of those evolutionarily perfect creatures. They haven’t really changed in so long, they’ve been around forever and they’ll probably be around after man destroys itself. They’re creatures that were built to last.”
Verminous is available now.