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Did The Black Dahlia Murder, in their infinite wisdom, produce their latest album Verminous just ripe for these times? With some editions including a full Dungeons and Dragons campaign, you’re quite right to think so.
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Hailing once from Michigan but spread far and wide, the metalhead’s metal band have never hid their nerd side. Castles and warriors feature throughout their body of work, littered with geeky easter eggs from the golden 8- and 16-bit era of console gaming. First ever demo
Hysteria: You’re in New York at the moment, the hardest hit by the pandemic. But since we’re metalheads, we’ve imagined this scenario before. You’ve sung about this in one way or another before.
Trevor: The way Verminous has these themes…it’s just eerie. Talking about pandemics and spreading plague. We had no idea. We saw something coming, in a weird, terrifying way. It’s typical fodder I think for metal lyrics. But weird that it’s so timely, like us and also Cattle Decapitation. Like a lot of plague-centric stuff right now too.
Their video for Bring Back The Plague done all in isolation…genius.
That was hilarious. Someone taking the piss out of this whole thing, it’s great.
The sound on Verminous sounds much more old-school than the past few releases, tell us about that.
Yeah, we were looking for a really classic like mid to late nineties vibe, kind of like capturing the spirit before ProTools came along. I feel too much reliance on ProTools has become the norm and it’s really sucked the life out of extreme metal. In a lot of cases, bands have the same drum samples. They have the same exact guitar tone. They have the same like, yes. So production is intense sounding, but there’s no personality to it any more. There’s no individual talents. There’s no liveliness in the drums. There’s no human aspect. Well a lot of tech death, especially so. We wanted to buck that trend and kind of go back to the old ways of recording where we keep the drums live. You don’t slide them onto the grid. That would be a disrespect to our drummer. He’s too good to need a computer to rely on. So in the end, the result is a more individual sounding album like they used to be. It has its own vibe, its own personality. It’s not perfect, it’s not super polished, but it’s real. It’s more real. It’s more timeless sounding I think.
If something is too perfect, you can’t really connect with it as much. I don’t know about you, but one of the best compliments a band can get is “wow, they sound just like their CD.” Is that a compliment for you and the band?
Well for us, we always try to be mindful of what we can reproduce live. That means not laying down like infinite guitar tracks or other things like that that some bands tend to do. So you think about what’s going to come across in the live environment, what’s going to resonate? What’s going to hit hard? Well we try to sound as much like the CD we can. But we’re a live band first and foremost. I think the CD is kind of an appetiser for the live situation.
Actual CD? I say CD because I still collect them, and I’m a nerd.
Oh yeah man. Me too.
For this album, you’ve gone all out. CDs, cassettes, vinyl, poster flags, a Dungeons and Dragons campaign…there’s something for everyone…provided they want something.
I’m a fan first. I’m still buying CDs and vinyl every week, all the time I have like 4,000 metal CDs lying about. It’s really hard to sell a physical copy any more, so you have to be inventive. You have to have a good incentive for people. So this time around it was the slime filled vinyl that we did. That made a big stir. This role playing game is really taking on a life of its own and attracting a lot of press and a lot of fans. But yeah, we’re definitely fans first and we’ve always been. So I definitely reflect that in trying to make our things collectible and interesting to that culture.
We wanted to buck that trend and kind of go back to the old ways of recording where we keep the drums live. You don’t slide them onto the grid. That would be a disrespect to our drummer. He’s too good to need a computer to rely on. So in the end, the result is a more individual sounding album like they used to be. It has its own vibe, its own personality. It’s not perfect, it’s not super polished, but it’s real. It’s more real. It’s more timeless sounding I think.
[ Trevor Strnad ]
The RPG thing is interesting; it’s come back a bit, the old school dice and paper RPG. Heavy metal had a parallel development with video games and RPGs like Castlevania, but also with slasher films and horror. Do you think all that is old is new again?
I’ve always seen metal as nerdy music. So many of those roles play into metal. Which led us to create a role playing game. There’s skeleton and dragon music. So we’ve always been flirting with the idea of doing some role playing friendly stuff like a dice kit or a Dungeon Master screen. Well this time, we would pull all the stops out and had someone write an adventure for Dungeons and Dragons that has themes like from the album. Themes from the artwork from the album. It all ties together with a sort of tongue in cheek metal perspective. There’s a lot of hidden classic metal tropes in the game itself and this cool little Easter eggs like that. So yeah, creating a big stir. It’s been an awesome thing, we want it to inspire people. I’ve got to get the record and those pre-orders flying off the shelf.
So what are you going to do at home? Plans to do a “live at home” session?
We don’t have any like plans to play a show online or anything like that. But we do have an old concert from our last tour. That’s really awesome with great sound, put that out. Stream that. I’ve been on Twitch a couple days trying to build up an audience. We did 3D World Runner yesterday, Kung Fu, the first Final Fantasy. I really love Nintendo and the 8-bit and 16-bit consoles, so I’ll delve into those.
Oh, you know it brother.
16-bit is what I grew up with. Super Metroid, Legend of Zelda, Starfox.
I love Super Nintendo and Genesis [Mega Drive] just as equally. Great games. Great systems. They definitely have a nostalgic force for me.
I didn’t have the consoles but a friend had SNES and Mortal Kombat. It didn’t have the fatalities. But my friend with the Genesis, did. So I stopped going to his place and went to my friend with the Genesis instead. “Sorry dude, he has the fatalities and blood and shit. No contest.”
“Yeah, he’s got the blood version bro. Of course I’m going over there.” He must have been the coolest kid in the neighbourhood.
But metal and video games have always been kindred. The OG Doom and the music. It was like on a Roland MT-32, but shit was heavy. Is all that stuff in the back of your mind?
It was very metal. Very cool. Well there’s been some, some songs. So, so there’s a lot of metallic music from the Castlevania series for example. neoclassical kind of flair. That’s the kind of flair we have as a band. So definitely.
2020 is up in the air for all of us, but if there’s a 2020 to salvage, what’s next for you and the band?
We’re hoping this will blow over by the summer. We’re still on for our outdoor European festival appearances and after that, we’re assembling our US tour for the fall. Then there’s a European tour for winter. There’s talks about coming back to Oz. So yeah, just hopefully go back to normal soon.