Interview by Carcassbomb
I’m very glad to have had the chance to chat with Trevor from The Black Dahlia Murder about their upcoming album Verminous, coming out April 17th. I don’t have to introduce The Black Dahlia Murder do I? They’re one of the few bands who headline with older bands under them. They’re titans in the metal scene and they’re back with some quality fucking death metal. We discuss the artwork, we discuss lyric writing and we discuss his Twitch Stream too which can be found right here.
I also had the outstanding fortune to get a bit of extra time for a recorded fan Q&A that is a podcast exclusive! We talk cancelled shows, beer, favorite albums and finding new music. You can hear it on Noob Heavy Radio along with the audio for much of this interview. Spotify / Stitcher / Anchor
The Black Dahlia Murder
I really appreciate you talking to me about Verminous, I’ve been listening to it for the last couple of days and loving it. Verminous comes out on the 17th of April, how would you describe this album to someone who has never heard The Black Dahlia Murder?
I would say that it’s a melodic death metal record with elements of black metal and thrash metal. Kind of a melting pot of all the new. It’s extreme… it’s death metal. Even though it’s melodic and catchy it’s also got a certain violence to it.
And how would you describe it to long time fans?
I think that it is the most ambitious album that we’ve done in terms of dynamics and variety. It has a lot of fresh ideas and it feels like a very creative high point for us as a band.
There’s definitely a lot of creativity involved with this record. I read that on this one the band had greater control over the recording process. How has this hands on approach altered the sound this time round?
I think it just gave us an added amount of freedom to really realise the songs wholly and tweak the very small details to a degree. We had more time to like sit on the finished product before sending it off for mixing. And yeah I think it’s just us fleshing the songs out to a higher power than ever before, to more professional end product and a more wholly realised end product.
And is that much different from how you would normally make a Black Dahlia album?
No, I mean we’ve largely produced our own records in the past you know, we’re always anally retentive and controlling about not letting another person kind of stick their finger in the pie.
So it’s very natural to kind of have Brandon, the guitar player, be THAT guy. The kind of creative input guy and the guy recording everybody and overseeing everything. He’s just been such an awesome force to bring into the band at this point, even though he’s very young, he’s very experienced. He has like a wisdom beyond his age about all this stuff and he’s a very musical person, very well versed in all kinds of music. And he’s teaching us alot, we’re learning a lot from him and learning a lot from each other and inspiring each other to kind of push the boundaries of what we’ve done in the past in terms of creativity and originality. And yeah, it just feels like a really fruitful time for the band, a very exciting creative era. This is like the latest baby, you know, that we’ve made.
It’s always great to have a member in the band that’s also like a in house resource for other aspects of the music making. They’re really valuable members.
Oh yeah for sure man. He’s really like stepped into his role, he really has.
So you’re kinda feeling like the band is Dethklok at the moment with the current lineup, feeling strong?
For sure, absolutely man. It feels like a really great time, we have such a great vibe in the band… personality wise, and I think you can hear that in the music now. It’s just so fun.
A lot of my followers consider you to be one of the most talented lyricists in the death metal industry at the moment. Some have even called you the Poe of death metal basically. I was wondering, what are your biggest literary inspirations?
That’s very flattering, first of all, I appreciate that love from the fans. I work really hard to write for the band, I enjoy it a lot, the story telling aspect. Definitely a lot of Poe influence, definitely some Shakespeare influence which at the time in school reading it, I hated it, I thought, you know? but it definitely paved the way for this kind poetic angle that I use. We tackle a lot of very cliche topic in death metal, you know… vampires and zombies and like very tried and true kind of metal topics. I’m always trying to put my own kind of poetic spin on things. There’s a certain appeal for me to like, create and embody some kind of like masked powerful killer for example. Like, there’s a certain catharsis in getting on stage and singing a song from that point of view. It’s like where I lack power in my life maybe, I like get in those moments.
I just want to add in that my favorite line from that album that stuck with me, is “The human skull was built to last”
That’s a great line, I love that line. What did that mean to you when you wrote it?
Ah, Well, it’s actually “This throne of skulls was built to last”, and I’m saying like death metal, the underground, the kind of culture like once you get into it, there’s no coming back. It’s like a lifer kind of music.
The cover art is an eye catcher, who did that one and what thought went into that process?
That’s Juanjo Castellano, he’s a Spanish artist who has done a lot of old school flavored death metal artwork and I’ve been a fan of his for a long time. And I kinda see his approach as a bridge between Dan Seagrave and Christian Whealan who we’ve worked with in the past. So yeah we just knew it’d be really classic looking. We’re always doing like the ominous environment album covers that don’t have a character focal point necessarily, it’s more about the “evil place” or the “threatening journey”, this daunting evil place. We kinda stayed the course with that here. I wanted it to have a sewer kind of twist to it with these rivers of slime… Some of the lyrics on the record draw comparisons between the underground ‘scene’ and the actual physical being underground like in the sewer and being subterranean.
Yeah I can definitely see the Seagrave comparison with the sprawling nature and scope of the piece, it’s a nice album cover for Verminous.
I’m very thankful for how it came out. It’s a lot of pressure to have good artwork and it’s very competitive out there now. There’s so so many great artists in the underground and it’s so important to have a striking album cover that will create anticipation before anyone’s heard a single note.
So the titular Verminous – there is actually a vermin that’s in mind with this album, who are the vermin?
We are, the underground – we’re the undesirable creatures that the perfect white picket fence world doesn’t want to acknowledge and we’re the carriers of this plague of death metal knowledge. The key to a life of freedom of free thought and good music and comradery. I’m saying there’s a real strength in numbers with the metal scene in that we’re like underestimated I think, kinda still seen as weirdos with black T shirts on the periphery of society. So we’re just kind of embracing that and it’s like an underdog anthem.
You have a lot of shows planned for this release. South Africa in April, North American tour with Testament, featuring Municipal Waste. Returning to Europe for the festival season, appearing at Hellfest, Bloodstock Open Air, and more. With the current Covid situation, are all these huge shows an impossibility now?
Well the Testament tour is definitely not looking good at this point, you know you have members of Testament afflicted with the virus. Lockdown is just going to kind of ruin that, so any day now we’ll hear the final call about the tour but I know it’s not going to be good. We’re just hoping to get back in motion by the summer time and honor those festivals and beyond that we have a US tour we’re planning for the fall which we’ll headline, that’ll be the big Verminous tour. Then a return to Europe in the winter, there’s talks about Australia already. Gearing up in hopes this thing will blow over soon
Hopefully it will, it would be good to see some of those shows. Especially if you come to Australia. How have your experiences been in Australia in the past?
It’s been great man, I consider it a real treat to get out there. The vibe that you guys have is so nice and so relaxed, so friendly. You guys love metal, man, you have a very storied history of great extreme metal that you have produced. I feel like there’s a big respect from the fans of all eras of metal. Not just the new stuff but a real respect for the history of metal there. Yeah, it’s a real rare treat for us to get out there, the weather is nice and the shows are great. So yeah nothing but positive experiences out there.
Do you have any favorite Aussie bands?
Psycroptic of course, they’re the king. Misery. Laceration Mantra. Mongrel’s Cross. There’s lots of great black thrash of course like trickling down from Bestial Warlust and that whole thing. Yeah just tonnes and tonnes of great music from there. Incinerated. Disentomb – had the good fortune to play with them a lot of times.
They’re from my hometown Brisbane, I’m a big fan of Disentomb.
Yeah, they’re killer
The underground is massive right now and Black Dahlia Murder is one the bands many aspire to. What’s some advice you can give to newer bands?
I would say to not put all your eggs in one basket and not really worry as much about getting a label as you’ve had to in the past. I think a lot can be done by yourself with a Bandcamp for example. I think that’s a really awesome platform for new bands. You get your music out there, you get your merch out there and labels really pay attention to those bandcamp numbers man. I’ve definitely heard lots of great bandcamp stories turned into a label situation so I would definitely leverage what you are doing with Bandcamp.
Yeah Bandcamp is amazing, I talk about it non stop on Noob Heavy. Not only is it a place for people to hear your music but it’s also your press kit at the same time.
It’s your press kit, it’s your merch store, it’s your way to sell digital copies and physical.
It’s your email list.
Yeah, yeah it’s great man. It’s totally a great asset.
It puts the power back into the hands of the bands by giving them tools to utilize.
Exactly, there’s some great young bands who’ve had success without a label like Shadow Of Intent for example, they’re on big tours, they tour with us already. They tour with a lot of big names and they’re in control of everything. Every aspect of their world, so they’re making money from it of course because they don’t have to give anyone else a cut and uh, they’re achieving success without that label backing.
Yeah even like Infant Annihilator put out their own stuff.
I understand you’re a gamer, which I love, a lot of the musicians I talk to don’t play games, they just play their instruments and other fancy things. What are you playing a lot at the moment?
On Switch I’ve been playing the Dark Souls remaster, it’s my first time playing Dark Souls. I played Bloodborne before but that was my only souls experience and it’s really really fucking hard (laughs) but it’s also really rewarding when you break new ground. At heart, I’m a retro gamer. I’ve been playing a lot of Nintendo which is my first love as a system. I’m breaking into the world of streaming a little bit, I went live for the second time ever last night on Twitch. My handle is Trevorstrnad. Come hang out, talk about metal with me and watch me play 3D World Runner and all these awesome classic games that I loved in my childhood. There’s a nostalgic power for me with Nintendo that makes me very happy.
Yeah there’s something about just the music and the visuals with Nintendo, it sticks in your brain.
Well yeah it was just so revolutionary at the time. There was a lot of innovation during that whole era and I just like games where no one’s holding your hand. You don’t have to watch two hours of cinematics or anything. It’s just like, you’re thrown into it and you just play it.
Thanks heaps to Trevor for talking with me and to Maric Media/Metal Blade for making it happen! That’s it for the written interview, be sure to listen to the first episode of Noob Heavy Radio for the Fan Q&A with Trevor and much much much more.