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Interviews : “People can sit there and listen to it without any distractions” – An interview with Trevor Strnad (Black Dahlia Murder)

By on June 10, 2020

COVID-19. Will 2020 be known for anything else? As far as heavy metal is concerned, it’s the year the gigs stopped. For sure, other genres are affected in a similar manner to our great descriptor of music that is defined by the almighty riff, yet it is only heavy metal whose proving ground is the live arena. At any given time in Australia pre-coronavirus, there were up to half a dozen internationally renowned metal bands touring and feeding a veritable ecosystem of heavy metal-dependent enterprises. The sooner we are out of this the better, yet it’s not the first time heavy metal has faced a near existential crisis.

The Black Dahlia Murder is one of the band’s that helped lead heavy metal’s renaissance out of its ‘medieval’ period; the 1990’s. Bands from the United States are important because success in their homeland tends to determine the global health of heavy metal as a global whole. Only a fool would argue that the quality of heavy metal is dependant on bands from the USA, however, the commercial reality of Western economics determines that a strong scene State-side supports a healthy global metal economy, and it is on this basis the world needs the excellent new album for 2020 from The Black Dahlia Murder.

Trevor Strnad is the fellow who has been out front of the band since its inception in 2001. After a lengthy block of interviews, he’s still relaxed and ready to talk about Verminous, which was released mid-April.

“To not be out (playing live) the week the record comes out and sell the extra copies, and also people won’t be able to go to the store to buy it… but, there’s so much time for people to fester on the new record,” he said.

“People can sit there and listen to it without any distractions and hopefully, this can be like the soundtrack to this time.

“It’s weird that the album has a lot of plague themes threaded throughout, which we had no idea was going to be so timely.”

Verminous sports a suitably grubby green and black radioactive album cover, which Strnad confirms as symbolic of death metal’s enduring representation of the underground.

“Yeah, death metal is a plague of secret knowledge and we’re the rats and roaches and undesirable creepy crawlies that like spreading it,” he said.

Given the amount of time people have on their hands due to the pandemic enforced lockdown, the many merits of Verminous will give plenty of time to listeners to become familiar with the aural clarity on offer.

Long gone are the days when first-class death metal albums buried the bass and percussive sound under a mountain of dry and layered vocal. So too, guitars that are barren of any mid-range that force the listener to boost the volume to bleeding point. But many underground acts still persist in an analogue of the famed ‘Morrisound’.

Few would argue against Morrisound featuring within the first pages in the almanac of death metal, yet the sound of the late ’80s and early ‘90s offerings courtesy of all-time greats such as Schuldiner, Azagthoth and the Hoffman brothers hardly needs to be replicated in the DAW’s today’s young and impressionable artists. Technology gives musicians so many options to improve aural quality in 2020.

It was interesting to hear Strnad’s take on the manner in which the band intended Verminous to sound.

“We’ve been wanting like a more classic kind of production value, a bit more live and a bit rawer than a lot of our contemporaries that overly Pro Tools their albums,” he said.

“We kept the drums real, and you can really hear the rhythm section loud and clear, there’s a real humanity to the record that makes it timeless, that makes it more like a classic record sounds.

“The way the rhythm section is intertwined is very powerful on this record, (Danish mixer par-excellence) Tue Madsen did an exceptional job, there is so much information crammed into the passages of our music that we have to be a hard band to mix, he is so good he can have every instrument shining.”

Indeed he can!

The new album ‘Verminous‘ out now via Metal Blade Records.

About

Andrew is a musician who has spent many years performing on the stages of the pubs and clubs of Queensland. A devotee of the broad church that is rock, punk, funk, jazz and of course all genres of metal... he now shares his enthusiasm via a burgeoning pursuit of music journalism. Follow him on twitter @andymckaysmith