The Black Dahlia Murder ‘Yule ‘Em All’ With Four Sets & Tons of Skits (SHOW REVIEW)

Melodic Death Metal band The Black Dahlia Murder released their latest album, Verminous, via Metal Blade Records in April of 2020, and naturally would have been on tour this year under other circumstances considering they are large scale touring and festival mainstays. To channel some of that energy and give fans a live introduction to the songs from Venomous, the band set up Yule ‘Em All: A Holiday Extravaganza as a seasonal livestream event, and the fact that they planned this well ahead of time was obvious in the craftsmanship and presentation of the event. It was presented as a kind of variety show, but really carried the ethos of a cable access show as well, only with much higher video and sound quality.

The ticketed event, with exclusive merch bundles on offer, was 90 minutes long, and interspersed with skits and ephemeral “bits” that blended offbeat humor, time with the band, and plenty of absolutely head-banging Metal performances in four different solid sets from separate locations. The set designs and filming showed a ton of attention to detail and the sound quality during the performance segments was very high, virtually indistinguishable from DVD concert release quality. 

The comedic segments featured a recurring show host, “Neil Hamburger” with a nasal whine, a comb over, and a distaste for the band, heralding “a new Christmas tradition for the next 40 years.” He delivered off-color dad jokes whenever he appeared, such as Christmas being a commemoration of the “murder of Jesus”. The most impressive non-musical segment was an entire Claymation cartoon, with a mix of Rankin Bass and other Christmas Special styles, featuring a version of Frosty the Snowman who was succumbing to global warming and quickly forgotten by the kiddies. 

A close second in non-musical segments was a live action commercial for “Ham Sanitizer”, instructing you on how to disinfect your food in these challenging times. Who wouldn’t want “delicious food disinfectant”? Other incidental video “bits” included footage of a closed house door with a holiday wreath behind which the audience could hear a simulated family fight going on for the holidays, undercutting the sentimentality of the season in a very relatable way. The voices were, of course, provided by the band members. In another nod to holiday mayhem, the band chased off carolers and replaced them in singing “The Little Drummer Boy”, showing off their true qualities as “slovenly drunken bums”. 

An introduction to the musical sets featured the band seated at a dining room table lamenting the year that was 2020 while wearing matching jammies and passing around a bong. Lead vocalist Trevor Strnad, commenting in a bunny suit, proposed the band “rock anyway” despite Covid, leading Brian Eschbach, Max Lavell, Alan Cassidy, and Brandon Ellis to chant along with him in defiance, voicing what many must be feeling right now. 

The first musical set arrived from the “Regal Fecal Attic” somewhere in Michigan, an explosion of festive decorations, with the band continuing to wear onesies, including Strnad’s pink bunny suit. With full drum kit and multi-camera angles, this was a surreal set with the feel of a music video, and included “Contagion” and “Miasma” before the band shouted that they cops had arrived and they’d have to “cut it”. So much for an at-home concert! 

Thankfully, a second set introduced a more remote location for their continued concert, “Barn Knob” in Gaines, Michigan. With some included documentary-like footage of the band wandering around a barn in the countryside in nice weather, and a change in costume to “ugly Christmas sweaters” with T-Rexes for the band and “Jesus, Birthday Boy” for Strnad, the second set in a quaint barn space gave the band more space to move around and a slightly more venue-like feel to the performance. Songs included were “Nocturnal”, “What a Horrible Night To Have a Curse”, “Everything Went Black”, and “I Will Return”. The Black Dahlia Murder were rolling through fan favorites from earlier albums, but proving that it doesn’t take a large venue to bring their trademark energy and weird humor to fans. 

A third musical set came in from a semi-professional looking recording space with sound shields and a solid set up, The Pipeyard Studio in Plymouth, Michigan, but they didn’t forget to bring all their seasonal decorations with them, and some footage of the set up was included to keep things from feeling too polished. The band was now dressed in “nice” holiday attire, including non-ugly roll-neck sweaters and non-picture t-shirts as if for church or family gatherings. Things started off with a narration of part of “The Night Before Christmas” by Mike “Gunface” McKenzie, and the set also included “On Stirring Seas of Salted Blood” and “Widowmaker”. Lest we take anything too seriously, the band occasionally broke through their heavy performances with goofiness, pulling crazy faces.

But the fourth set was definitely the band’s most epic, both in location and in music. Presenting songs from the new album Verminous from a rather gorgeously decorated church, St. Albertus in Detroit, Michigan, included chatting with local historian and trying out the church’s piano. If you were worried what The Black Dahlia Murder might do to a rather gorgeously decorated church, including statuary and woodwork, the answer is that they treated it rather respectfully, that is, until the outtakes were revealed. Now playing in their more “usual” clothes of band t-shirts, leather, and jeans, the band tore into their latest songs, including “Verminous”, “Removal of the Oaken Stake”, “Sunless Empire”, and “Child of Night”. With camera footage that might have been drone shots taking in the height and distance that the gothic aspects of the church offered, the songs definitely got a proper setting and sound-wise, the acoustics provided more air and atmosphere to pick out a live feel. The band was just as on point with this new material as they were with old favorites, and in fact, the new songs felt even more accessible to new fans than previous work.     

Unable to resist a good Monty Python-esque joke, at the end of the set the voice of God or Jesus tells the band to “get out of his house” and they decamp to a sketch where they lugubriously sing “Silent Night” together while wandering around town drunkenly late at night after a bar hangout. 

The entire video event had a proper credits sequence for the many people who helped put the show together, but the after credits scenes were also not to be missed by true fans. Some of the scenes were glimpses behind production, including the recording of “the voices” from the family argument skit, but there was also plenty of attempted nudity from Trevor Strnad. The biggest facepalm moment was footage of Strnad carrying and then accidentally breaking a large ceramic baby Jesus from a nativity scene while filming the church set. But did we really expect the church to escape totally unscathed? No holiday gets this rowdy without a little fallout. 

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