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With Dimmu Borgir preoccupied with re-recording their sophomore album Stormblåst, 2005 certainly looked to be Old Man's Child's time to shine. Galder's genre mainstay had finally come into it's own upon the back of two great records in Revelation 666: The Curse of Damnation and In Defiance of Existence. Old Man's Child was dealt a winning hand, but in a shocking about-face decided to play it way too safe and delivered a criminally boring record in Vermin.
Exactly why this album falls so short is a difficult paradigm to accurately distinguish. On a superficial level, much of Vermin's caustic delivery falls in line with it's direct predecessor. Biting, modern-sounding tremolo passages merge with tense, reverb-drench acoustic tones and esoteric keyboard pads that repeatedly make ill-fated melodic advances upon the listener. Their jest is largely in vain, as the stock and phoned-in nature of Vermin's compositional aesthetics is both glaring and obvious. The faceless guitar acrobatics defer to the keyboards whenever possible, but the ivories aren't up to the task as they end up fumbling the melodic ball more often than not.
One interesting note is that Galder has dialed up the incendiary disposition of his riff assault, showcasing his blisteringly-quick picking hand and plenty of acrobatic palm-muted passages that upstage In Defiance of Existence on a technical level alone. Regardless, the riffs fall mostly flat in the manner in which they are used here. It certainly doesn't help that their tone comes off as very sterile and stock-sounding, lacking the boomy sonic palette that gave a knuckle-cracking appeal to Revelation 666: The Curse of Damnation's distorted swells. Vermin gains some level of coherency when the band plays up it's heavier inclination, achieving a decent level of combustible appeal most apparent during the keyboard-free sections of "Lord of Command (Bringer of Hate)". Most of Vermin's tracks feature isolated sections that exhibit glimmers of past brilliance, but the band repeatedly kneecaps itself along with any hope of turning the proceedings around just when things start looking up.
Vermin features an organic, flat drum mix that reminds me of Overkill's pacified dud I Hear Black. Killerich is actually a decent technician on the kit, but he doesn't exactly enthrall here. These compositions, while masterminded with zeal and fervor by resident misanthropic architect Galder, do little more than exist. This remains something of a shame, especially after the truly indelible In Defiance of Existence. Some, like "Twilight Damnation" try and conjure up some sort of abstruse, clinical hybrid of melodic black metal and melancholic synth lines but come off as unreasonably forced in the process. "Black Marvels of Death" has some minor neck-jerking potential by virtue of it's simplistic driving drum beats alone, but even pointing out obscure high points such as these required me to sift through layer upon unbridled layer of meandering mindrust on Galder's part.
Old Man's Child would recover in memorable fashion with 2009's Slaves of the World, so Vermin thankfully remains the band's lone post-millennial low point. Even as such, it remains disconcerting to know that Galder has the proclivity to grace us with less-than-stellar compositions when creativity begins to wane. The man's torrid output very nearly forgives him on principle alone, but Vermin is simply far too off-putting to be given a free pass.