The cover of the Black Dahlia Murder's album Verminous. Credit: Courtesy the Artist

Three years after releasing their first record with new guitarist Brandon Ellis, the Billboard-charting Nightbringers, the Black Dahlia Murder have returned with their ninth studio album, Verminous. It turns out the Detroit five-piece have been trying out some new tricks and angles in their fervent death metal, making this release arguably their most diverse and varied yet. Front man and songwriter Trevor Strnad (one of two remaining original members, along with guitarist Brian Esbach) is more intuitive than technical, and takes a literary approach to his tales of vampires, serial killers, plagues (timely), and Things That Should Not Be. On “The Wereworm’s Feast” he provides especially potent nightmare fuel: “I am the wriggling horror / Inching through your cold insides / Nesting in your death / And I brought friends / We’ll multiply in time.” The title track and “Removal of the Oaken Stake” are actually slightly hooky (hardly something you can count on in death metal), and the riff that opens “How Very Dead” wouldn’t sound out of place on a classic Slayer record. The Black Dahlia Murder sound utterly in control, creating exactly the effects they intend, and they pace themselves by balancing face-ripping speeds with gnarly midtempo grooves that dig deep. Death metal is always about catharsis, about weaving unacceptable impulses and fear of the void into a ritualized celebration. On Verminous the Black Dahlia Murder use melodic beauty more effectively than perhaps they ever have before, and in the process give the void even more of a siren song.   v