Now years past its inception and subsequent internet buzz, deathcore has become just as established of a subgenre as any other countless labels within the umbrella of extreme metal. Sure, plenty of lower-level bands have either broken up or moved onto more marketable fads, but Australia’s Thy Art Is Murder have been one of the most staunch defenders of the oft-maligned style. The band’s second full-length and Nuclear Blast debut, Hate, was an incredibly refreshing (and crushingly heavy) album that proved a band can still masterfully combine the speed and ferocity of death metal with enough breakdowns to please the hardcore community. The band has been hyping up their upcoming LP, Holy War, for the better part of a year alongside their relentless touring schedule, and now the wait has finally come to an end. Holy War is really nothing more than an updated version of the band’s now-recognizable aesthetic, but delivers ten of the most punishing and ultimately fun metal songs you’ll probably encounter in 2015.
Pairing up once again with producer Will Putney (After the Burial, Northlane, Fit For An Autopsy), the band find themselves taking the same ideas that made songs like “Reign of Darkness” and “Shadow of Eternal Sin” so successful and adding even more death metal into the equation. Everything in the mix is pushed to its absolute limit for almost all of Holy War’s 39 minute runtime, but everything sounds perfectly clear, albeit occasionally squashed. Sure, some sections in “Absolute Genocide” and “Naked and Cold” are completely overwhelming in their heaviness, but within the context of the song it always feels justified. The guitars soar as often as they pummel and are all backed by a much more palatable drum sound than what Thy Art Is Murder has presented in the past. Putney’s masterful hand in managing to take some of deathcore’s most incendiary sounds and make it sound as palatable as it does is one of the album’s most noticeable strengths.
The biggest and most noticeable improvement on Holy War is the vocal performance from CJ McMahon, who has become the best vocalist in the subgenre, full-stop. All ten tracks build the perfect platform for McMahon to spew out his bellowing growls which have become much more intelligible this time around without sacrificing any grit or edge. There’s also a surprise guest spot in “Coffin Dragger” from Parkway Drive’s Winston McCall, a band whose level of success is more than likely to befall Thy Art Is Murder in the next few years. Whether or not you agree with Holy War’s anti-religious message and occasionally Satanic imagery, the conviction delivered here is undeniable.
The band’s appreciation for Polish bands like Behemoth and Decapitated is also more apparent this time, especially on the album’s absolute ripper of an opener, “Absolute Genocide,” the haunting atmospheres created in “Light Bearer,” and the technical bursts of “Deliver Us to Evil.” Considering the band’s foray into religious and political commentary, it’s a perfect fit. For those more interested in the “core” aspect of the style, don’t think that the band have forsaken their love for hate-stomping slams. Not one song on Holy War goes by without dropping least one “holy shit” moment on the listener. The breakdowns in “Violent Reckoning,” “Coffin Dragger,” and “Holy War” are unabashedly spine-crushing but still hooky and beg for repeated listens. It’s the type of stuff that will undoubtedly provoke a vicious reaction live, which is exactly what each song on Holy War feels like it was designed for. You probably haven’t heard a bigger earworm in deathcore than the title track’s chorus, and if McMahon’s breakdown call-out of “bow to your empty god” doesn’t get you fired up, you probably died inside a long time ago.
It may seem like Thy Art Is Murder have blown up substantially over the past two years, and Holy War is the near-perfect statement that proves their recognition and success is warranted. It’s the best thing the now-stale genre has seen in the better part of a decade and will probably propel the band to even greater heights. And considering that almost nothing truly unpredictable happens throughout, it’s incredibly admirable. Holy War is simply a pleasure to listen to and pays absolutely no heed to subtlety and nuance. Whitechapel, it’s time to step it up a notch.
Thy Art Is Murder – Holy War gets…