REVIEW: Thy Art is Murder – Holy War [2015]


Artist: Thy Art is Murder 

Album: Holy War


Since the dawning of religious worship, there have been conflicts in religion’s name. It is as Diagoras of Melos claimed: Give a man a God, and he will find a reason to kill in his name. These wars have split nations down the middle, led to abhorrent genocides and rearranged the face of the earth. Subsequently, these conflicts have been the epicenters of religious debate and, in odd ways, have propagated their own feuds and battles. For better or worse, religious conflict is as much a facet of the human condition as religion itself; as devastation in the name of a deity is a time-honored tradition of global change—a tradition Thy Art is Murder are glad to adhere to. These Australian deathcore aggressors need no formal introduction: terrorizing the masses with grotesquely heavy music for nearly a decade, this sinister Sydney-based quintet are back, following in the footsteps of their acclaimed 2012 release, Hate, with an intensified and immensely evil experience, Holy War. Blurring the lines between riff-heavy death metal and bone-snapping deathcore, Thy Art is Murder have returned with an album that will conquer the ears of heavy music fans as if it were a Holy Crusade gone awry.

If you’re at the edge of your seat, hoping for a return to the gritty, filth-laden instrumentation and shrieking howls of Infinite Death, Thy Art is Murder have a resounding message: move on and grow up. Holy War continues where Hate left off, taking a transient stepping stone along the band’s path to maturation and actualizing it into a tangible, terrifyingly intense final product. With influences ranging from thrashing, intricate metal, flesh-melting slam and hard-hitting deathcore, Holy War is the band’s most mature and diverse album to date, taking the style and edge they developed on Hate and sharpening it into a well-honed and razor-like release that will cut deeply into the listener’s flesh and grin as they bleed out.

Thy Art is Murder’s latest release is home to a brutalizing cavalcade of instrumentation that wastes no time in declaring all-out war on the listener. Holy War sees percussionist Lee Stanton blending blitzing, machine-gun blast beats with beefy, over-the-top kick drum patterns and immaculate percussive production. From the first sharp snare crack of “Absolute Genocide,” Stanton’s performance is top-notch—dizzying the listener with technically savvy fills in “Light Bearer” and “Fur and Claw,” while showcasing his fleet footwork on the pseudo-slam laced “Child of Sorrow.” Stanton hammers away throughout the entirety of Holy War with a quick candor that only drops into double-digit beats-per-minute to syncopate with Kevin Butler’s bold, brutish bass guitar to form a furiously heavy low end for Thy Art is Murder’s infamously intense breakdowns. Butler and Stanton line up perfectly—even during the stuttering climax to “Violent Reckoning”—that gives each cataclysmic breakdown on Holy War extra punch. However hectic as Stanton’s percussion and Butler’s bass may be, these aspects are nothing new to Thy Art is Murder’s dynamic. What Holy War brings to table is stellar fretwork from the hands of guitarists Andy Marsh and Sean Delander. Marsh and Delander let loose with lurid displays of furious finger work that roam from atmospheric, shredding technicality (a la “Holy War” and “Emptiness”) to ruthless aggression via crushing chugs and relentless riffs. Marsh and Delander chug, groove and shred away with a much more metallic style and an infinitely more diverse dynamic than that on Hate, giving Holy War it’s skin-slicing edge.

Holy War would not be complete, however, were it not for the lyrical themes and vocal superiority brought to the table by frontman CJ McMahon. Where McMahon’s voice was immensely well-received on Hate, his range, style and lyrical ingenuity are much stronger on Thy Art is Murder’s latest offering. Still dominate the microphone with a gruff, low-to-mid-range shout, McMahon’s greatest asset has become his lyrical prowess, and the punctual mastery he has over his patterning and delivery to make each syllable hit the listener like a shotgun to the chest. “Holy War” is his crowning achievement here, with an opening refrain catchier than the clap and more lethal than lead poisoning. “Naked and Cold” also shines, with McMahon using the full extent of his range to add to Thy Art is Murder’s already ear-splitting onslaught. However, when McMahon barks “Die for Christ, die for Allah. Die for Jerusalem…” During “Holy War,” he is burning those words into the listener’s brain as if his tongue were hotter than all the fires of Hell—the listener just doesn’t realize it until it’s too late.

Holy War sees every aspect of Thy Art is Murder stepping up as realizing their full potential. With fretwork and songwriting that—while at times is repetitive (how many songs start with the same jarring drum-and-guitar attack? You count, I lost track)—sees them embracing the journey they began with Hate and ascending higher along the ladder to reaching their full potential. Fans still lusting for a revival of the “Whore to a Chainsaw” days may be dismayed—but they will find traces of slams and catchy chugs long lost within “Deliver Us to Evil” and “Violent Reckoning.” What’s more? Perhaps if they truly open their ears, they will realize that the Holy War Thy Art is Murder are waging is one of refreshingly heavy and practically immaculate deathcore that casts down the band’s peers as false idols, and disbelievers as infidels.

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For Fans Of: I Declare War, Whitechapel, Martyr Defiled, Boris the Blade

By: Connor Welsh