Thy Art is Murder
Reviewed By Michael O'Brien
It’s no great secret that deathcore has been on the receiving end of an awful lot of flak over the years. I can’t say that I have any particular animosity towards it in principle, but I do understand why it is so often maligned. For me personally, my primary issue with a lot of what I’ve heard is the general safety of the material that is being written; the staunch willingness of so many participants to colour within rigid lines without deviation.
I get that the central trope of the genre is the blending of death metal and hardcore and that it thus necessitates the infamous breakdown, but so much of what I’ve heard has followed such predictable song-writing patterns that it’s felt like it’s all come off the exact same production line. Where’s the variety, the experimentation, the fucking creativity? This is a question that remains unanswered on Thy Art is Murder’s third full-length release, Holy War, which is a shame because I’ve really been looking forward to checking the band out and seeing what the not inconsiderable amount of buzz surrounding them is all about.
My central complaint with Holy War is that it is, like so many of those albums described above, constructed incredibly safely and, thus, suffers from extreme predictability. I appreciate that there are a number of riffs and solos strewn sparsely across the album’s 10 tracks, but far too frequently they seem to serve little more purpose than providing some space between the album’s plentiful, obvious, and largely uninteresting breakdowns. What really rubs salt into the wound, though, is that the guys can clearly play their instruments and should be capable of writing material that doesn’t spend the bulk of its time toiling in mediocrity.
Things start out decently enough for Holy War with “Absolute Genocide”, a song that no doubt unintentionally lays bare the template for what is to follow over the next nine songs and 34-minutes of the album. It runs that gamut of the weapons in Thy Art is Murder’s arsenal which can roughly be boiled down to light and somewhat atmospheric jingly-jangly melodies (that wouldn’t sound out of place on a Meshuggah album) sitting atop down-tuned, chugging guitars, and the occasional tilt at some actual riffs. It isn’t great, but nor is it utterly awful either - which, truth be told, is pretty much what I would have written as the entirety of this review if I were allowed to do so.
There’s little deviation from the abovementioned pattern until around the album's midpoint where things do get marginally more interesting. "Fur and Claw", while still largely a disposable track, does feature a genuinely good riff around the 2-minute mark and “Deliver Us to Evil” sees the inclusion of a pretty tasty solo. Elsewhere on album closer, "Naked and Cold", the band comes really close to producing a half decent song by eschewing the breakdown-oriented formula in favour of real riffs and solos. These mere brushes with good material are far from enough to elevate the album as a whole above purely average territory, however, as they are definitely the exception to the rule.
I’m told that Thy Art is Murder and bands of a similar ilk are what the ‘kids’ are listening to these days. Assuming this is accurate (and I despair if it is), then they can have the fucking lot of it, because there's nothing here that I either haven't heard a million times before or ever want to have to yawn through again.
By its very nature, taking a creative risk is dangerous and should be a source of trepidation for those undertaking the bold leap, but I strongly believe that people have a lot more time for ambitious failures than they do for safe and unadventurous ones.