Australia’s Thy Art Is Murder are not the sort of band that pull punches. Their unflinching adherence to doing things their way (for example, putting the image of a suicide bomber on the cover of their 2015 album Holy War), and their relentless touring schedule, has built them a stalwart fanbase and a reputation as one of the premiere extreme metal bands in the world. Their fourth full-length, Dear Desolation, will only serve to increase the band’s profile.
“Slaves Beyond Death” starts the record with a bang, with crushing blastbeats and a straightforward but brutally effective chugging riff dominating much of the song. The swaying breakdown keeps the song’s groove alive even when it strips it down to the base elements, and the entire track packs a nasty punch. It’s not anything new, but it sure is one of the best death metal songs of the decade. “The Son Of Misery” trades the previous track’s groove for a steady, sinister march, with vocalist CJ McMahon spitting rapid-fire roars over swirling guitars and more careening blastbeats from Lee Stanton that propel the song with lunatic abandon. It peaks with a chuggy breakdown straight out of the days of crabcore, then bows out gracefully rather than overstay its welcome. “Puppet Master” rips through another high-speed verse, but excels most in the beatdown-inspired break with shouts of “speak for your fucking self!” that will have people piling on top of each other to reach the mic when it’s played live.
The title track features a nasty intro riff and some of CJ’s best mid-low roars yet. The chorus adopts an orchestral tone that’s a welcome texture, and the following breakdown is equally satisfying. There’s even a squealing guitar solo that’s a lot of fun (and credit to Stanton again for keeping the momentum up with furious double-kick work while the rest of the band noodles a little). “Death Dealer” is the first song to drag a little, alternating between slow, atmospheric moments (albeit with some terrifying growls from McMahon) and lightning-fast segments. That said, thy do find a sweet spot in between the extremes during the pre-breakdown riff that saves the track from feeling like filler. “Man Is The Enemy” flirts with djent, and the tribal drum intro is great, but it has a little too much atmospheric whine in the guitar parts. When the riff does pop up it’s excellent, but the song could use more of it. “The Skin Of The Serpent” pulls back a little and hits harder as a result, rolling through a menacing slow burn (please note that’s a relative term for TAIM: nothing about this song is “slow”, it’s just slightly less pummeling than usual) and a punchy chorus, all of which leads to the heaviest breakdown on the record.
“Fire In The Sky” builds from another slow start, then hits you with white-knuckle blastbeats at just the right moment, launching the song into another hurtling exercise in technical death metal. It builds a second time the same way, culminating in a galloping hardcore chug. The extended outro squanders some of the momentum however; trimmed by 30 seconds or so, the song would be even better. “Into Chaos We Climb” starts with an atmospheric build accompanied by demonic snarls from McMahon, leading into a nasty verse break with a simple but effective djent chug. The faster moments feel a little rehashed and the drifting guitar solo falls a bit flat, but the titular shout-along during the chorus is a whole lot of fun. “The Final Curtain” closes out the album with a constantly shifting dirge that eschews verses and choruses altogether. There’s a Testament-esque thrash riff around a minute in that’s a blast (and the accompanying drum part from Stanton is downright inspired), but the rest of the track flounders a little, at least until the cheeky, abrupt end.
Dear Desolation doesn’t do anything new, but it doesn’t have to. Thy Art Is Murder have delivered the most consistent, aggressive, brutish slab of death metal to surface yet this year. Does it suffer from a bit of monotony and ear fatigue when you listen to it in one continuous chunk? Absolutely. Are there a couple songs that feel a little less impressive than their cohorts? For sure. Are the riffs buried in the mix far enough it’s hard to distinguish between tracks at times? Unfortunately, yes. If you’re even a casual fan of death metal, will you care? Not likely.