Albums like Holy War exist to push the limits of extremity. The album name, the album cover (a child with a bloodstained shirt and a bomb strapped to his chest), as well as a band logo with a take-no-prisoners name and prominent pentagram should give you some idea of what Thy Art Is Murder are going for here. This Australian band have long straddled the boundary between deathcore and death metal, but Holy War seem them developing their sound in much more of a death metal direction, drawing inspiration from bands like Behemoth, Hate, and Decapitated to great success, making Holy War by far their best album to date.
TAIM sound absolutely massive on Holy War, thanks in large part to the phenomenal production work of Will Putney. Opening track ‘Absolute Genocide’ does what it says on the tin, with massive riffs, a relentless downpour of blastbeats, and sinister atmospherics. The introductory section of this track is particularly menacing, and could have been plucked from Behemoth’s latest album – though not in a way that comes off as obviously derivative – reverberating guitars, the slow, war-like build up of drums, and vocalist CJ’s trademark savage roar.
Unlike many deathcore bands, most of TAIM’s sound is built upon a solid foundation of riffs, and the guitarwork overall is one of the strongest elements of their sound. With a truly brutal tone, lead guitarist Andy Marsh crafts some of the most infectious and heaviest riffs on an album this year. Songs like ‘Coffin Dragger’, ‘Fur and Claw’, and ‘Violent Reckoning’ explode with energy, vocalist CJ McMahon sounding positively possessed as he growls and bellows his anger and frustration with the extremists of the world.
Breakdowns are used sparingly and for devastating impact, in particular on the bonus track ‘Vengeance’, by far one of my favourite tracks on the
album. A brisk 2 minutes and 24 seconds, it is one of the most undeniably brutal death metal tracks I’ve ever had the pleasure of hearing. CJ delivers the lyrics with absolute conviction. The closest thing to a chorus section, with roar of “Earth from the oak, Upside down” and Andy Marsh and drummer Lee Stanton create some of the most devastatingly heavy moments I’ve heard this year.
The two tracks released prior to the album’s release date are two of the strongest. The first, ‘Light Bearer’, is one of the best songs the band have ever written. The intro is very Behemoth-inspired but after a short pause the band kick the speed up a notch and get stuck in wreaking havoc with their instruments. The other track, ‘Holy War’, putting CJ’s incredibly brutal vocals front and centre, ‘Die for Christ, Die for Allah, Die for Jerusalem, Die for Torah.’ Backed by eerie and menacing backing guitars the band quickly whipping out some ferocious riffs and breakneck double-bass drums kicks, later pulling back to make way for a fantastic guitar solo.
Closing track ‘Naked and Cold’ is the longest track on the album at 5:31, bringing the album to an end at a tidy 38 minutes and 39 seconds. One of the most atmospheric and compositionally interesting tracks the song grows and grows, taking on a life of its own, with duelling, tremolo-picked, pummelling guitars, while CJ delivers yet more rage at the failures of the human race, “Betrayed and broken, universally flawed, hopelessly sinking into the frozen thaw.”
On Holy War, Thy Art Is Murder have crafted one of the most devastatingly intense death metal albums of the year. Aided by great production and a perfect runtime, as well as some of the best lyrics and vocal performances to date, Holy War is absolutely a step up from the already-great Hate, and clearly position Thy Art Is Murder as the band to beat. Repeated listens seem to only increase my fondness of this album, each listen revealing more depth to these tracks, new moments that get stuck in my head or pique my interest, new sentences becoming discernible and grabbing my attention. A contender for one of my favourite releases this year.