It feels like an age since Thy Art Is Murder were heralded as the band to fully shake up deathcore. Hate left a crater of unenviable size within the scene in 2012, but Holy War felt as though it was chasing the exact same tail as a follow-up, and frontman CJ McMahon’s sabbatical totally overshadowed Dear Desolation, an album that remains easy to forget even exists to this very day. Over time, Thy Art Is Murder have become more or less the epitome of deathcore’s ‘good enough’, not exactly trapped in the chug-a-lug doldrums that so many of their peers have been permanently consigned to, but just one or two false moves away from probably ending there entirely. Thus, an album like Human Target makes a lot of sense at this stage in the game, cutting into the vicissitudes of modern life in what feels like the most secure endeavour possible to carve out a platform secure enough to hold them up, at least for the time being.
And make no mistake – Human Target can definitely do that. But that’s also about all it can do, and pulled out of the circumstances in which Thy Art Is Murder find themselves in, this is yet another adequate but generally unaffecting deathcore album from a band who seem more than adept at shovelling those out at this point. And it’s not like that in itself is a bad thing, especially for those with a high enough tolerance for this sort of fire-and-brimstone mosh fodder who can look past the lack of anything else, but when it feels like a vague reskin of an album that this band seem to be releasing basically every time, there’s a cap on how receptive it’s possible to be.
That said, for as little as there is to say about Human Target as a whole, it manages to get the job done. The instrumentation is as monolithic and destructive as ever, particularly in the slithering creep that opens up Eternal Suffering and Atonement that’s really effective, and it’s all produced in a way to maximise just how enormous Thy Art Is Murder want their particular wall of sound to be. And this really is a wall of sound, barely letting up amongst the calamitous riffs and drums that, especially in the context of modern deathcore, do draw on the crunch and ferocity of more traditional death metal to give it somewhat more dimensionality. And of course, McMahon has the sort of foundation-testing roar that feels distinctly rooted in the function-over-fashion camp of sounding this enormous and destructive. But none of that is new; that’s effectively the same formula that Thy Art Is Murder have been using for years now, and Human Target barely makes an effort to even hide that. It’s not like it really needs to though, as there’s nothing here that sounds particularly outdated or as if it’s running out of steam, but it makes it glaringly obvious how much Thy Art Is Murder are playing to a pattern at this point. It’s why there’s really no need most of the time to single out specific tracks; anyone who’s even remotely interested in this album knows what they’re in for already, and even trying to reiterate that seems like a rather fruitless task. And that can be a problem, as it places Thy Art Is Murder into an increasingly narrow camp within their genre, and with the constant repetition of sonic themes that they don’t appear to be moving away from, it’s just going to get even narrower. That’s just as pertinent with the writing as well, which serves as yet another outlet for unfettered rage which definitely sounds convincing, but especially on a song like Make America Hate Again, which was deliberately kept vague enough to avoid alienating both left- and right-leaning fans, it doesn’t feel as though they’re achieving anything, let alone the goal of some form of modern criticism.
And that ultimately leaves Human Target as something of a disappointment, especially when Thy Art Is Murder have means to do something much more, and yet they simply choose not to. To stress, this isn’t a bad album, and for anyone looking for another fix of deathcore that can actually meet its darker, more brutal reputation, this will fit the bill, but so will every other album that Thy Art Is Murder have released. It makes Human Target feel redundant in a way, and while the intentions are there and the execution is totally adequate across the board, there’s more needed than that, and for a band like this who are more than capable of delivering it, that’s a shame.
For fans of: Carnifex, Despised Icon, Chelsea Grin
Words by Luke Nuttall
‘Human Target’ by Thy Art Is Murder is out now on Nuclear Blast Records.