Have the boys ever been to one of the world’s largest for-profit prisons, Reeves County Detention Complex, Texas? Have they watched the workers of America languish amid the oxycodone epidemic? Have they spoken to primary school kids with smartphone addictions and anxiety? Have they seen firsthand the human organ harvesting trade in China? How about travelled to an island nation where rising sea levels will soon force the inhabitants from their home? Probably not. But after listening to their new album, it sure sounds like Thy Art Is Murder have. It is these and other socio-political topics that shape the fifth record, ‘Human Target’. If TAIM truly believe they are mirroring society back to itself rather than just addressing the more extreme injustices, that’s indeed depressing. More likely, however, is that the album draws on empathy and anger, not nihilism.
Human Target also highlights a conundrum facing people today – in a time of unbridled access to information and the peddling of tragedy porn, how do you stay positive? All things considered, the album is designed as a quick hit of death metal, not as a soundtrack for life. Go in deep for sure. Let it consume you for an hour or two, but don’t go in that deep that you can’t climb out.
Thirteen years and five albums later, the Sydney five-piece are sometimes described as deathcore and sometimes as blackened death metal. They walk the fine line here again between appealing to a wider audience and being shunned by death metal purists. Their music has also been touted as ‘thinking-persons’ death metal’, which is not without merit; instead of making an album focused on blazing instrumentals, or centered on gruff vocals, or fixated on disturbing lyrics, they’ve made it about all three. This three-pronged assault is probably part of why they are one of Australia’s biggest extreme metal exports right now. Human Target is somewhat digestible without losing any of the ferocity of ‘pure’ death metal.
For those who like their death metal a little more ‘anthemic’, tracks such as Human Target, Death Squad Anthem and Make America Hate Again will satiate. Human Target is the first track and first single, and the composition is crafted with the precision of a surgical steel blade. This is the band’s first album with drummer Jesse Beahler following the departure of Lee Stanton, and let’s just say there’s no chance of Beahler developing DVT, because his limbs are ballistic. Sole founding member Sean Delander, along with Andy Marsh, are still as powerful as ever on guitars, Kevin Butler provides those throbbing bass tones, and Chris ‘CJ’ McMahon’s impeccable enunciation through every register of growl rounds things out nicely.
Every generation has their ‘fight the power’ anthem – remember Silverchair’s Anthem For The Year 2000? Well, TAIM take a similar approach with a clear-cut, somewhat melodic chorus on Death Squad Anthem, but then brutalise the hell out of the rest of the song. It would serve well as an unsolicited campaign song for Bush, Obama or Trump. On the topic of US leaders, Make America Hate Again is easy to decipher. Why such a cringe worthy song title though? Maybe it’s pointing out how dumb MAGA is? Or maybe not. Either way, not bad.
The record also offers some ear-catching riffs. The final track, Chemical Christ, probably owns the best riff of the lot, but then we lose it in favour of speed a little way in. Eye For An Eye also kicks off with a tasty, Middle Eastern-tinged riff, while New Gods’ repeated musical phrase acts perfectly as the bones for the meat that is the other musicians’ talents. Talk about an ear war.
Eternal Suffering is where the vocal fry really comes to life. It’s like McMahon grabbed a pack of Camel unfiltered and pumped a shitload of those lung candies right before recording this. Their touring mates of years past, Parkway Drive, might be the biggest* Aussie metal act right now, but it’s hard to touch these guys for ferocity when they’re in the zone.
The fact that each song’s title appears in the lyrics can be slightly distracting, but not enough to take away from the package. It’s got plenty of blast beats, breakdowns and chugs to keep people happy. The only thing that lets this album down is that some songs are indistinguishable. They’ve got some of Behemoth’s speed, fury and growling down, but not the memorable riffs a band like Gojira are noted for. Nevertheless, this solid collection of lullabies for lunatics would be at home on an apocalyptic TV show or video game. Instead of id Software doing their own soundtrack for November’s Doom Eternal, perhaps they should’ve reached out to Thy Art Is Murder?