Alasdair Belling

Deathcore shows can be quite the marathon to get through sometimes, even if the longest set doesn’t run for more than an hour (typically). There’s only so long that one can spend avoiding roundhouse kicks from face-tattooed ninja warriors, listen to conversations about veganism, deal with blast beats over the 240bpm mark and heed the call of ‘send this pit to the f*cking back’.

Hails be to Sydney O.G. road warriors Thy Art Is Murder then for having the presence of mind to book one hell of a quality and (for the most part) varied line-up for their small run of Australian preview shows ahead of the release of their fifth LP, ‘Human Target’. Swooping into Sydney’s Crowbar like a bomb, this package, consisting of supports Wither, Dealer and Justice For The Damned, offered as much balance as you could hope in this area of heavy music, and it paid off.

While I was unable to catch Wither due to prior commitments (but you should all go and lurk their latest jam Rot and I), Dealer were in full swing by the time I arrived. Featuring some heavy hitters of the Australian metal world, including Alex Milovic (formerly of Northlane) and Aidan Holmes (formerly of Alpha Wolf), the group have gathered some steam quickly, landing booking deals in Europe as well as Aus. I was a bit disappointed therefore by the lack of excitement that the members have off in their set, with the group grooving through cuts from their ‘Soul Burn’EP without the conviction I was expecting. The heavy backing tracks also took away from what could have been a far more convincing performance. The crowd however didn’t seem to mind, with Holmes using his impressive frontman skills to get the crowd bouncing around and warmed up for the main supports of the evening.

Watching the ascendancy of Justice for the Damned has been something that’s brought a flutter to the heart of all Sydney HXC veterans. From opening undersold bills at the Red Rattler to now being managers by Thy Art guitarist Andy Marsh and touring the world alongside some of the biggest names in the game, they are an example of the benefit of gruelling, hard work. A packed room bounced along to choice cuts, Dragged Through the Dirt, No Brother, No Friend and classic Deep Rotting Fear, with a sense of joy emanating from the five gentlemen as they tore through their set. Closing with blast-fest Please Don’t Leave Me, front man Bobak Rafiee appeared emotional by the huge reception from the home-crowd, with the group somehow leaving the assembled trve’s with the warm-and-fuzzies when they departed.

Seeing Thy Art strut their stuff live is a bit like seeing your dad kill it at your own profession; it’s one that you yourself have been trying to get into but need to see it done properly to understand the work involved. All weird analogies aside, Thy Art slay when it comes to the live stage, but they do so with a cold professionalism and calmness that takes things to a new level. Kicking off with the new 1-2 of Death Squad Anthem and Make America Hate Again, it was impossible not to notice a sense of finesse about how the group went about executing these songs.

Through no fault of their own, the mix became somewhat muddied and impenetrable at certain points in the set, noticeably in cuts The Son of Misery and Light Bearer. However, bass drum sixteenths at 240bpm+ alongside chainsaw guitars will do that to any live mix, and it was impressive to witness, nonetheless.

Reminding the crowd that he was no god but rather a former drug addict who had pulled himself out of the depths, front man CJ McMahon was clearly taking in the moment and as such was in the form of his career, roaring impressively through cuts Holy War and Dear Desolation, not allowing the strain of such vocals to dampen his performance.  Leading the band uncompromisingly through a swiftly presented but devastatingly delivered setlist, McMahon was keen to remind all those attending that it was the Western Sydney roots that mattered most to the band (something called the M4 might prevent a venue in Petersham being in ‘Western Sydney’ but we’ll turn a blind eye there), with the hometown crowd enthusiastically receiving each song with aggressive enthusiasm.

Closing out the evening with the title track of Human Target, it was obvious how much touring the continents, smashing the gruelling European festival circuit and getting in the van time and time again takes things to the next level. Thy Art’s visit to Sydney was a masterclass in what professional death metal should look like in 2019, and in this kind of form, one can only think what new gears they’ll hit further into the new album cycle.