Sound — 7
Regarding Thy Art Is Murder's work ethic, vocalist CJ McMahon has stated, unabashedly, that they are "one of the hardest-working touring bands" on the face of the earth. It's a claim that can never be concretely verified, but it bears some validity. With the deathcore outfit based in the geographical outcast that is Australia, it was supporting global metal acts like Despised Icon and Fear Factory on their Australia tours that garnered more international attention for Thy Art Is Murder. The band would parlay that attention into their first international tour in Europe, as well as traveling to America to record their second album, 2012's "Hate," which would get a global release via Nuclear Blast a year later, and warrant even more international touring. McMahon's statement may be bait for a pissing contest, but it was indeed that arduous, uncannily-jetlagged touring that got the band where they are now.
As far as Thy Art Is Murder have traveled as performers, their traveling as songwriters hasn't been as adventurous. With their debut album, "The Adversary," being little more than a blistering show of extreme metal instrumentalism (though that's par for the course with deathcore), the follow-up of "Hate" brought some much-needed melodic elements into the fold, though they were still encumbered with stale formula - you could make a drinking game out of every time you heard a deathcore chug riff switch into a grinding blastbeat section.
Now on their third album, "Holy War," Thy Art Is Murder are still working towards a deathcore sound with more depth to it. At face value, things seem like business as usual - with the titular track's skillfull drumming and guitar solo being a conventional high point, and the tedious triplet riffs and general uneventfulness in "Violent Reckoning" being a low point - but even though relentless blastbeats and sludgy breakdowns are still the brick-and-mortar of their songwriting, a lot more effort is seen cultivating more tonal layers and accentuating the essence of permeating doom rather than jam-packed brutality. Much of this is accomplished by sprucing up the peripheries (heard in the choral pads in "Deliver Us to Evil," the numerous distant tremolo lines and reverbed growls in "Emptiness," and the sirening guitar melodies that intertwine with the string layers in the opening of "Absolute Genocide"), as well as sections which appreciate the negative space (heard in "Child of Sorrow" and the post-metaly intro of "Naked and Cold") which not only set things for even stronger dynamic shifts into extreme metal sections, but give these songs a theatrical quality to them.
Lyrics — 8
With Thy Art Is Murder's previous lyrics being deeply rooted in the beaten-path topics of Lucifer-fueled Armageddon and shallow gore porn, "Holy War" shows more lyrical variance for the band. While the grotesque imagery and unadulterated despair are still doled out by the fistful, the causes of destruction and strife this time around stem from the tangible root of manic humanity, and instead of McMahon playing the role of the slayer like in previous albums, he's merely a witness to the manmade destruction, identifying several focal points of modern society that have exacerbated this end. He growls about the erosion of the environment in "Absolute Genocide" ("As the earth gasps for air / Inhale the exhaust"), highlights the gross economic divide in "Deliver Us to Evil" ("Palaces in deserts / Overlooking the slums / Starving and famished / The poor are the forgotten ones"), rails against corrupted government and misleading media in "Violent Reckoning" ("Grand manipulation / From the parliaments to the TV screen"), and brandishes utmost scorn towards the poisonous results of religious-based war in "Holy War" ("Father and son marching in rhythm / Firing bullets through the skulls of children").
Though the unwavering tone of disdain and misery leads to repetitive lyrics (one can call humanity a cancer and a collective of parasites so many times before it loses its fervor), "Holy War" also bring one of the most poetically-impressive moments for the band. In "Fur and Claw," McMahon details harrowing scenes of animals committing suicide in order to escape the foulness of a natural world diminished by humans, with birds drowning themselves in the ocean, wolves flinging themselves off of cliffs, and slugs burying themselves inside decrepit trees to wither and die. With McMahon's portraying of dying nature being beautifully haunting, he shows that he's capable of delivering lyrics with rich detail in other ways rather than just talking about burning bodies.
Overall Impression — 8
There's a healthy amount of progression Thy Art Is Murder display in "Holy War." Having learned that the exclusive usage of raw power in songwriting leads to a dull abundance, their expansion of soundscapes and a further investment in lower-geared doom metal sections add more depth to their sound, helping diversify the flow of songs, as well as helping the heavy parts hit harder. Furthermore, their expansion upon subject matter in their lyrics helps the band set themselves apart from their deathcore peers who seem to only be capable of writing about mass immolation and disembowelment. Thy Art Is Murder are showing signs that they want to provide more than the standard offering of deathcore, and "Holy War" ultimately has them taking more steps towards that.