Thy Art Is Murder have been through a turbulent couple of years. The deathcore Titan’s distinctive frontman, C.J. McMahon infamously left the band at the tail end of 2015, citing financial difficulties. This essentially left the band in limbo for the next twelve months, before they were spontaneously rejoined by McMahon at this year’s UNIFY festival in January, amid talk of the reconciled vocalist’s ongoing battles with substance abuse. Now—in the run-up to a massive world tour and about to drop their brilliant fourth full-length record, Dear Desolation, in the coming weeks—the Sydney-siders have never been in a stronger position, and they brought the form to match it to Saturday night’s sold-out show at Max Watt’s in Melbourne.
“I’m back, and I’m stronger than ever,” declared McMahon early into their headline set and, in the face of the utter devastation he and his band brought to the stage that night, it was a statement that could hardly be denied. Although they only played a single song off their formidable new record—along with the stand-alone single, “No Absolution” (which has been curiously left off the new release)—they brought a similarly furious pace and energy to their older material. It instantly rendered those compositions more engaging and downright colossal than they have ever sounded before.
Whether the tracks were actually played any faster than they are on record, they certainly felt like it, and the tonality of the older material also seemed to have been updated to match the more organic resonance of what’s to come. McMahon himself was in top form—sounding considerably better than he ever has before and oozing charisma and charm in place of his usually troubled and openly hostile persona. He certainly seems to be in a much better place than he was during the first few shows following his shaky reunion and the positivity and genuine excitement he brought to the stage clearly leaked over into the rest of the band’s performance.
The venue itself seemed to have undergone some significant adjustments in recent weeks. Now, not only are there actual taps at the bars but the speaker stacks and general clutter have been cleared from the sides of the stage, and the usual curtain backdrop had been replaced with a lighting rack and projector screen. Whether this is now a permanent fixture of Max Watt’s or just something Thy Art were bringing out for this tour, it should definitely become the standard procedure for both parties. The band’s already fantastic logo looked, even more, imposing lit up in flames behind them, and the uniform back-lighting that went along with it brought a true sense of malevolence to what was an essentially flawless set.
Standouts included “Coffin Dragger,” “Absolute Genocide,” the welcome surprise of “No Absolution” and the frenetic encore of “They Will Know Another.” This was a band firing at full-throttle on all cylinders, and once they work the new material into the set, it’s hard to think that they’ll be anything but utterly unstoppable.
Much was made of the supports by each of the bands throughout the night. While the showcase of fresh and up-and-coming talent made for a more varied and perhaps intriguing lineup than most shows, to be honest, it was a bit of a mixed bag. Brisbane’s Deadlights were clearly the odd band out, but they made up for being out of place with the youthful enthusiasm and gratitude they brought to the stage. Their set was still largely unpolished, and the clean vocals sections were a clear weakness. However, they showed considerable promise, and are certainly a band to keep an eye on amid alternative and hardcore circles.
Easily the strongest support set of the night came from Cursed Earth. The WA grinders left no doubt as to which side of the death metal/hardcore fence they sit on with a sound check of visceral screams and thick, Entombed-drenched guitar tones. What followed was roughly half an hour of the most rabid, disgusting and outwardly violent sets ever to take place within the walls of the old HiFi Bar (and I’ve seen Nasum and Pig Destroyer decimate this very stage!). The assault was forcefully lead by vocalist, Jazmine Luders who utterly erupted onto the stage at the start of the set, took aim at the crowd and whipped them into a frenzy of their own destruction. Her intensity and command were impressive, to say the least, and gloriously rough around the edges. The band have a new EP dropping in the coming weeks, which—judging by the handful of tracks played tonight—is certainly one to watch out for.
Main support was provided by Melbourne’s Alpha Wolf, coming off the back the hugely successful release of their debut full-length Mono. Although I praised the album in the lead-up to its release, and the response in the room was undeniably positive, many of the fractures in the band’s sound more easily overlooked on record were far more damning in the live setting. The similarities to Emmure and general nu-metal influences seemed more emphasised—not least due to guitarist Sabian Lynch, in his black surgeon’s mask, coming off like the love child of John 5 and Wes Borland for better or worse. Likewise, the heartfelt and confronting emotion displayed by vocalist Aidan Allaz came across a touch more contrived in the live setting. Don’t get me wrong it was a solid and well-received set, that kept the momentum going far more competently than even some more established bands of their ilk. It’s just that, despite all the hype, Alpha Wolf might not quite be the full finished product yet.
Photography by Bree Wallace