With Dear Desolation, Thy Art is Murder do what they do best, delivering an album of angry and sinister deathcore that doesn’t forget its roots. But the formula, as good as it is, is starting to feel a bit old.
If you’re a Thy Art is Murder fan, you’re probably able to guess what the good bits of Dear Desolation are. Every track on the album sounds genuinely forceful and aggressive. This sound is maintained all the way through the record’s runtime in a way that a lot of other bands simply can’t sustain. The deal has been sweetened even further this time around by the inclusion of some black metal and more classic death metal elements, helping the album avoid being labelled purely as another generic deathcore release. “Puppet Master” and “Dear Desolation” both use more classic sounding riffs in combination with the kinetic impact so associated with deathcore, whilst also avoiding the stop-start disjointedness that can sometimes plague the genre.
The limited experimentation, where it occurs, also sounds pretty damn good; the more melodic features (I use this term very very loosely) help to add a bit of atmosphere, and give the album a bit more texture than heard on Thy Art is Murder‘s previous releases. Don’t worry! I’m not referring to anything as heretical as clean vocals, but there are slightly longer riffs with a bit more of a melodic quality, and tasteful guitar solos do make an appearance throughout. Things never get in the way of what we’re really here for though: disgusting sounding distorted guitars and nearly incomprehensible screaming. “Death Dealer” is probably the song which combines these elements best; this is a slightly slower, but nonetheless cataclysmically heavy, song which harks back to a slightly more classic sound.
It’s not all roses though; a few of the songs have slower intros with more minimalistic instrumentation. These elements seem a bit like they’re ruining the flow of an otherwise fast-paced album. The “Skin Of The Serpent” is an especially egregious offender in this regard. A lot of the energy of the song is wasted on breakdown-esque sections which combine the meandering tempo of a standard deathcore breakdown with the heaviness of goose down. This is emblematic of one of the main problems I had with parts of the album – drummer Lee Stanton’s percussion has been transformed from an explosive fuel-air mixture of incendiary blast beats and crushing breakdowns into a more surgical and precise composition. The guitars also follow this pattern with sometimes disappointing results. There are, of course, plenty of songs with really solid instrumentation, but I still can’t help but feel the weaker songs let down the album a bit.
I don’t feel this shift really plays to the strengths of the band; my favourite songs by Thy Art is Murder are the likes of “Reign of Darkness”, “They Will Know Another”, and “Lightbearer”. These songs aren’t imprecise or sloppy by any means, but they don’t shy away from letting loose. Even slower numbers like “Holy War” still have a real sense of energy and aggression about them, which is unfortunately missing from some of the tracks on Dear Desolation, and not to their advantage.
At the same time, Dear Desolation feels like it hasn’t changed enough. If you could blind taste-test songs, I wager your average listener would have difficulty distinguishing many of its numbers from tracks off Holy War. Sure, some of the riffs sound different, but there’s not a huge amount of substantive variation outside of a few tweaks here and there. Dear Desolation does make clearer references to its influences than Holy War, but the influences themselves – blackened death metal in the vein of Behemoth – are much the same.
I really liked Dear Desolation, as will pretty much anyone who’s already a fan of Thy Art is Murder. After the uncertainty surrounding CJ’s continued membership in the band, Dear Desolation is a comforting indicator that the boys are back. That said though, I really have a hard time recommending anyone actually purchase Dear Desolation. Sure, there’s a few new things thrown in there, and lots of tasty riffs, but if you’ve listened to Holy War and Hate, you’re not really going to get anything new from Dear Desolation. If you like Thy Art is Murder, listen to Dear Desolation. If you don’t, then don’t.
Notable Tracks: “Dear Desolation”; “Death Dealer”; “The Son Of Misery”
FFO: Carnifex, Behemoth