Though my personal familiarity with Thy Art Is Murder is limited, a request for me to review upcoming album Human Target sparked interest due to the calibre of its singles. The quintet were rolling out songs that left an imprint upon me, not just with their heaviness of sound, but also with their subject matter. So I let my curiosity drive my review of Human Target ahead of its release (on 26th July via Human Warfare).
Opening with the title track, static riffs foreshadow the landing of a dense and all-consuming blanket of heaviness. Villainous rhythms sink their teeth in, while a sense of urgency builds with relentless drums and cavernous vocals. Living this “life in the crosshairs” seems to ask for people to be as agile as the guitar-work; to avoid the overwhelming pressures of dark conformity.
The only moment for a breath in “Human Target” is a guitar solo, flying above the otherwise pummeling and thick density of a song. Unsettling and alarming, the track suits its opening position on the album, and “Kill to survive” rings in our ears well after it has gone.
Thumping and chanting, second track “New Gods” rips the listener down into the bowels of the machine, giving a front row view of the machinations of society. Taking a stab at what we see as normal, the track serves as a warning about what it means to place ‘influencers’ upon pedestals, and the power they seem to dangerously wield.
It’s an important topic for our social media-centric modern worlds, and I’m loving lyrics such as “Can’t look me in the eyes / When you only see optical illusions algorithms provide”. Sonically full and beastly, “New Gods” is again unsettling and I suspect I’ll be using that adjective a lot more throughout this review.
A cavernous breakdown seems like the resulting suffering as we bow down to those who are the ‘new Gods’. Noisy and full, I’m loving this dive into a doomsday seeming to be heralded by a pristine and curated Instagram aesthetic, and I can’t help but move to this.
The intensity doesn’t quit with a shove into “Death Squad Anthem”. I’m loving the guitar tone at the introduction and a buzzing that hangs like a promise of suffering. Turning Thy Art’s laser focus from the ills of social media to the ills of war, sirens wail and blood is a promise.
Obedience is the requirement and resistance needs to be erased. They can’t have war if the future soldiers don’t comply, so “Riot, resist / Tyrants cease to exist”. I appreciate the chorus and its riff, and how there’s nothing subtle about this sledgehammer of truth about the casualties of war treated like they’re infinite. This is a call to arms that’s inverse to patriotism; to see that war doesn’t earn peace, and that singing a new tune is needed. For something so dark, “Death Squad Anthem” is catchy in its ‘sing with me’ invitation for raising a revolution.
Though “Make America Hate Again” has been released as a single, I deliberately hadn’t spent much time with it before now, wanting to take it in during my review. From the title alone, it clearly ties into the Trump-ism of “Make America Great Again”, and the negative fallout from this president and his stances/beliefs.
I’m digging the instrumental tones of this song; in how there’s such clarity in the process of it building up, yet it also simultaneously threatens to stomp on the listener. The stellar sound of Human Target is the product of Will Putney at Graphic Nature Audio in New Jersey (see more on the behind the scenes of that here via Kerrang), who Thy Art have consistently worked with.
While at gigs I tend to ‘mentally mosh’, I had to get up at my desk and move to this one while reviewing. Even so early in the album, it has already been an absolute treat for such hostility-based songs to be easy to get swept up into like this. The track both grooves and pummels with a ever swerving thread of setting government alight continuing throughout it. There’s so much going on in this song that’s hype-inducing, seeming fit to activate the masses to incite chaos. I’m loving the djenty collision with a guitar solo for a moment, before sliding right back into Intensity Town.
For me the song peaks at around the two minute mark with its choral doomsday expansion akin to a call to the skies above. Something about this is unbelievably satisfying as part of this great ride. A return to the chorus is a cherry on top.
“Eternal Suffering” is unreal in its echoey openness and forlorn reflection at the introduction. The track hits as sonically impactful as the existential questions it asks vocally/lyrically. While it’s not necessarily blatant, I feel this song could very easily relate to our handling of the earth and the pollution and damage that humans have left as a legacy. Regardless of the actual context, it’s a pained and heavy reflection of what could have been done, and questions about how we’ll survive.
Drum rhythms that hit like gunfire and swervingly erratic guitar are punched home by raw and roared vocals. With guitar in just one ear at times, it’s a contrast to the otherwise thick blanket of sound. There’s nothing predictable here, which really hits home this existential horror with spacious breakdowns. I enjoy the ‘speaking’ of the guitar around the 2:30 mark, which seems to be trying to make sense of things. This track truly takes on a feel of dark dark times ahead for everyone, with an ache of blackness that seeps into the skeletal frame of us all. I adore the eeriness and vibe of it being a ‘last chance’ that the track offers up as it comes to an end, particularly via drums and the fading out static of slow and solid guitar rhythms (that may as well be channelling Kublai Khan).
“Welcome Oblivion” begins with a quote about cancer from Christopher Hitchens, planting the assumption that that theme will bleed into the rest of the song. Just when you think you’ve landed upon a horrifying/dark song, Thy Art keep upping the ante! Here is one of those topics that’s unquestionably dark; the idea of cancer as a “blind, emotionless alien” that uses humans as host until we die with it or manage to outlive it.
Horror is expressed with sharpened riffs and punching rhythms. Heaviness rains down, where the repeat of “welcome oblivion” takes on the form of something that chips away at one’s will to live. A downward slide and a persistent melody in amongst the fight and fire is unsettling and eerie, and layers and chaotic intensity feel fitting for this fight within the body. Slowed and heavy, “Welcome Oblivion” feels uncomfortably fitting for facing inevitable death.
“There will be no asylum
White hospital walls
Stained in violence”
A lighter moment arrives with “Atonement” at first. Layers of guitar filter down, before “These demons” lands callously and aggressively. The song is ridiculously punishing and I can barely hear the melody that’s going on underneath thick heaviness. More sparse at the verses, CJ details something that seems like another kind of internal war, but one with the self instead of cancer; one’s own demons. I take “Atonement” as the experience of being lost to the grips of anxiety; where your lens is clouded by fear, doubt, paranoia, and how this can take over someone in their sleep or other vulnerable moments. It’s abundantly clear that Thy Art aren’t shying away from the worst experiences of humanity.
I found my attention waning a little here in this track, having been bombarded by heaviness for several hours of writing. Nuances of “Atonement” are lost by the wall of sound intensity, which I guess is perfectly fitting for the subject matter, but it made it harder as a listener to hook into. I love the final moments of “Atonement”; there’s something beautiful about this end, with its bending riffs and lighter melodic guitar shining through.
“Our past collides like shorelines and sand”
Such throaty vocals arrive at “Voyeurs Into Death”! While I’m feeling a bit weary from this consistent heaviness, I found myself staying present in the curiosity of wondering what this song means. With lines referring to caged children and “institutional enslavement”, I felt that it could easily relate to the ICE camps and detainment of people in places like Nauru, and the lack of compassion that these situations contain.
The slamming track comes with an Orwellian flavour of monitoring; with powers that be owning and observing everything. Alarm and pressures of conformity ripple through this track which shifts from an easy pace through to something that blasts and sears, as is literally expressed: “Turning embers into flame”. My attention is split across the board, with all elements tying into this alarmist state of existence and eradication of non-compliance.
“Eye For An Eye” sparked a ‘What the fuck?’ reaction in me at first. The song seemed so chilled in comparison to what I’d heard so far. It wouldn’t have surprised me at all if contemplative would have singing arrived after this song’s introduction, but instead it’s CJ’s screams brushing up against churning bass, thoughtful guitar melody, and tension-building drums.
After a call to mother earth, this song’s easy opening lands heavily in Hectic Town with blast beats raining down over searing guitar and the call for our planet to shed the poisonous presence of man. Further hecticness arrives, and the state of things at a minute and a half into the song are very different to where we began. “Eye For An Eye” is increasingly punishing of sound, seeming like Thy Art had deliberately got us to let our guards down to enjoy the full impact of this as it progressively grew.
It’s easy to picture earth’s self destruction to the soundtrack of “Eye For An Eye”; Aflame and with disaster wiping the slate clean. Literally expressed as “Our blood shall nourish the fields in crimson and rust Eden to dust”, the song seems to portray the idea of a vengeful planet (or is it a vengeful God?) that lies in patient wait to wreak havoc. It’s tension created to a T.
I adore the song section around 3:30 of “Eye For An Eye” in how heart-wrenchingly tragic it all feels. Soaring tones along with so many other layers of heaviness have their say. It’s so perfect for the scene laid for this beautiful thing we’ve ruined to rise up and “Take us back to the start”.
Before listening to to “Chemical Christ”, my initial thought was ‘How does one end an album like this?’. It ends with ridiculous drumming, that’s how it ends! Rhythmically punching ears like gunfire at first, “Chemical Christ” hits home with questions toward those with “lethal addictions to self-prescriptions”. Huge and steady, these punches foreshadow a shift into high gear, where control is lost and there’s no grip to be found. It’s a lightspeed slide inside bombardment with no way out, seeming fitting for the maze of addiction.
Soaking in the ridiculous intensity of this last track, it’s mind-boggling to me how Thy Art Is Murder have managed to fill an album with songs of this pace and energy throughout, as well as kept interest high. When not at high speed, “Chemical Christ” is buried in the lowest lows of the ‘sword swallowers’‘ existence in a cavernous breakdown, as they “Grovel at the feet of your father”.
At around the 2:30 mark of “Chemical Christ”, a reprieve of intensity arrives that feels ominous nonetheless. I’m left undecided if it’s marking a moment of sorrow or announcing a disaster to come. The answer seems to be both, as a ginormous riff – both aching and solid as a tank – takes “Chemical Christ” home, and fades out to the end of the album. It has me think of the album artwork again, and how the sadness we live amongst could perhaps be found in our own hands as much as we can point blame elsewhere.
What a breathtaking album! With unwavering intensity, Thy Art Is Murder have formed a collection of vibrant and interesting songs. Though I expected wall-to-wall monotonous brutal intensity, Human Target instead offered well-placed shifts of sound that honoured the messages contained in each song… as well as brutal intensity! With instrumental isolation, pockets of breakdowns, and showcases of musical agility, Thy Art Is Murder have skillfully created a gloomy atmosphere which not only reflects the dark times we live within, yet also pushes for change.
As a lyrics/emotions-oriented listener, I enjoyed delving into Human Target with the lyrics in hand, taking my time with each to understand the possible motivation behind the music. But I also felt that there would be something on Human Target for all ‘breeds’ of listener; those with more of an ear for instrumentation, those who revel in the inhuman vocals from CJ, or those looking for something to fire them up in the pit.
Having honestly had no previous connection with a Thy Art Is Murder album (and therefore not able to compare the band’s releases in this review), I’m surprised how much I enjoyed this! Going into the heaviest depths of heavy music isn’t where I typically land, but as well as enjoying the album instrumentally with its stunning tones, I appreciated that the album’s themes were grounded in real-world issues. Thy Art Is Murder have unflinchingly focused on our present-day world’s greatest challenges, and done so with strength and heart.
Unwavering intensity. Vibrant and interesting songs. Musically agile and fittingly dark for the times we live in, with a view to spark change.
My attention waned at times when it was hard to hook into what was being shared vocally or expressed musically.