Deathcore, in its peak popularity, was essentially the dubstep of metal. Structured around a massive breakdown in the same way dubstep is structured around its 808 drop, the prototypical deathcore song was a kinetic experience designed to ratchet up the tension until a cathartic release blasts forth. This compositional style is extremely limiting, which is why both sub-genres will (and arguably already are) seen as flashes in the pan. The move away from “pure” deathcore by its popular luminaries, notably Job for a Cowboy, Suicide Silence, All Shall Perish, and Carnifex, suggests that they saw this limitation and acted in their best interests as composers and/or businessmen. Australia’s premiere deathcore act, Thy Art Is Murder, are fully realizing the stylistic burdens of deathcore on their fourth record Dear Desolation.
What Dear Desolation does with this information is where my interest in it lies. The band is still writing in the deathcore vein, but have elected to express this familiar sound with a different aesthetic, namely that of modern metal from about 2006-2016. An odd parallel I can draw is between Thy Art Is Murder and Parov Stelar, whose dance beats are flavored with old swing and blues music to give a different veneer to similar proceedings. Core-wise, I hear more similarity to Carnifex out of the popular bands; this isn’t as brutal-death oriented as Ingested’s brand of deathcore, nor as technically inclined as All Shall Perish. The death part, like Carnifex, comes from typical modern death metal, for the most part, meaning that it’s fairly technical, precise, and sterile. The influence of modern Polish and American death metal seems, in particular, to be of a notable influence.
Dear Desolation is strangely compelling in that it doesn’t exactly seem to know what it’s going for or to whom it is addressed. Lamb of God circa Resolution gets a huge nod on “Puppet Master,” which rides a riff straight out of the Morton playbook and throws in a good breakdown at the end. It’s enjoyable as a burst of aggression and recaptures that kinetic spirit of deathcore better than most bands currently writing the stuff. “Fire in the Sky” does a commendable job merging typically Polish melodies (think mid-period Behemoth or Hate) with that dissonance so beloved in early deathcore, along with the modernized and streamlined Suffocation riffs that populate the genre still.
Where Thy Art Is Murder falters is in creating any sort of identity for themselves here, beyond a potpourri of modern metal tropes and clichés. The aforementioned “Puppet Master” is preceded by borderline egregious plagiarism of Behemoth’s writing style circa Evangelion in “The Son of Misery” (even Lee Stanton’s drumming adeptly channels Inferno’s performances), and the flow of Dear Desolation is interrupted greatly by this jarring change. Before “The Son of Misery” comes the more traditional “Slaves Beyond Death,” a chuggy reminder of the bygone days of deathcore that surprisingly holds up halfway decently. The transitions between this opening trio are clunky and make following Dear Desolation difficult for the wrong reasons. Ulcerate’s The Destroyers of All gets the deathcore treatment on “Into Chaos We Climb” and meanders about with a staccato-breakdown foundation and a Polish death metal frame in its verses.
All told, Dear Desolation isn’t a bad record but rather a bland and, as I see it, largely unnecessary one. It’s loud and sterile, leaving little grit in the music and making it all come across as more faceless than it already is. Tracks five through seven go by in a tedious blur, melding abortive attempts at interesting dissonance with incessant single-note chugging, providing no real points of interest. Thy Art Is Murder clearly intended to make a modern metal record with Dear Desolation, but they couldn’t decide what best represented modern metal and instead went for the more obvious manifestations, including their own genre of deathcore. The best use for this record, I think, is a catch-all bit of music that can serve one well for ten or so minutes if they need a quick fix of decidedly modern aggression. What’s tough to do is sit through the entire record and have it hold your attention, because Thy Art Is Murder often confuses staccato riffs for actual heaviness, arbitrary dissonance for atmosphere, and straight blasting over largely second-rate Polish riffs for death metal generally. A talented band that sometimes hits the mark, Thy Art Is Murder doesn’t do so enough on Dear Desolation to make listening to the full record a good use of one’s time.