Popular deathcore bands seem to all have a big moment in a big song. Suicide Silence blasted onto my radar—and that of the metalheads around me—with the massive “No Pity for a Coward” breakdown and its brutal, memorable refrain. Whitechapel had a few, but most notable for me was the “this world is ours” breakdown in “This is Exile.” Job for a Cowboy had that scream in “Entombment of a Machine.” Acrania had the “send them to the slaughterhouse” bit in “Disillusion in a Discordant System.” Waking the Cadaver had Shredded Wheat. The list can go on, but it needn’t. Australian deathcore stalwarts Thy Art Is Murder have joined the Big Deathcore Moment Club as of 2012, with the “I am the purest strain of hate” smackdown on “The Purest Strain of Hate.” It seems they’ve joined the big leagues—and, to top it all off, they’ve even been reviewed here on Angry Metal Guy. These dudes are truly a big deal in deathcore, so the release of Human Target is surely exciting for at least some of our readership.
Provided I can be counted amongst the readership too, I was excited for Human Target. Thy Art Is Murder knows how to write some good tunes, and while Dear Desolation didn’t do a lot for me as a whole, it had its moments. This time around, Thy Art Is Murder have decided to ramp up the Lamb of God influences in their sound considerably, and lean a bit more on Polandcore (Hate, pre-terrible Behemoth). Combining this with their hefty deathcore fides, which pleasantly remind me of Oceano’s Depths and Suicide Silence’s The Cleansing, we have something that sounds more like the amorphous concept of “modern metal” with breakdowns instead of whatever “pure deathcore” might represent. There aren’t all that many big, “No Pity for a Coward” type breakdowns—instead, we get hardcore-tinged staccato chromatic chugs, and many of the breakdowns that do appear tend to bolster whatever one guitar plays over top.
A band doesn’t often get as big as Thy Art Is Murder without some proof of quality in the pudding, and there are good songs to be had here. The title track starts Human Target strong with burly, thuggish riffing, some throwback breakdowns, and an aggressive vocal performance from CJ McMahon. It’s catchy, and McMahon’s phrasing is smart and memorable, showing why he’s one of the most lauded vocalists in modern deathcore. “Death Squad Anthem” has big, simple riffs and another catchy refrain, again showcasing McMahon’s knack for rhythm and phrasing. It’s got a lot of energy, doesn’t let up from the pummeling riffs, and is a good example of what the genre does right. “Eye for an Eye” stumbles a bit out of the gate with its bland Polandcore riffing but finds its feet when it builds up to a good breakdown in its middle and an emotive harmony at its conclusion. It is well placed as the penultimate track as well; smart sequencing is always appreciated.
Nonetheless, Human Target does falter in places. “Make America Hate Again” sounds like a Sacrament/Wrath-era Lamb of God outtake with more breakdowns sprinkled in, or perhaps a Japanese bonus track on either record. It’s not bad, but it’s not terribly exciting. “Eternal Suffering” chugs a lot but lacks direction, meandering with beefy riffs before unceremoniously fading out. “Atonement” has a nondescript character about it, lacking a compelling hook or riff to elevate it beyond deathcore-themed wallpaper. “Welcome Oblivion” is frustrating, as it has some interesting arrangements and McMahon does a good job crafting another screamed hook, but it practically reveals its entire hand about thirty seconds into the song, dampening its replay value by resting on its own laurels for its duration.
Human Target will likely keep Thy Art Is Murder where they are, maybe acquiring a few fans who have gotten into extreme metal through the Lamb of God gateway by emphasizing those elements of their sound more than on Dear Desolation. This is an easy record to like, but a tough one to love or wholeheartedly recommend. In today’s music atmosphere, Human Target will be an album where deathcore fans will put the highlights on an ever-growing deathcore playlist and listen that way. The upside to an album like this is that it’s easy to listen to, as it demands precious little of the listener. I can throw on Human Target and be entertained for its duration—and that, like this record, is okay.