It’s almost two hours before the doors are due to open and already, swarms of metalheads adorning Suicide Silence and Whitechapel shirts are blasting music outside The Electric Ballroom and heckling the doormen. Tonight, Australian extreme metal export Thy Art Is Murder are playing their single biggest headline show to date and the atmosphere surrounding that fact and the sheer brilliance of their latest record Dear Desolation is thick in the air. While hopes are high, we still had no idea what we were in for.
Entering under a hue of dark lighting, fellow Aussies and good friends of the headliners Justice For The Damned tear The Electric Ballroom a new one with a heavily hardcore/grindcore influenced extremity. There are very few support slots where you can watch a band and feel as though they’ve come out of nowhere to being a fully formed group. Justice prove themselves to be such as they fill up a good half hour with songs from their debut Dragged Through The Dirt with “No Flowers On Your Grave” and “Please Don’t Leave Me” showing off their terrific knack of going from blistering blast beats to half-time slams that catch more than a few double takes and “Holy shit! did you just hear that?”.
Having picked up Dragged Through The Dirt after their set, I can confirm this is not just “another good live band”, they are the real deal and posed a significant threat of outdoing all the bands on the bill tonight. It feels crazy to be saying it on what is their first UK tour but I reckon this is a band that just need the time and the audience to usurp the headline slot. What a group and what a show!
Following on from Justice were the much more widely known American deathcore quartet Oceano who play a lot of older material tonight which people really seem to love. The pit opens up and the craziness begins though I don’t feel alone in not vibing with vocalist Adam Warren’s pig squeal vocals. Musically, the band are bountifully proficient, it just feels like they’ve rather pinned themselves to a corner in adopting all the hallmarks of the subgenre. In such extreme music as this is where certain techniques are used to acquire a particular sound, it begins to become interchangeable and Oceano seem, unfortunately like another one of those bands that boast very little standout identity.
Like I said before, a significant amount of people really dig it but after watching the brilliance that was Justice For The Damned and gearing up for the levelling power of Thy Art Is Murder, Oceano sadly feel a little behind. Nevertheless, it was addressed by Adam all too correctly that as a scene “we need to stick together” which makes me reluctant to write them off entirely. Many, many people enjoyed the set and I welcome the prospect of a future Oceano who have carved their own niche in deathcore.
Sporting a much fatter production, emphasising the low end, After The Burial rock up and seem to hit a home run with a crowd that is not only aware of their material, they love it and greet the band with great enthusiasm. It’s the opening riff of set opener “Lost In The Static” off 2016’s Dig Deep that signposts how their set is going to unravel. Having as much in common with Hatebreed than any of the bands on the bill tonight, the crossover metalcore/hardcore beast that is After The Burial are as much about fun as anything else. Rewarded justly with the first crowd-surfers, the band play through their set with great ease and to great reception. There is little else to say than that really. Closing with fan favourite “A Wolf Amongst Ravens”, it is clear the band know their audience well and play largely to their strengths. Good vibes from both band and audience.
Queen’s “Don’t Stop Me Now” blares overhead as that ominous pentagram lights up above Thy Art Is Murder‘s commanding logo. An impressively stacked drum kit engulfs the latter half of the stage that the band step out onto to introduce their newest record Dear Desolation‘s title track as they had been doing on The Double Homicide Tour with Decapitated a few weeks ago. It struck me then as it did now as a really odd choice to open their set with, being a lesser known track off a new record and one where mainman CJ has to sing two vocal lines almost simultaneously. Nevertheless, when he struts out and roars the opening line “Pray for plagues”, all my doubts disappear. Giving way to album opener “Slaves Beyond Death” also proved popular but no one expected, nor were they ready for “The Purest Strain Of Hate” to be busted out as the third song. That was, quite simply, a sheer phenomenon.
The possibility that Justice For The Damned could easily claim the night had not left my mind till this point. Ultimately however, Thy Art have the whole package. Having transcended the deathcore scene over the past few records, they have the ability to go wherever they want set-wise with a back-catalogue that not only boasts varied songs but really damn good ones too! Furthermore, CJ simply encapsulates what’s brilliant about heavy music. As an impressively built bloke with the pipes of a damned hellspawn, he has the capability to terrify when he wishes to but the humour that oozes from his performance gives him such an incredible charisma and aura about him. Sprinkling the performance with dabbing and stuffing fans clothes down his pants, he’s obviously got it all figured out.
Drawing to the end of the set, Bobak Rafiee of Justice For The Damned joins CJ on stage for “Coffin Dragger” which just looks brilliant to see the two up there together. “The Son Of Misery” cracks in with tremendous power but it’s “Puppet Master” that has proven itself to be the favourite from the new record and possibly the whole show! A few tracks from Holy War bookend the set and “Reign Of Darkness” is obviously saved till last and packs all the punches. They don’t leave without saying “There’s a lot of shit going on in the world at the moment, so to everyone with anxiety and problems, I want you to go home tonight and make your world the happiest one you can live in”. Very apt and sincerely heartfelt.
With it being Thy Art’s biggest headline show to date, it would be very easy to conclude that with Dear Desolation, the band have finally arrived but I think this one’s definitely going to be a grower of an album, reaching bigger audiences at bigger shows as time goes on. It’s impossible to say how far this music can go but as far as comparison goes, Thy Art are the band from this corner of extreme music that are going to take it and run with it. We are with them the whole way! Roll on the next one.
Photos by and (c) Fernando Bonenfant Photography