When CJ McMahon announced his return to vocal duties for Thy Art Is Murder back at the start of the year, it was met with a mixture of emotions; relief, ecstasy, and scepticism to name but a few - with all of them being justified in their own right. Citing a lack of steady income and tour exhaustion as some of the reasons his departure from the band was necessary, there was a hint of a concern as to whether McMahon's return to the band would bring with it the level of passion required for TAIM's new material to swing punches with their previous efforts.
While surprise track release 'No Absolution' from earlier in the year somewhat calmed concerns over CJ's return and the direction the band would go in - new album Dear Desolation takes your potential scepticism and firmly punches you in the face with it. It's an album that at the very least finds Thy Art Is Murder in the kind of slaughtering form you were hoping for them to be in.
Wasting absolutely no time before punching you in the gut, the opening one-two of 'Slaves Beyond Death' and 'Son Of Misery' set the tone for what follows; a downtuned, pacey, slicing example of extreme metal annihilation. From blast beats to intricate solos - Thy Art Is Murder seemingly have picked up right where they left off on 2015's Holy War.
While seething anger is the first element you'd expect to feel in any TAIM record, there are moments on Dear Desolation where it comes across as strong, if not stronger than it ever has. The mosh calls on tracks like 'Puppet Master' and 'Into Chaos We Climb' take tracks that were already feverishly heavy and make them absolutely impossible to not headbang at breakneck speed to - this is near perfect deathcore.
In truth, Dear Desolation is nothing new, and doesn't break any boundaries that haven't already been shattered previously, but this album doesn't strike as just another deathcore album. This is because very few albums in extreme metal have vocalists as pungently powerful as CJ McMahon or drummers as tirelessly relentless as Lee Stanton.
While every member of the band puts in a stellar performance on Dear Desolation, it's Stanton who often steals the show, who puts in the extreme metal drumming performance of the year so far, which in an 8 months which has seen releases from the likes of Decapitated and Rings Of Saturn is really saying something. The production job sees the drums expectedly high in the mix, but there's a level of pace sprinting through the record which adds a hint of Slayer to every blisteringly heavy track - which is never, ever a bad thing.
Dear Desolation is exactly what Thy Art Is Murder needed it to be. Whether there is to be a direction change or stylistic change in the future remains to be seen. But for now; TAIM are the deathcore band you always wanted, the band that are more than well equipped to be at the helm of the genre. If deathcore did in fact need to be made great again, then it's probably time for the victory parade.
Review by Kristian Pugh