The brisk, chilling breeze surrounding the nations second capital carries an air of aggression with it tonight. The combo of skinny jeans and beaten up vans is ten a penny, and the sense of united brotherhood leaves a spring in your step. In amongst the positivity outside Birmingham's O2 Academy is also an expectancy - with the predicted result being: there's a storm coming. This storm was coming in the shape of arguably deathcore's biggest band - Thy Art Is Murder, aiming to turn a sold out, sweltering room of extreme metal bands into an all out slaughterhouse. Oceano [7.5] bring a whole heap of pace with them, and slot perfectly into the atmosphere that cloaked the venue. To put it extremely politely; there's no nonsense from the Illinois outfit tonight, it's balls to the wall, fists in the air, and growls in the lungs. With a level of pulsing bounce running throughout the set and a rhythm section that you can feel is wearing away your organs; the quartet make a fine start to proceedings and leave their mark on what was set to be a memorable occasion. Minneapolis' After The Burial  seem to be the kind of outfit that could fit into almost any extreme metal lineup, their dexterous blend of technical metalcore into scorching deathcore sees them become a band that can turn heads on any given evening. Rather than just turn heads, here it's apparent that ATB are looking to remove them from our bodies. The salvo of 'Lost In The Static' and 'Collapse' taken from their most recent and outright excellent album Dig Deep bring with them an immense level of power, and the whole venue seemingly fills with acknowledgement to the talent that's on show here. To refer to After The Burial as 'talented' feels like somewhat of an insult, with a performance on guitar from Trent Hafdahl that at times genuinely needed to be seen to be believed - as well as the thumping vocals of Anthony Notarmaso and we're looking at a band here with nearly limitless potential. The opening drum fill of 'Anti Pattern' sends the room into a frenzy, while the solo of 'Deluge' drops jaws - this is extreme metal performed at the highest level. Having only rejoined the band at the start of the year, citing tour exhaustion as one of the reasons for his departure - you couldn't be blamed for wondering whether CJ McMahon and his counterparts in Thy Art Is Murder  were in the mood to bring it on the live front. Ten seconds into 'Dear Desolation' and you could sense that the Aussies weren't in the mood to get up-staged by their support bands. This feels fresh and re-engergised.
Photo Credit: Ryan Winstanley
CJ stands at the forefront of the stage with poise and anger, before slipping into the one-two of 'The Purest Strain Of Hate' and 'Shadow Of Eternal Sin', the crowd are at fever pitch, and the tension is palpable. It's odd to imagine a performance of deathcore which can be described as professional, but to an extent - that's what this is. At this point in their careers, TAIM don't need to spend 5 minutes making jokes between songs, or climb into the crowd every few songs, hell - they barely even need to remind you to mosh. They turn up, play their songs exquisitely and are fully aware that mayhem will ensue as a consequence. The blend of material from the bands latest record Dear Desolation fits in perfectly with their pre-established efforts and finds absolutely no drop in crowd interest, especially with the breakdown of 'Puppet Master' which is so fierce you can almost feel the skin leaving your body. Nevertheless it's the classics such as 'Holy War' and 'Reign Of Darkness' that show you just how much control Thy Art Is Murder have over this genre, it's absolute bedlam. Despite starting to near towards hitting the decade mark of their length at the forefront of the scene, it's abundantly clear that people are nowhere near fed up with Thy Art Is Murder yet, and why should they be? Any doubts over their ability to be a standout live band were squashed here, and what TAIM have done is: etched themselves in history as one of this generations truly great extreme metal bands.