Human Target is the fifth album from Sydney’s Thy Art Is Murder and if you’re familiar with their back catalogue of work, you’re going to have some inkling as to what to expect from their latest offering. They stick with their trusted metalcore leanings but it feels that with ‘Human Target’ they have inched slightly further into death metal territory. The title track starts as the album means to go on, very heavy with blast beats galore and vocals plumbed from the depths of hell. The majority of the songs generally follow the same structure which can be summed up by the final track ‘Chemical Christ’. It begins with the cry of “Do you know your demons?!” before more of the obligatory blast beats and crunchy guitar riffs. Traditional death metal guitar solos enter the fray segueing into a slow, heavy breakdown, a perilous guitar solo, before fading away.
There is very little here that strays from their rigid template, apart from the odd fleeting moment here and there. ‘Death Squad Anthem’ is quick out the blocks and has a mechanical/industrial feel about it, the machine like drumming and old school thrash riffing bring to mind latter day Fear Factory, before the guitars change to resemble something akin to old school Machine Head. ‘Make America Hate Again’ is technical and has a hint of melody accompanied with a creepy death metal synth-like riff that enters the fold halfway through. ‘Eye for an Eye’ tries its hardest to break the tried and tested formula with a quiet intro featuring twinkly guitars before the entrance of tribal drumming, the vocals are relatively restrained. It’s a touch more melodic than the majority, but eventually it falls back into the usual groove. If only they had expanded on these rare moments to really break up the monotony, then this could’ve been a different album.
Technically TAIM can’t be faulted and the drumming from new recruit Jesse Beahler deserves a special mention, he plays like an absolute beast throughout. However, it’s CJ McMahon’s vocals which wore me down over the course of the album. At times they overwhelm, tending to dwarf the music, which is no mean feat considering how heavy it is. The vocals are either very low vomited growls (‘Voyeurs into Death’ – Cannibal Corpse may even doth their caps), screams or jabbing grunts. Every song on here throws a spotlight on serious topics currently plaguing the world; whether it’s discussing organ harvesting in China (Human Target), the link between social media and mental health epidemics (New Gods) or satirically attacking the American political system (Make America Hate Again). It’s commendable that the band tackles these subjects, but the delivery hampers the impact on the listener.
Human Target has much to say from a lyrical standpoint but the majority of the vocals are indecipherable and occasionally irritate which, combined with the repetitive paradigm of the music, left me feeling cold with no emotional attachment to any of the songs or messages contained within. If you’re a TAIM fan and enjoyed their previous work such as Holy War and Dear Desolation, you will enjoy this, it’s clearly a case of ‘if it isn’t broke then don’t fix it’. However this is unlikely to gain the band any new fans, it’s generic, forgettable and by the close of its ten tracks, boring. Human Target isn’t a musical masterpiece and it won’t elevate the band to the next level in an already crowded genre. This doesn’t feel like Thy Art Is Murder’s renaissance, just a cheap reproduction of everything that they have done before. It’s not only a missed target but a missed opportunity.
(4/10 James Jackson)