Mouth for WAR

THY ART IS MUR­DER CLAIM THEY’RE “STABBING AT EV­ERY­ONE EQUALLY” ON THEIR NEW DISC. BUT HAVE THE DEATH MET­ALLERS STRAYED TOO FAR, AND IDEN­TI­FIED THEM­SELVES AS A TAR­GET?

Blunt - - Cover Story - WORDS BY BREN­DAN CRABB. PHO­TOS BY THOMAS SAV­AGE

It re­quires a sub­stan­tial event for a death metal act – an Aus­tralian one es­pe­cially – to gar­ner main­stream me­dia col­umn inches. West­ern Syd­ney-spawned, now in­ter­na­tional death­core king­pins Thy Art Is Mur­der did fol­low­ing the stage in­va­sion at the Bris­bane leg of Sound­wave last year, and are thus some­what ac­cli­ma­tised to such no­to­ri­ety. But the leak­ing of the un­cen­sored art­work for third full-length

HolyWar – which de­picts a pre­pubescent, am­bigu­ously re­li­gious sui­cide sol­dier – un­der­stand­ably raised the stakes in this re­spect. The art­work, re­moved from the cover but still in­cor­po­rated into the pack­ag­ing, was con­demned by some as highly and un­nec­es­sar­ily provoca­tive. De­spite its ti­tle, ac­cord­ing to the band HolyWar isn’t teth­ered to a soli­tary theme, also fea­tur­ing songs about re­la­tion­ship break­downs, an­i­mal rights, the en­vi­ron­ment and child abuse (à la “Reign Of Dark­ness” from 2012’s Top 40-bust­ing Hate). But the cen­tre­piece re­mains that ex­treme mu­sic sta­ple: anti-reli­gion. De­i­cide’s Glen Ben­ton has been pay­ing his bills for 25 years while bait­ing con­ser­va­tives via blas­phe­mous art­work, lyrics and in­ter­views. Slayer has be­lit­tled var­i­ous de­nom­i­na­tions. But there is re­al­is­tic dis­quiet Thy Art Is Mur­der’s new aes­thetic may muddy or over­shadow the mes­sage the band claims to be con­vey­ing – es­pe­cially such a com­plex, multi-faceted topic – and risk be­ing mis­con­strued, par­tic­u­larly by younger, more im­pres­sion­able lis­ten­ers. “We kinda fig­ured that might hap­pen,” gui­tarist Andy Marsh says from Ger­many of the wide­spread cov­er­age. “I guess it’s good to see the plan all fall into place, but it’s pretty crazy. You don’t know what race the kid is; you prob­a­bly don’t know what gen­der the kid is, it’s not re­ally wear­ing any par­tic­u­lar re­li­gious piece of cloth­ing or garb. It just has a bomb strapped to it. We def­i­nitely did tar­get all re­li­gions on this record lyri­cally, so I guess we just have to make it pretty well-known, and share it around that, ‘Hey, we’re not pick­ing on you, one par­tic­u­lar guy, we’re pick­ing on God as an idea in gen­eral’,” he laughs. “We don’t want to have any kid of any par­tic­u­lar faith feel vic­timised or tar­geted. It’s not that we hate a small Mus­lim kid, or a Chris­tian kid… It’s the idea of the God that we’re at­tack­ing. “I guess it’s some­thing that peo­ple have been do­ing for a while, but I don’t think it’s been done quite like this be­fore. I think with the par­tic­u­lar cli­mate at the mo­ment, ev­ery­thing has a time and a place in his­tory. I’m not say­ing this is go­ing to make his­tory, I’m just say­ing that par­tic­u­lar things hap­pen at par­tic­u­lar mo­ments. Maybe if we made this record in two years, or two years ago… It wouldn’t stir the pot so much. I think in con­text, at this par­tic­u­lar mo­ment it’s go­ing to have a lot more im­pact than it would have a few years ago, or in a few years’ time.” Did oft-out­spo­ken growler CJ McMa­hon fear their mes­sage may be mis­un­der­stood, or viewed as in­flam­ma­tory? “We def­i­nitely had con­cerns when we were writ­ing, but when we ac­tu­ally recorded the song and we lis­tened to it back then we re­alised what we had done,” the singer adds. “Now, peo­ple are go­ing to have a stab at us and say that we’re racist, and it’s got noth­ing to do with race. Any­one can be any reli­gion on the face of the Earth, as we’ve seen stuff like that young guy in Mel­bourne that went over to fight with ISIS and all th­ese sorts of things. We’re not re­ally do­ing any­thing dif­fer­ent than what the news is show­ing the world, or what the news isn’t show­ing the world.” A reader com­ment, posted on­line in re­sponse to a Syd­ney

Morn­ing Her­ald story, blasted Thy Art Is Mur­der, sug­gest­ing “a white metal band from the west is part of the com­fort­able class. They can af­ford to be provoca­tive with­out any di­rect con­se­quences on them­selves.” They may not be the first to tackle such sub­ject mat­ter, but the band, per­pet­u­ally on tour here and abroad, be­lieve there could be reper­cus­sions. “I think there might be some con­se­quences,” Marsh chuck­les of the above post. “There’s been a few hits car­ried out in the past 25 years in the name of Is­lam in par­tic­u­lar, mak­ing a slight mock­ery of their reli­gion. Peo­ple drawing car­toons in Europe; Sal­man Rushdie, writ­ing The Sa­tanic Verses, had two of his trans­la­tion team as­sas­si­nated. It’s some­thing that’s hap­pened be­fore; whether or not that’s a real threat to us I have no idea.

I’m not a spe­cial­ist on ISIS as­sas­si­na­tion plots, so there may very well be a risk as­so­ci­ated with what we’ve done, but we just thought it was an im­por­tant mes­sage to put out there at the mo­ment.” They’re also swift to reaf­firm that they aren’t sin­gling out any sin­gle faith. “They [Is­lam] just seem to be the rad­i­cals at the mo­ment,” the gui­tarist says. “But we’ve specif­i­cally not tar­geted just one reli­gion. It’s all re­li­gions. It’s the con­cept, the idea that is the real tar­get here. Maybe some Chris­tian will come and stab us in an al­ley­way, I don’t know.” “The al­bum hasn’t come out yet, nor have the video clips, so at the mo­ment there will be no con­se­quences, but where I live, the city I live in is the most mul­ti­cul­tural city in the world,” McMa­hon main­tains. “So I am a mi­nor­ity in my city. Con­se­quences can hap­pen, and we have joked that if there’s some ex­trem­ists in cer­tain re­li­gions they may come look­ing for us. That’s some­thing that I do worry a lit­tle bit about, but more so worry about it for my fam­ily, more so than me, be­cause they are in­no­cent by­standers in some­thing that can go com­pletely fuck­ing pear-shaped very quickly. “Bands like us around the world have al­ways said lyrics like, ‘Fuck your God’… That’s re­ally ope­nended; that could mean any­body. But no one’s re­ally hav­ing a proper attack at what is go­ing on in the ma­jor re­li­gions that are af­fect­ing the world in a neg­a­tive way. We just said, ‘Fuck ev­ery­one, fuck ev­ery­thing, let’s just do this’. That’s the men­tal­ity we’ve al­ways had. “A lot of peo­ple are think­ing that we have 11 songs that are all about reli­gion and the neg­a­tive things that reli­gion pushes into the world. But there’s so much other ma­te­rial that’s on this record that has noth­ing to do with reli­gion or pol­i­tics. It’s got to do with hu­man­ity, and the way man is destroying the world, in ev­ery shape and form that we’re destroying it. But the main sub­ject for the main song I guess is about reli­gion, and that’s what we’ve al­ways been against.” McMa­hon main­tains the crush­ingly heavy LP, recorded last Au­gust/Septem­ber with Amer­i­can pro­ducer and pre­vi­ous col­lab­o­ra­tor Will Put­ney is “far more in­tel­li­gently writ­ten”. The quin­tet’s early lyrics, such as those con­tained on 2008’s

In­fi­nite Death EP were de­rided for misog­y­nis­tic over­tones. Sim­i­larly, mu­si­cians from power metal out­fit Dragon­Force have been de­nounced for racist and ho­mo­pho­bic ma­te­rial penned while part of a pre­vi­ous out­fit many years ago. It’s one thing to be re­pen­tant about your past, but pon­ders whether such con­tent can re­ally sim­ply be disregarded as the folly of youth­ful ig­no­rance, as Dragon­Force seem­ingly shrugged off this ques­tion­ing as young­sters “hav­ing a laugh”. Thy Art Is Mur­der has un­der­gone sev­eral per­son­nel shifts since that re­lease, but they do still per­form the ti­tle track and “Whore To A Chain­saw” live. McMa­hon coun­ters that when the mem­bers wrote the lat­ter they were 16-17 years old. “It’s touch­ing on sub­jects that they knew very lit­tle about at the time. Sean [De­lander, bass/rhythm gui­tar] and Lee [Stan­ton, drums] were the only mem­bers of the band when that EP hap­pened. They’re 24, 25, they’re get­ting on – they’ve seen the world. We travel for a living, we’ve been on tour around the world for the past four-and-a-half years and the boys have got­ten a bit more ma­ture. “I’ve prob­a­bly ma­tured a lot with trav­el­ling the world as well. We’re just pissed off with a lot of things. I fuck­ing hate the in­dus­try. When we sat down to write this record, we just said this has to be the record that sep­a­rates us from ev­ery­one else. We don’t want to be with the big dogs, we want to be big­ger than the big dogs… We’re gonna push but­tons for every­body, we want to change the game, we want to change metal, and I think we achieved it.” Do they merely per­form that track to sate long­time devo­tees? “That’s ex­actly the rea­son why, purely be­cause the fans love it, and it’s our her­itage, that song. Ev­ery time the riff starts we all kind of look at each other and roll our eyes, but we do it for the fans, they love that song.” En­hanc­ing their out­sider sta­tus is that dis­dain for the mu­sic busi­ness. For ex­am­ple, speak­ing to this scribe last year, McMa­hon lauded, but also dep­re­cated Sound­wave head hon­cho AJ Mad­dah fol­low­ing the afore­men­tioned in­ci­dent. Their modus operandi is seem­ingly an af­front to the typ­i­cal in­dus­try out­look. “Marshy was stern with very pow­er­ful peo­ple in the in­dus­try, and we used the in­dus­try to ben­e­fit us,” the front­man boasts. “We pretty much have record deals that no other bands have.” He also states that “we had the head of [over­seas la­bel] Nu­clear Blast leav­ing his house at 11pm in New York to lis­ten to the al­bum, ‘cause we would not give him a phys­i­cal copy of the mu­sic”. They also inked a deal with prom­i­nent la­bel UNFD for Down Un­der dis­tri­bu­tion – a com­pany Thy Art Is Mur­der have pub­licly lam­basted prior. “I’ve never re­ally liked UNFD. I’ve had a lot of friends on that la­bel and they kind of run the mo­nop­oly in Australia, there­fore be­ing able to do what­ever they want with their bands,” the singer says can­didly. “But un­for­tu­nately due to past record deals in Australia, where we were screwed… For some rea­son, UNFD reached out to us, and when Marshy sat down with them and said, ‘This is what we want’, I think they didn’t think that we would re­ally get that, that we would take what­ever they were giv­ing us. “But the UNFD guys ended up turn­ing around and giv­ing us the deal that we wanted. Hats off to them I guess, be­cause we weren’t mov­ing. We would have re­leased it in­de­pen­dently, fuck the charts or what­ever. But they’ve done re­ally well, so as long as they stick to their con­tract I’ll be happy with them. I know that the guys that run UNFD, I’ve met them per­son­ally and they’re great guys, there’s noth­ing I could say neg­a­tive about them as in­di­vid­u­als. I just wasn’t a fan of the la­bel. I’ll have to wait and see if they change my mind, but at the mo­ment they’re do­ing pretty well by us.” On the new re­lease, ac­cord­ing to Marsh, chief rif­fwriter De­lander “got into black metal pretty big” lately, which per­me­ated into the songs. McMa­hon be­lieves they have fur­ther com­mon ground with the grim and frost­bit­ten, as he elab­o­rates when in­quires whether metal is truly danger­ous any­more. “I think on the whole metal’s not re­ally that danger­ous. But if you take Nor­we­gian black metal, I would say that shit is pretty fuck­ing danger­ous. There’s prob­a­bly no metal in the world that is more danger­ous than black metal, to them­selves and to oth­ers. They have valid points as to why they do what they do. I think that we will soon be in that tier, un­for­tu­nately… Sim­i­lar as­pects of black metal will be with us as we have ex­tremely strong mes­sages. But we’re not go­ing to be burning churches or any­thing like that. “Maybe the world can get the record, then re­alise what we’re do­ing and hear it in the way that we in­tended it to be lis­tened to, rather than what peo­ple are look­ing at a front cover and think­ing that we’re be­ing racist and misog­y­nis­tic. It’s a fuck­ing im­age, so peo­ple are go­ing to write us off based on that, then some re­ally ex­treme metal fans are go­ing to back us be­cause it’s con­tro­ver­sial. We live with the idea that if peo­ple are com­ing af­ter us for this… Maybe we’ll go into hid­ing for a year or two. We have to make many plans be­fore this record drops.”

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