Five Things We Learned About Thy Art Is Murder's 'Dear Desolation' and the Return of CJ McMahon
Published Aug 30, 2017Sydney, Australia death dealers Thy Art Is Murder have been pumping out crushingly brutal albums since their inception in 2006, but in 2015 the band hit a major roadblock when vocalist CJ McMahon abruptly quit the band due to financial issues, drug addiction and lack of time with his family.
McMahon has since reclaimed his position in the band. From the stage of an Australian music festival, McMahon announced to the adoring crowd: "I was a drug addict, I was a broke musician and I had some fucking issues. I got married, I did some fucking soul searching and now I'm back to take over the world with my fucking brothers." Shortly after, the band released "No Absolution," a track left over from their recording sessions for their last album Holy War.
Now, the band has returned with their strongest album to date, Dear Desolation, which sees them evolving their sound away from more typical deathcore elements to focus on a straight-forward death metal approach in the vein of bands like Behemoth, Morbid Angel or Cannibal Corpse. Below, McMahon gives us some insight into the new record and how he rejoined Thy Art Is Murder.
1. Thy Art Is Murder don't want to be known as a deathcore band.
McMahon feels that they are much more influenced by bands like Behemoth, Gojira and Meshuggah than deathcore groups like Whitechapel or Despised Icon, and says he hates the term.
"We're sick of the bullshit hashtag of deathcore," he tells Exclaim! "I think it cheapens who we are. We never wanted to be a deathcore band, we wanted to be a death metal band, but because we throw breakdowns in there, we get pigeonholed with all of the other generic deathcore bands. We've never been straight up deathcore, but we've never been straight up death metal. We're just doing what we want to do."
2. The new record dives into politics.
After releasing Holy War, Thy Art Is Murder felt they had said what they needed to about religion and turned towards the political world. Topics such as tensions over the Dakota Access Pipeline or the entire Trump administration played major roles in McMahon's lyrics.
"We got bored of writing about angry things and religion so we wanted to write something that's more close to home that people can relate to. If they're smart enough to decipher the way we write, lyrically, and if they know what we're singing about, it's more about people as a race and the decisions we make to treat each other and our planet and the way that we're driven by greed and possessions."
3. Dear Desolation is the final album in a trilogy.
Thy Art Is Murder didn't initially set out to write Hate, Holy War and Dear Desolation as a trilogy, but while working on the new record, McMahon says the band felt they had completely summarized who they were.
"Every record has a basic theme: Hate was aggressive and pissed off at the world; Holy War is a war on religion and a war on everything holy; and Dear Desolation is the conclusion to what we're about. In doing that, we've found who we really are as a band as well."
4. There were a lot of steps involved in McMahon rejoining Thy Art Is Murder.
At the tail end of 2015, McMahon stepped down from Thy Art Is Murder, but the band continued touring with several different guest vocalists. Once January rolled around, McMahon surprised fans by announcing his return to the band at the Unify festival in Australia.
"It was kind of weird. I went up to my best friend's house in Sydney, the boys just got back from a few months overseas, and Sean, our guitarist, was there and it was the first time I had seen any of the band members since I left. We were just hanging out and then I messaged him the next day saying it was weird seeing you and I fucking miss the boys and Sean was just like 'Just come back to the band, tell everybody you went to rehab and fixed your life up,' and I'm like 'I don't think it's that easy man.'"
The rest of the band were more than happy to have McMahon reclaim his position, but to make sure he was fully committed, the band held several meetings with the vocalist. Thy Art Is Murder were experiencing problems within the band prior to McMahon quitting, but the vocalist fully acknowledges they were his fault.
"The boys made that pretty clear. It's what they wanted, but they wanted to make sure it's what I wanted as well. I wasn't the same without them and I don't think they were the same without me. We're a unit and I think once one of the chains in our unit breaks then the whole unit suffers."
5. In the year away, McMahon purchased a business, began working in radio and established a normal life.
When he quit, McMahon was just a short time away from being married and had next to nothing for income. Over the course of a year, he started saving money and creating a structure in his life.
"I've always been in a band and I've never really known anything else. I just needed some sort of structure to my life and have normality. In doing that, I set myself up, I worked my ass off and saved up a lot of money, I just bought a business, money's real good for me right now outside the band and I've sorted out all of the demons that I had. Hopefully I can remain positive and focused and keep doing things to make the band better."
Dear Desolation is out now on Nuclear Blast. Thy Art Is Murder play Vancouver (Sept 2), Toronto (Sept 16), Montreal (Sept 17) and Ottawa (Sept 18) on their upcoming tour.