Album Review: Thy Art is War’s Holy War is an Eloquent Ode to The North Face
Throughout history, every great metal artist has dared not simply to make powerful music, but to make a powerful fashion statement as well. Be it Rob Halford’s biker gear, Angus Young’s schoolboy outfit, Slash’s top hat, Korn’s Adidas, Marc Rizzo’s backpack, Buckethead’s bucket, or Maria Brink’s mammaries, the old adage that “fashion maketh the man” is one that metal understands well.
Has you have probably noticed if you don’t live under a dead kangaroo, The North Face’s “Venture Jackets” are the signature item of choice for for Chris “CJ” McMahon, the destined-to-be-legendary lead vocalist of Australia’s Thy Art is Murder. To the best of my knowledge, McMahon rocks the venerable clothing manufacturer’s gear simply because he is a genuine, dyed-in-the-HyVent™ lover of North Face products — not because he has any official endorsement deal from the outwear company. But that should change with the band’s new album, Holy War, which is as fine a tribute to outwear as Pig Destroyer’s “Girl in the Slayer Jacket,” Slayer’s “Dead Skin Mask,” or even, dare I say it, Def Leppard’s “Pour Some Sugar On Me.”
Unsurprisingly, Holy War finds Thy Art is Murder continuing to carry the torch for good old fashioned real deathcore in the proud tradition of The Devastated and Carnifex. Drummer Lee Stanton is basically mechanized, and Andy Marsh’s guitars are sweet yet organic, like the real fruit flavors they use in Skittles. Thy Art is Murder’s particular genius is that they never attempt to fix what isn’t broken, and so they will never go out of style, like tribal tattoos.
The real star of the show, of course, is McMahon, whose caliginous performance is one for the history books. Like The Bible, McMahon’s poetry is quick, to the point, and simplistic. “Man is one with the fire in the center of the earth!” McMahon croons on “Light Bearer” — an apt metaphor for the warmth provided by The North Face’s products. But McMahon is truly at his most phlegmatic on the album’s inarguable highlight, “Naked and Cold,” in which he adopts the point of view of a poor soul who cannot afford any warm, comfortable items from The North Face. It is, quite frankly, a torturous listen, and one that is emblematic of the entire album. I cannot imagine any fan of Thy Art is Murder or The North Face feeling let down.