Whether you regard it as the last word in bone-crunching heaviness or a watered-down version of brutal death metal for ADHD kids, deathcore plainly isn't going away any time soon. And frankly, nor should it. This year has been particularly satisfying for fans of this stuff, with albums from the likes of ENTERPRISE EARTH, OSIAH and MENTAL CRUELTY all striving to push deathcore (or some ill-defined variation thereon, in case the Internet Slam Police are reading this) forward, with often impressive results. THY ART IS MURDER must be aware that the initial wave of acclaim they enjoyed upon the release of "Hate" back in 2012 has slowed to a trickle of late; familiarity breeding contempt, perhaps, but more likely that the Australians have thus far failed to release an album with genuine crossover potential. Among the scene's biggest names, THY ART have always had the sound — brutal, bombastic, belligerent and unrelenting — but with precious few exceptions, their songwriting has largely failed to conjure any enduring classics. You know you're going to get your head kicked off by this band, and their live shows are highly regarded, but neither "Holy War" (2015) or "Dear Desolation" (2017) did much more than consolidate the band's reputation as a big, shiny deathcore band with significant industry backing. Vocalist Chris "CJ" McMahon's hiatus between 2015 and 2017 probably didn't help a great deal either. But momentum is a curious thing, and it only takes one absolutely ripping record to restore the roar of those forward boosters: fortunately, "Human Target" is exactly that.
Not that anyone should expect some radical departure from the Aussies' fifth full-length. As the opening title track's menacing rumble gives way to a hideous, blasted groove, it's instantly apparent that this is still going to tick every last box for those craving straightforward deathcore brutality. What really makes the difference on "Human Target" is that THY ART have written some of their strongest songs to date, and for the very first time they sound like a band primed to abandon their scene-dominating instincts in favor of reaching a wider audience. And it would be easy to be a little cynical about the whole thing if these songs didn't absolutely annihilate: just listen to "New Gods" or, in particular, "Make America Hate Again" — okay, so it's questionable whether an Australian band should be sticking their beaks into U.S. politics, but it's a canny move that is matched by the power and viciousness of the song itself. Like much of "Human Target", it's vastly more memorable than most previous efforts, with gleaming hooks and deceptively skewed breakdowns. McMahon's barbaric sloganeering sounding considerably more focused and furious than before. "Death Squad Anthem" and "Eye For An Eye" are similarly rapacious in their warping of familiar tropes, and if "Eternal Suffering" isn't the darkest five minutes that THY ART have produced to date, it's certainly the most distinctive; a grim slow-motion lava-flow shit-kicker, with dissonance brandished as a weapon of extreme disorientation, undulating blasts and neck-snap thrash beats all adding to the controlled chaos.
The production is, of course, monumentally huge, ultra-modern but authentically destructive, it may not set a new benchmark for this stuff, but it's hard to think of any comparable band that will make your speakers shake to quite this degree. And therein lies the real secret to THY ART IS MURDER's success, and why "Human Target" is certain to be their biggest triumph yet: as polished and occasionally predictable as they are, they still sound utterly incensed about just about everything. This time, joyously, the quality of the songs matches the intensity of the delivery. Never mind America, Australian extremity is sounding as hateful as hell right now.