Tonight sees Thy Art Is Murder and their entourage bring the 'Human Target' tour thundering into the O2 Institute Birmingham for the last date on the UK part of the run after continual sell out shows around the country. Bringing a fully stocked lineup of powerhouse bands in tow with them in the form of; I Am, Rivers Of Nihil, Fit For An Autopsy and Carnifex, the night is undoubtedly set to be incendiary start to finish.
After having arrived early at the venue to interview some of tonight's bands, I managed to find myself rushing back round to the front to collect my press pass way after doors had opened. Luckily this meant that there was no queue and I quickly made my way in to secure myself a decent spot, finding one just in time to see tonight's opening act, Texas death metal machine, I Am, take to the stage. Debuting on our shores for the first time, these guys bring with them a crushing mix of chunky downtuned Pantera-esque riffage and colossal, pounding, solid beats accompanied by throaty guttural vocals.
Opening with the eerie, somewhat sombre tones of 'Texas Death' and then proceeding straight into the merciless 'Paid in Sin', the band has an instant presence and energy, with vocalist Andrew Hileman throwing down all over the stage and getting into it just as hard as any audience member in attendance. The band gets the crowd responding right away, everyone banging their heads in unison to big groove infused riffs being laid down by guitarists Tom Reyes and Chris Burgess along with some Dime-like divebombs. Erik Klaxon's bass sounds enormous in the mix, underpinning the seismic impact of the chunk filled offering. Drummer Ian Scott hammers out some huge solid pounding chops along with some rapid blastbeats.
The reaction to 'Hard 2 Kill', the title track from their latest release, is particularly fuelled and the room quickly ignites into a pitting flurry. The band finish off their short but intense set on a huge meaty breakdown finale slamming the audience with their Texas Death stylings one last time before they depart, leaving everyone hungry for more.
The heaving crowd is impressively hyped up before the Pennsylvanian five piece Rivers Of Nihil have even started playing. As the blastbeats begin and they hit into their first track 'Old Nothing' from 2018's critically acclaimed 'Where Owls Know My Name', the crowd once again detonate into an explosion of flailing bodies. They swiftly follow this with 'A Home', these tracks journeying the audience through vast evolving scapes of decimating blastbeats and progressive ambient guitar sections with soaring solos. Guitarists Jon Topore and Brody Uttley demonstrate complete mastery of their craft, laying down intricate layerings of tightly meshed guitar over Adam Biggs' vast bassy foundations. Vocalist Jake Dieffenbach's screams pierce and tear their way out of the mix along with some well rounded cleans.
Fit For An Autopsy, a gateway drug for many a new deathcore fan utilises many aspects from different subgenres within the makeup of their distinctive sound and have been referred to by some as 'post-deathcore'. Regardless of whatever that means, these guys aren't afraid to push the boundaries and they're heavy as balls.
As a colossal gong rings out over a low rumbling swell, the band takes to the stage receiving a hero's welcome from the now rabid crowd. They start their set with the title song from their latest album, the immense 'The Sea Of Tragic Beasts', a track hits like a sledgehammer with its mountainous opening riff comprised of enormous drawn out, bending notes, accented with carefully placed pick scrapes. As the beat kicks in, there is no choice but to throw down, the venue becoming a sea of pumping fists and banging heads.
As the verse hits in, Josean Orta's double kicks thunder across the room and vocalist Joe Badolato's gutturals belt out, with some signature cleaner vocals appearing later in the track. By the end of this first song, they have the whole crowd jumping.
The band then follow up this with the appropriately named 'Warfare', also from the new album, and continue their assault on the heavily packed venue with a bludgeoning of tight syncopated chugs, breaking out into Meshuggah tinged riffage with some touches reminiscent of early Decapitated thrown into the guitar work. The complexity of the drum work from Orta during this track sounds phenomenal and cuts through the PA like gunfire. The New Jersey titans finish their set off on the colossus that is 'Black Mammoth', a track that everyone in the room here tonight seems to know, erupting out in mass celebration upon its opening guitar line.
Carnifex rip straight into their set next with the title track from their latest release, 'World War X' which is unleashed upon a momentarily shell shocked audience with an onslaught of glorious blasts, rapid vocals and sub-soaked breakdowns. Frontman, Scott Ian Lewis's demands for a circle pit are met almost instantaneously and the crowd are completely in the palm of his hand as he puppeteers from the front of the stage.
The slaughter then continues with 2016's 'Slow Death' and the pit fully opens up along with the appearance of multiple crowd surfers. The band throw down with everything they have, windmilling and headbanging, dominating the stage. Drummer, Shawn Cameron even manages to throw some stick tricks in amongst his machine-gun like deliverings. They are relentless in their approach and the subdrop breakdowns amongst the frenzied riffs and Scott's commanding presence make for an incredibly potent combination. There is no question as to why this band has been at the forefront of the deathcore scene for some many years.
In the minutes leading up to Thy Art Is Murder, their set, the 90's Vengaboys classic 'We like to party' is blasted out over the PA, sparking off a rave and getting the whole Institute bouncing and singing along. It appears everyone here likes to party. The secret to hyping up an entire legion of hardened metal heads? Cheesy 90’s dance pop!
The lights then cut along with the music, leaving the crowd in momentary darkness before an ominous red glow engulfs the smoky stage, accompanied by the threatening sound of air raid sirens from the PA system. Bombs are gonna drop any second, the tension and anticipation in the room at this point couldn't be higher.
With a sudden burst of strobes the band tear mercilessly into one of their latest releases,'Death Squad Anthem', the track exploding with an incendiary effect. Vocalist CJ McMahon's gutturals sound primal and animalistic in their ferocity as they boom out of the speakers with absolute clarity. Guitarists, Andy Marsh and Sean Delander chug with ultra-tight precision solidly locking in with bassist Kevin Butler's punchy low end. The band are silhouetted against an impressive scale production and light show, while drummer Jesse Beahler lays down his solid syncopated chops from a riser platform just above with large screens to either side of him. The room at this point has already swirled back around into one huge mosh pit, with what looks from above to be the entire crowd getting involved.
Following this strong opening, the band rip into the headbang inducing 'Make America Hate Again' from their vicious latest album, 'Human Target' released last year. The track again strikes an instant reaction from the crowd and everybody immediately gets involved with clapping along to the intro.
This track is a clear demonstration of how refined the band has become in their song writing. Catchy yet girthy, headbang-inducing riffs and vocals that you can sing along to, all without compromising the heaviness or the rawness of the final output.
After ripping out through a combination of newer and older tracks such as 'Eternal Suffering' and 'Fur and Claw' they then get to the iconic 'Holy War', a track which all in attendance know every word to. As the intro hits in, the crowd join in with the opening chant, the sound flooding the venue.
After departing to a rapture of screams and applause, Thy Art Is Murder then swiftly return to the stage for a much needed encore. Fittingly hitting into 'Chemical Christ' the closer on 'Human Target' the Sydney metal outfit deliver their final blow of breakdowns and blastbeats upon the now ravenous crowd as they throw their all into this last track.
As the lights come up and the music starts over the PA, the audience are left dazed and disorientated from the brutal five band bludgeoning they have somehow withstood. The limitless energy has now become limited as the crowd shuffles out, dispersing from the venue.
This has been one of the strongest lineups we have seen come through here in a while and hopefully we will see more shows with the sheer quality boasted by tonight's total offering. From the sound to the stage production and the powerful performances from each band, this has been a virtually flawless show. Even the crowd in attendance have been on top form tonight, pitting, crowd surfing and headbanging relentlessly from the start of the night right the way through to the end.
It is worth quickly noting the amount of underground and local bands present in the crowd tonight, having spotted members of Recall The Remains, Blood Church, Djinova, Callous Hands, From Eden To Exile, Wired and more dotted in amongst the crowd. It's clear who the underground are looking up to and it will be interesting what elements they take from tonight's masterclass performance to utilise for themselves.