It’s never easy when a vocalist leaves a band. When Chris 'CJ' McMahon left Thy Art Is Murder towards the end of 2016, the future was uncertain. The only thing that was clear was that the band would carry on and continue to serve up savagely brutal deathcore like only they can.
A number of touring vocalists stepped in to fill the live void, and it looked like eventually the band would settle on a new permanent full-time vocalist and get to work re-establishing their identity with a new voice. Then in January of this year, McMahon rejoined the band at the Unify Festival, confirming his return to the group. It seems like the best of all possible outcomes, with McMahon returning with renewed commitment, and thus saving fans from the agony of a ‘how does the new vocalist stack up’ dread.
“It’s been a bit of a rollercoaster,” says guitarist Andy Marsh. “There have been a lot of precautionary measures, a lot of changes to the strategy of touring and whatnot so we can navigate this period and figure everything out.”
Marsh says the bands’ growing maturity was a big factor in helping to get through the issues that led to McMahon’s departure, and in managing his return. “I think that’s my primary skill: navigating difficult situations and coming up with solutions. We’re all committed to each other as friends; to this little institution, to this little conglomerate that is the band,” he says. “As friends, as creators, and then to the fans. Touring is our livelihood, and it is only afforded because fans enjoy the music. And not even buying the music, with the way the industry is now. Many are generous enough to purchase our music and support us that way, but if they enjoy the music it creates the opportunity to tour. It only exists because of that relationship between the creator and the consumer.”
The sessions for the new album Dear Desolation were marked by a professional, dedicated approach, with the band both acknowledging and putting aside the turmoil of the past few years. “We’re a band of people who just get on with it,” Marsh says. “Obviously there was some kind of caution and trepidation about how it was going to be, but we were making an album anyway and we would have had another vocalist had it not panned out with CJ. Obviously our preference was for him to return. We’ve said this before: we imagine him as the other guy in our band. We’ve been together for a long time and his is the voice we hear over the music. His voice is the one we imagine when we write. We went in and started writing the record and had been working towards it with CJ to make sure we were willing to accept him back and he was ready to come back and deal with the pressure and responsibility that comes with being in this band. But you never know until you get there. If that hadn’t worked out, then Nicholas Arthur - who had been singing for us in Europe - would have done it. But we got together before playing Unify and that was great; like it was meant to be. CJ truly was like a healed man.”
The primary guitar for the sessions was an Ibanez RGD2127 with an EverTune bridge. “Normally recording rhythm guitars takes forever; simply because of the tuning. When you’re stacking guitars any kind of micro adjustment in the tuning is bad. Often you’re tuning guitars for four hours a day. But the EverTune made a massive difference. We did use our lucky pickup. There’s this honey-yellow Ibanez Prestige seven-string that they only made a few of ten or more years ago, and we used it on Hate and Holy War, but because we were using the 2127 for the extra scale length and EverTune, we had to de-solder that pickup and put it in the RGD. I removed all the other electronics so it was just pickup to amp. For the leads I have a very lucky guitar, an Ibanez JEM BRMR, a mirrored one that the TSA cracked for me. I used that for most of the leads. And I also used my touring guitar, an Ibanez RGD2127 in Lamborghini Yellow that I call the ‘Bumblebee’. It has a Seymour Duncan Pegasus in the bridge and a Sentient in the neck. I think the Pegasus is a great pickup. The midrange texture is totally different to a traditional metal pickup, and the super high-end is kind of lopped off, which I like because you’re going to take that off for a recording anyway.”
The ‘Death Sentence’ tour starts on Thursday July 27 in Perth. Thy Art Is Murder’s new album Dear Desolation is out Friday August 18 through Human Warfare/Nuclear Blast records.