Thy Art Is Murder on working through two years of turmoil
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Thy Art Is Murder on working through two years of turmoil

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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 Unify Festival, confirming his return to the group. It seems like the best of all possible outcomes, with McMahon returning with a new commitment, and saving fans from the agony of new vocalist dread.

We caught up with guitarist Andy Marsh to talk about this new phase in the band’s history and their fourth studio album, Dear Desolation.

“It’s been a bit of a rollercoaster,” Marsh says of the past two years. “There have been a lot of precautionary measures and a lot of changes so we could navigate this period and figure everything out. There’s been a lot of tippy-toeing around. There’s a lot of politics involved in being in a band, from the members of the band ourselves to the crew who rely on you for their job, to the management, to the agents, the other bands, the fans, promoters, it’s never-ending how this industry intertwines.

“It’s almost like the investment marketplace. A lineup change can cast doubt into investors’ minds and a totally arbitrary thing can affect the price. Likewise, with CJ out of the band, it changed so many things for us. We proceeded with caution, underplayed things quite a lot, and got through the storm.”

Marsh says the bands’ growing maturity was a big factor in helping to get through the issues that led to CJ’s departure, and in managing his return. “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, as friends, as creators, and then to the fans. To continue to deliver music that we find enjoyable and that they find enjoyable as well.

“Touring is our livelihood, and it’s only afforded because fans enjoy the music. 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. And it only exists because of that relationship between the creator and the consumer.”

The Dear Desolation sessions were marked by a professional, dedicated approach, with the band at once acknowledging yet 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 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, the same way you imagine the guitar or the kick drum sounds. His voice is the one we imagine when we write. So 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,” says Marsh.

“But you never know until you get there. People bail on their weddings right before they’re about to put the ring on the finger. 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, it was meant to be. CJ truly was like a healed man.”