With an album like ‘Hate’, it was little wonder Thy Art Is Murder shot right up the metal hierarchy, playing massive-sized stages and tours, alongside some of metal’s elite. Their third album, ‘Holy War’, hits stores this week and the anticipation is reaching critical mass for fans both locally and internationally. Thy Art Is Murder are currently tearing up the U.S. with contemporary metal giants Whitechapel. We chatted with vocalist Chris ‘CJ’ McMahon regarding the censorship of the album’s artwork and his views surrounding the themes of their crushing new record.
Hey CJ, Alex from KYS here, how are you?
Hey, I’m good bro.
Good to hear, what are you up to right now?
I’m watching our bassist, Kevin [Butler], practice FIFA for our tour that starts on Saturday, so he can be as good as the rest of the band.
(Laughs) too easy, man. You guys must be excited for a tour like this?
Hell yeah man! The boys are upstairs putting together all of our production – our cabs, our backdrops. And then making sure the new rigs work, jamming out the new songs before we go out on tour.
How close are you guys with Whitechapel?
I wouldn’t say we’re best friends with them, not because there’s any beef with them. We’ve only met them a few times and we’ve talked to a few of them, so it’ll be a cool to do a proper tour with them, and not just a couple of festival shows. They’re obviously a very iconic band in the metal scene in the last 10 years, so I’m very stoked to hang out with them.
So first proper question, is it just purely coincidental that you were originally going to provide guest vocals on Confession’s ‘Holy War’ and now Thy Art’s new album is called ‘Holy War’?
I didn’t even know man. I remember Crafter hitting me up to do guest vocals on a song, I didn’t even know what it was called. I remember he spoke to our guitarist/manager Andy [Marsh] and that they wanted me on a song, but we didn’t have time to do it. I asked him if he had lyrics, and he just said, “Just write a bunch of shit about burning churches, pedophile priests and how fucked religion is”. (laughs) so that’s how far I got with Crafter on that song.
I didn’t know they had a song named that until February of this year when we hung out with them at Soundwave and we saw all of their merch, and I said to Sean, “This ain’t gonna look too good…”. But we’re not ripping him off and he’s not ripping us off, so it’s cool.
I’m just going to go out on a limb and say that you and the band were not happy having the album’s front cover being censored and changed, do you think that was an offense to what the album package should be?
Yes and no. We’ve had our lawyers on the case and it’s gotten to the point where it doesn’t matter if it pisses people off. The problem is that the people selling our record in their stores, they don’t want that imagery in their stores to create any havoc. Fair enough, it is our record and it is our art, but it’s those people’s work places. It is unfortunate that that has happened, and I’m sure in the near future where we can work something out with them, maybe a limited edition or something. We’re not THAT pissed off about it, and we get that people can be very PC and won’t be happy about certain subject matter.
Do you think that some people take that PC culture far too seriously? After all, stores still sell Cannibal Corpse records, so some people make it into a ‘storm in a tea cup’ scenario?
Fucking oath! The shit that happened in Paris over a cartoon, and I bring this up is because it’s relevant and it’s recent. For the last couple hundred years people have been killed for something they’ve said or done, and it hasn’t even harmed anyone! Some people from different walks of life, political, religious or otherwise, have not liked what they’ve said or done and dealt with it in a manner that is completely barbaric.
Do you think that some of the impact of the record, with it’s artwork being censored and all, will be lost to more casual listeners?
I’m not really sure. Which is hard as we have to keep a lot of the album secret at this time, but one thing that may work against us is that we’ve been worrying about certain aspects of the album that some people will be freaking out before it gets released and when they see the new music video, the lyrics, and the music, they may just get there and go, “This isn’t all that bad…”. Then it will lose its effect. I don’t think that’s what will happen, but you can’t predict what the fuck’s gonna happen these days. We’ve got less than two weeks before it’s out, and then we have another two weeks or so to really see what people think.
Of course man, of course. You must be feeling the real brunt of the pressure now, sure you’re excited and nervous about releasing a new album, but is it more so considering how well ‘Hate’ did?
That was a big milestone for us, but I think we were more nervous just before going into recording Holy War about trying to make it better or as good as Hate was. We’ve had the album for a number of months now and we can really digest our music.
Like with Sam [Carter] from Architects, we gave him the album for his birthday as he’s been a fan of us for a few years now. The day afterwards, he sent us the email saying how stoked he was one of the few people on the planet who had heard it and was already telling us his favourite songs. It was really cool to have people in the music industry that we admire and look up to have talked so highly of the album. It has given us the security net, as it could be the best album we’ve ever done or it could be the worst – we just don’t know yet.
In the album’s Youtube episodes, Lee mentioned that he was trying to focus on more groove, as opposed to just blast beats and breakdowns. I’m wondering if that mentality of injecting something slightly new into the formula runs true for the rest of the band too?
Oh yeah man! We really tried to push ourselves because Hate was the record where it was going to make us a big band or it was our last record. But it did huge numbers and blew us up, so we have to do something better than Hate, which I think we did with Holy War.
Also, we had to look at different avenues for our own personal roles in the band and try to do something a little different. For instance, one of the songs, Fur And Claw, has the fastest section the boys have ever done. There are some 16 bar sections in some songs where Lee [Stanton, drums] is just blasting his face off at like 280 BPM. It’s ridiculous! In the same picking part in Fur And Claw, Kevin got massive hand cramps because it’s such a ridiculous riff. I did different projected screams, different accents; just trying to push ourselves further than we did with Hate.
We discussed it with Will [Putney, producer] and he agreed that we should do something different, try and change the game to make something original while keeping old aesthetics of the band.
I’m Curious CJ, regarding the religious themes of the record, do you see a difference between someone having a faith, and someone being religious?
Yes and no. I’m not a religious person, I was raised as a Catholic and when I was older I renounced everything. I have faith though, faith that my friends and band mates will be there, for faith that my fiancée will be waiting for me, faith that my band will work as hard as we can. Faith in that regard, sure, though that’s more to do with trust I think.
I spoke with Cory from A Night In Texas a couple months back and he said that while the band believe in certain areas of Satanism, (living for yourself, following your own moral code, not relying on faith or other beliefs, etc.), and I’m wondering if you guys have similar attitudes, or if you are atheist or agnostic?
…To a point. I think most people do that, they just wouldn’t know it. A true Satanist, is someone who is praising Satan and sacrificing, but it’s more of a belief in mankind and oneself. I wouldn’t call myself Satanist or practice it, I am completely atheist. I believe in my friends and my family, and I believe that humans could make Earth most beautiful place in the world. But we’ve destroyed it and I think that there is very little chance that we can make it good once more.
I agree with you on what our race does, but do you think that’s just being a defeatist about it or just being pragmatic?
Pragmatic man! It’s not really hard to see how fucked the world is. I’ve fished my entire life, I’m 32, and I can see the oceans being completely raped of all natural resources. There is a massive chance that we will not have any sea food, for anyone in the world within the next 15 years, considering that a third of the world’s population survive off the sea. If it was not for the ocean, we would not survive.
We seem to know more about outer space than we do about our own oceans. So I am completely mystified that we know more about something that is infinite yet not enough about something that is covering more of our planet than the actual land.
Oh for sure man, it’s a scary thought. Look CJ, that’s all we’ve got time for, thanks for taking the time dude, and I hope the tour goes well.
No worries, thanks for your time bro.
Holy War is out on June 26th via UNFD.