Seemingly riding high on the acclaim of 2015’s Holy War, Thy Art Is Murder had the rug swiftly pulled out from underneath their feet when powerhouse frontman CJ McMahon publicly announced his departure from the band, leaving his former comrades to soldier on with a revolving cast of able but ultimately throwaway stand-ins – only for CJ to return a year later. Dear Desolation seems to have been rushed out in a bid to capitalise on the reunion’s momentum, forsaking the scope and incisive riffing of its predecessor for a cudgel and catharsis through wanton thuggery. However, alongside fellow Aussies Aversions Crown, the band understand both fundamentals of the deathcore formula better than most, utilising ugly atmospherics while keeping frenzied, technical riffing and the hostility of beatdown hardcore in perfect balance. Eerie harmonies corrupt the chug of The Son Of Misery and scything Death Dealer while The Skin Of The Serpent and Fire In The Sky’s sickening textures and swampy tempos are ideal catalysts for the meaty guitars and Lee Staton’s crackling drumming. CJ clearly has a point to prove, with his vocals both more intelligible and barbarous, unleashing the hounds on Puppet Master’s dynamic verses and pouring on the scorn through Man Is The Enemy. Though short on the penetrative hooks that Holy War possessed in abundance, Into Chaos We Climb and The Final Curtain’s seismic jolts and haunting leads leave an indelible mark for deathcore disciples to latch onto. In spite of tumultuous circumstances and the weight of expectation, Dear Desolation sees Thy Art Is Murder snatching a late equaliser from the jaws of defeat.