So it’s nearly been a week since Whitechapel dropped the revelation that they will be releasing their sixth album, entitled Mark Of The Blade, on June 24th. Not only that, but they’ve also debuted the title track from the album- a stomping, groovy mid-tempo number that bears all the hallmarks of Whitechapel’s sound. Even the accompanying press release from their label, Metal Blade records, sounds promising and enticing for new fans:
Reunited with producer Mark Lewis (The Black Dahlia Murder, Cannibal Corpse), Whitechapel has redefined who they are and what they are capable of with their new album, Mark of the Blade. Kicking off with “The Void” – which has a Slayer-esque ferocity that is perfectly suited to the band’s three-guitar attack – the songs that follow all leave a distinct impression, and by the time the rich, dark melodies on “Decennium” bring the record to a close, it’s impossible to deny the emotional weight brought to bear. “It’s the most dynamic record we’ve done, in the sense that one song can be very aggressive while the next one will be softer and sentimental,” guitarist Alex Wade asserts. “At this point in our career and as we grow older, we are taking a more open-minded approach to creating our music, allowing what we think sounds good to evolve naturally, rather than to just write what is expected of us.”
Exciting stuff indeed.
With all this in mind it got me looking back at their back catalogue, and it has also got me thinking about what I’d love to see off this new release, as well as what I want them to avoid.
Phil Bozeman Singing
Its been banded about a bit on social media, admittedly amid much confusion and speculation, but there could well be clean singing on this new album. Whilst this is always a fairly controversial topic in the metal community, especially when in the context of death metal/deathcore, I have faith in the capabilities of frontman Phil Bozeman. Already a highly accomplished vocalist with his guttural grunts and abrasive screams (not to mention his mastery of rapid fire lyrics), the announcement that he could add some tuneful melodies is quite exciting- as it would nicely break up Whitechapel’s usual brutal bluster of noise. This becomes even more intriguing when guitarist Alex Wade stated that the band used Randy Blythe’s vocal performance (on the track “Overlord” on Lamb Of God’s recent opus Sturm Und Drang) as a precedent for their own work (see http://lambgoat.com/bits/10615/WHITECHAPEL-album-to-feature-clean-singing).
Since their self-titled album from 2012, Whitechapel seem to have broaden their sonic palette from their deathcore beginnings. They’ve rounded out their sound to incorporate djent influences and a distinct muscular quality that evokes the NWOAHM. When you consider this as their musical foundation, it become apparent that its open to incorporating a whole host of influences with relative ease. They could drop inspirations from hardcore, thrash, doom, black and tech (and many more) metal styles into their songs without deviating too far from the template they’ve established for themselves lately. I’d love to see them tread new ground yet still blend in their catchy blend of groove and brutality.
Utilising 3 Guitars
Whitechapel have become fairly renowned for possessing a team of three guitarists, in order to thicken up their sound live and on record. However, there are so many possibilities to explore with three guitars available to them; they could include some NWOBHM twin harmonies in the mix, or have three different guitar parts to add a layer of complexity. It would be worthwhile to study the way that bands with more than two guitarists (such as Iron Maiden or Kvelertak) can create texture and colour in their song writing that makes for engaging music. Having seen the press release detailing opening track “The Void”, I’m very eager to see how the band have combined “Slayer-esque ferocity” into their “three-guitar attack”.
A Definitive Statement
In all fairness, while Whitechapel have generally released solid albums, they’ve not produced an album worthy of the moniker of a modern-day classic. They need to have the ambition and the drive to create a body of work that will stand the test of time and really establish them as a major heavyweight in the metal scene. This can only really be done by giving themselves a clear identity that I a cut above other bands, so that when a listener picks up a Whitechapel album its clear from the start that THIS is a Whitechapel album and THIS is the Whitechapel sound. This is something they’ve been hinting at and developing over the course of the self-titled album and Our Endless War, but hopefully Mark Of The Blade will be their moment to shine.
Concise Track List
With any truly great album, each track (and indeed the whole album) must be ‘all killer and no filler’. Generally this can be achieved with a shorter track list- just look at seminal albums like Metallica’s Master Of Puppets, Machine Head’s The Blackening or Death’s Leprosy- all of which have just 8 tracks without any superfluous songs in sight. Although this might be hampered by the fact that the latest Whitechapel album is to feature 11 songs, a similar effect can still be achieved with very focussed song writing. This means that any musical ideas need to be simultaneously realised yet pared back from being overplayed or indulgent- a difficult and delicate balance. A nice mix of shorter songs (reaching the two-minute mark) that instantly satisfy and longer, challenging pieces that really require the listener to interact with the music will make for a far richer and rewarding listening experience.
And What I Don’t Want… A Return To Deathcore
I know a lot of people regard early Whitechapel works with a level of reverence, but I always felt as though that passed me by. Sure, tracks from their earlier output were enjoyable (“Possession” has always been a highlight from 2008’s This Is Exile), but their particular brand of dense, dark deathcore always felt a bit one-dimensional (so it was a relief that they through a few curveballs into follow-up A New Era Of Corruption). Besides, this isn’t 2007 anymore, where the original deathcore template has been long played-out, and the collective musicianship of the guys in the band has come along leaps and bounds (most notably lead guitarist Ben Savage- whose riffs more than live up to his name). Audiences don’t hunger for that style anymore, it’s not a relevant trend that it once was, and if you want to divulge your own deathcore cravings you’d most likely revisit existing albums instead of waiting for new ones.
What do you think? Do you agree or disagree? What are you anticipating or dreading? Feel free to leave comments below.
Mark Of The Blade Track List
1. The Void
2. Mark of the Blade
3. Elitist Ones
4. Bring Me Home
6. A Killing Industry
9. Dwell in the Shadows