Having promised to redefine “who they are and what they are capable of” in their press release for new album, Whitechapel seem to have turned over a new leaf with latest album Mark Of The Blade. But before you turn your back on one of deathcore’s most cherished bands, perhaps we should see whether those claims hold up on the new album.
Well, you can’t deny that the band has attempted to tread new ground and explore fresher pastures, after all, trying to rehash the same formula for ten years would leave any band/musician feeling unfulfilled. Throughout the album there are elements which are either new to the band, or are being explored to a greater depth than before. The most prominent new aspect being brought to the table is Phil Bozeman’s singing (which I’ll discuss in greater depth later), however there is also a greater use of djent stylings, groovy rhythms, dark atmospheres and melodies, and fast semi-rapped vocal lines. All this musical exploration really harks back to 2012’s self-titled release, in which they rejuvenated their deathcore template with a new and exciting approach. The band show that they can competently master these new features on tracks such as the Slipknot style riff workout of “A Killing Industry”, the rap infused djent-thrash (yes, its a thing now) of “Venomous” and the anthemic brutish swagger of “Elitist Ones”. But that’s not to say that they’ve abandoned their groove-orientated deathcore roots.
In fact, their brand of crushing riffs and rhythmic barrage that they’ve been honing over their career (and updating with a bruising djent guitar tone) hasn’t been forgotten. Songs like “The Void” expertly blend brooding melodies and flailing breakdowns, whilst “Tremors” and “Tormented” showcase the muscular mid-tempo stomp that the band have garnered a reputation for. Although these songs will undoubtedly get many a mosh pit going, they don’t offer anything new to Whitechapel’s back catalogue- and without some well-executed solos and staccato guitar work, these songs would feel somewhat leaden and tired. In truth, Whitechapel are highly-competent song writers, but where they really excel is in trying out new influences and taking risks (which is best illustrated on the instrumental track “Brotherhood”)- not focussing on a tried-and-tested formula.
The best example of the band’s fruitful experimentation can be found in Phil Bozeman’s newfound singing capabilities. I never really expected a band of Whitechapel’s calibre to be able to pull off a ballad, yet on “Bring Me Home” the rich vocal melodies and bleak fret work are spot on. The way that the track then builds towards a crescendo of screams and distorted guitars, before an impactful and emotion-drenched guitar solo (that really evokes Kirk Hammett’s solo in “Nothing Else Matters”), makes this the strongest single on the album. Utilizing dynamics and vocal harmonies ensures that this track not only stands out from the rest of their album, but also from their entire back catalogue.
I think it would be easy to say that this album is a bit of a mixed bag, especially when you compare it to the expectations I’d established for Mark Of The Blade earlier in the year. However, I don’t think it would do justice to the creative endeavours that the band has sought to broaden over the course of these eleven tracks. Whitechapel have taken some big risks which have ultimately paid off, and I can’t fault the band for doing so. In all honesty the only proper criticism I can level at the band is for when they don’t come up with fresh ideas- as songs like the title track or “Dwell In The Shadows” lack any real distinctive sound or quality, and they’d serve the album better as bonus tracks or B-sides.
What do you think? Do you agree or disagree? What albums should I review next? Feel free to leave a comment, like this blog post, like the Facebook page and follow this blog for more content.