Album Review: Whitechapel ‘Mark Of The Blade’
Knoxville, Tennessee sextet Whitechapel have come a long way from their days in the flash-in-the-pan deathcore scene. The past decade has seen them go from trying to one-up their competitors in the brutality department, to becoming one of the major players in modern metalcore. Their sixth album ‘Mark Of The Blade’ sees them realising their potential and maturing into one of the most vibrant and exciting metal bands in recent years.
Opening track The Void serves as a grim and gritty intro to the album, with Ben Savage and Alex Wade’s twin guitar assault giving the song a sense of urgency. Vocalist Phil Bozeman’s death growls anchor the song with his guttural voice sounding quite menacing and distinct. The lack of pig squeals on the album might be a sore point for certain metalheads, but Whitechapel have no time for listener complaints this time around.
The Elitist Ones serves as Whitechapel’s take-that towards metal snobs, particularly those who endlessly gatekeep the scene and make heavy metal rather unfriendly for newcomers. When Bozeman growls “This is what we have become/a self-absorbed population of scum/The vision of the future is like staring at the sun/goddamn the elitist ones”, you get the feeling he’s sick of guys in Cannibal Corpse shirts calling him a poseur on Encyclopedia Metallum.
In another potshot against the metal peanut gallery, Bring Me Home see’s Phil Bozeman try his hand at *shock and horror* CLEAN VOCALS! In his defense however, Bozeman pulls them off quite well. As a sombre and tense ballad, Bring Me Home is reminiscent of Slipknot’s work circa ‘Vol.3’ or Disturbed’s cover of The Sound Of Silence and works quite well in the context of the album. It’s definitely the kind of song you’ll be pulling out your lighters for once the encore kicks in.
Deathcore purists might scoff at Bozeman’s clean vocals, throwing accusations such as “sellouts!” and “traitors!” towards the band, but at the end of the day they really change anything about it. Whitechapel still manage to be just as heavy and intense as they were when they were doing pig squeals.
In addition to the band’s experimentation with clean vocals, ‘Mark Of The Blade’ see’s Whitechapel stepping out of their comfort zone in other ways. Tremors features a djent-influenced intro combined with a fierce chugging riff during the verses. Meanwhilte, Dwell In The Shadows hearkens back to the bands self-titled album with a distinctive groove metal riff, combinedwith some killer double bass pedal drumming and guitar shredding.
Whitechapel have indeed toned down the brutality from their earlier releases. However in doing so they’ve allowed their songwriting ability to shine through. Instead of copying and pasting endless slam riffs and slowdowns, one gets the feeling Whitechapel chose to write a coherent album instead of throwaway mosh-fodder like some of their contemporaries. At this point in their career, you can tell Whitechapel would rather devote their time to writing rock solid metal rather than attempting to please fleeting scene kids.