Whitechapel’s Mark of the Blade is catching some heat from the fans right now. Accusations of Slipknotism and even a felony charge of Tool abuse are being thrown around. Has Whitechapel sold out? Are they thumbing their nose at the diehard fans that got them where they are now? Wouldn’t you like to know! I…I’ll tell you.
- Phil Bozeman – lead vocals
- Gabe Crisp – bass
- Ben Harclerode – drums
- Zach Householder – guitars
- Ben Savage – guitars
- Alex Wade – guitars
Whitechapel has been labeled a deathcore band, and the by rules of an industry that must categorize everything as specifically as possible, I suppose they are as much as anyone. I don’t like to pigeonhole bands into tiny spaces that eventually get stale but if you must have a sub-genre deathcore is as good as any. I’ll be covering why sub-genres are a really bad idea sometime next week on my Genre Rant!
The Void kicks it off with a thrash beat behind deathcore vocals and guitars oh my God I’m guilty of using sub-genre terms. I’m WEAK!. Nothing new to see in this song right? Wrong! Just when you are ready to run around in a circle like a madman the pre-chorus kicks in and the tone changes to something less brutal and more, sinister? But don’t worry the speed is coming back. The gear shifts back and forth with well-timed efficiency.
Mark of the Blade has a power groove at its heart that is a district departure from past “need for speed” blasts and breakneck picking. The chorus to this song sounds like a pre-breakdown that resolves before you smash your face into something, which is actually much harder to pull off that just resolving into a mosh mess so this was very surprising. The vocals here are a Whitechapel staple so nothing new here. If you like previous vocal performances, you’ll like this. The vocal controversy doesn’t appear until later in the album and we’ll get into that.
Next up is Elitist Ones. I hear the Djent creep more into the Whitechapel sound here, and they admittedly do it well. This song is a very clear sign that the band is growing and changing without severing their roots. The post solo sequence is a return to form that reminds us that Whitechapel may put a toe into the Djent pool but that isn’t where they swim. Because they don’t want the Djent shark to get them? Analogies can be deeply confusing.
Bring Me Home may be a hard pill to swallow for traditional Whitechapel fans. Don’t get me wrong it’s a good song but I hear the band reaching out across the aisle further that it ever has before. I’m immediately struck with thoughts of Tool being mugged by Whitechapel in a surprisingly well constructed alley. Holy shit another analogy! I can’t stop… the guitar solo for this song is outstanding and the intro of it is actually haunting. It eventually gets really scaly but not too linear. We then fade to Tool. This song rides a few fences and doesn’t so much as blend styles as mash them all together. This is a theme that plays out in several songs.
Tremors gets us back in the Chapel lest we forget where the band is from. Mid-level speed with a smashing groove that gets the head banging right out of the gate. The center piece of the song starts to go off the rails here and I’m not really sure what was really going on here. Of all the attempts to show dynamics and contrast this song seemed the most forced. This was a weak point for the album.
Decennium is another adventure in Tool land. This time not just a vocal shift in tone but the rhythm and melody is also Toolish. And there is a melody in there you just need to listen to what’s going on beneath the super-low guitar. Gabe Crisp’s bass line, though way to low in the mix, is driving this one. Star the song over and focus on the bass. You hear it? There is the tonal center! Now you can hear the melody! Magical! The acoustic outro is beautiful so before you get mad at them for changing to much hush up and listen. It’s good! Just really really different. This is my favorite song on this album so address all hate to the comments below.
Whitechapel is changing and growing. This record may be a testament to this evolution but as an album it isn’t a cohesive work. Before you start typing below in all caps that contrast is a good thing, I agree! The differences between the songs isn’t a concern at all. I mean that the individual songs sound stitched together at times without an overarching vision to hold them together. The song elements sound interchangeable. The question shouldn’t be “is Whitechapel deathcore or djent or whatever”? The question is “are they a good band”? The answer is yes, but this album is deeply flawed. I’m giving Whitechapel’s Mark of the Blade a C. Good band, mediocre album. It is my hope this is a stepping stone leading us to a new and interesting Whitechapel.