REVIEW: WHITECHAPEL – “Mark Of The Blade”
Hailing from Tennessee, Whitechapel has become one of the dominant acts in a relatively “new” genre of metal referred to by many as deathcore. One of the more recent musical movements in extreme music to court significant controversy from certain corners of the heavy metal audience, the band’s sixth studio effort Mark of the Blade is on its way.
The record’s opening track, “The Void”, gradually builds faster and faster with its instrumentation which quickly get joined by the vocals of one Phil Bozeman (Click Here To Listen To Our Interview). However, the vocals on this song seem to be slightly easier to understand than on the bands’ past releases, taking a cue from many death metal bands who have simplified their vocal styles over the years, such as Cannibal Corpse. Following on from this is the title track “Mark of the Blade”, which manages to capture a sort of catchiness that is far more noticeable than on “The Void”. The general groove of the song is propelled by its very metalcore sounding guitar tone which contrasts the extremity of the vocals on display. “Elitist Ones” gives off a lot more of an industrial metal influence as supposed to straight-up traditional deathcore in terms of the sheer sound of the instrumentation applied on this track. An interesting thing to note about this track is the occasional chanting moments reminiscent of what Jamey Jasta does in Hatebreed. “Bring Me Home”, meanwhile, borrows from grunge’s example when it comes to loud and quiet sections throughout the track, as well as without a doubt the mellowest and calm vocals ever heard on a Whitechapel song.
If you were put off by the sudden departure in the band’s musical style on “Bring Me Home”, you’ll be pleasantly surprised to know that Whitechapel has returned to their ever-so-reliable form of extreme metal ferocity on the record’s fifth track “Tremors”, but the song does contain a melodic bridge about two thirds of the way through which is followed by a surprisingly clear guitar solo and Bozeman’s brutally heavy vocal style, which never manages to lose its savage bite. “A Killing Industry” sounds on paper to perhaps be the most aggressive track that Mark of the Blade has to offer, as it definitely takes influence and inspiration from contemporary deathgrind acts such as Cattle Decapitation among others. Nonetheless, “A Killing Industry” is one of the album’s most accomplished songs without a shadow of a doubt, and one that stands tall as a definite highlight on the record. The bass guitar-led breakdown towards the end of the track also furthers its individuality.
“Tormented” is generally more of the same: Bozeman’s signature deathcore vocalism complimented by down-tuned and distorted metal instrumentation. After all, don’t fix what isn’t broken. The only significant departure on this track is the technical guitar work and the modification of Bozeman’s vocals to sound raspier rather than the normal growling that fans of the band will be used to by now. “Brotherhood” is an instrumental track, incorporating unusual instruments such as acoustic guitars and a piano which is unquestionably creative for a deathcore release. The placing of the track is also good as the pace of the album is not affected much by the inclusion of a sudden instrumental piece. The last few songs on Mark of the Blade kick into full swing as “Dwell in the Shadows” introduces itself. Relying more on a steady groove than anything else, the song bounces along on a generally mid-tempo sort of speed as the guitars slice and dice their way throughout the musical composition. Moments of sudden blast-beats thanks to drummer Ben Harclerode also give the song something memorable, which is always a good thing.
The record’s penultimate song is entitled “Venomous”, and is for me my favourite song on the album. Starting with a gradually rising build-up perfect for the mosh, the vocals get plenty of time in the spotlight which is something that hasn’t really happened before on this album. It’s very relieving to know that bands like Whitechapel are capable of not only producing quality music so far into an individual album, but also six albums into their overall career as a professional touring and recording act. The song that rounds off the album is called “Decennium”, which like “Tormented” revolves on the traditional deathcore formula in terms of musicality that has become prevalent as the genre has come to define itself. However, the massive departure on this particular track comes in the form of clean vocals which harken back to the singing found on Revocation’s 2014 song “Deathless”. All in all, “Decennium” is a positive conclusion to Mark of the Blade.
This album is essential if you’re a fan of Whitechapel’s previous album releases, and is also worth a check-out if you’re fond of the deathcore genre as a whole. This record, along with new releases from Aborted, Gorguts, Carnifex, Rotting Christ and others, will make 2016 a very fruitful year if the more extreme forms of metal are your thing.