WHITECHAPEL – Mark of the Blade
WHITECHAPEL Line Up:
Phil Bozeman – Vocals
Ben Savage – Guitar
Zach Householder – Guitar
Alex Wade – Guitar
Ben Harclerode – Drums
Gabe Crisp – Bass
The last two Whitechapel albums have seen the band twist their deathcore sound in new directions, from the self-titled album that introduced a newfound sense of groove and the previous album Our Endless War adding a more hardcore edge to their arsenal. The new album Mark of the Blade therefore is a consolidation of those previous experimentations – seeing the band deliver their most varied album to date and comes with the new addition of (gulp) clean vocals.
Kicking things off with the paint stripping opening anthem ‘The Void’ the band employs all their indulgences and ratchets up the carnage to new heights with lead singer Phil Bozeman’s screams at the forefront as the blast beats and technical guitar wizardry deliver a slab of vintage Whitechapel direct into your earholes. The title-track takes a similar approach but takes away the thrash dissonance and replaces it with mid-tempo grooves.
Things take a left turn with ‘Elitist Ones’ with lyrics that make you think this band hasn’t been around for the last ten years and found this in one of Bozeman’s high school notebooks. Musically speaking however it’s hard not to get the questionable lyrics stuck inside your head as the guitar riff bounces along with total abandon and sucks you into Bozeman’s angst-filled rage whirlpool.
From there it’s onto ‘Bring Me Home’ which is one of two tracks on the album to feature clean singing. Bozeman’s cleans on this song sound vaguely reminiscent of Corey Taylor which had me wondering if they hadn’t called up Slipknot and asked him for a contribution. Unfortunately while the song itself is great and features some weighty lyrics about Bozeman’s late father; it comes across as jarring as it seriously messes with the flow of the album and ultimately feels out of place.
The album gets back on track with the songs ‘A Killing Industry’ and ‘Dwell In The Shadows’; both songs ramping up the darkness with the latter featuring an absolute banger of a chorus, a hypnotic bass section provided by Gabe Crisp at the three minute mark and some of Bozeman’s most brutally honest lyrics. The former is a groove-laden deathcore monster with some absolutely biting drumming from Ben Harclerode and some classic deathcore buzzsaw attack from the guitars which culminates with atom bomb levels of energy as everything comes together during the last minute and speeds ahead into destruction.
The standout track is unquestionably ‘Venomous’. The track is classic Whitechapel with the initial first few seconds dragging you down into the darkness as the guitars build into Phil Bozeman’s guttural vocals and then punch you in the face with a guitar riff made to destroy necks and cause limbs to fly in every direction imaginable. Simple put; it’s fucking crazy.
Ending with ‘Decennium’; the second song to feature clean singing. It’s once again a rather jarring outro in a relatively great record. But where Bring Me Home was a great song, this track feels like it’s lacking a direction in which to end the album on and makes you wish they had left it off and put ‘Bring Me Home’ at the end instead.
Ultimately this record is Whitechapel trying something new. Not everything works as well as it should but for the most part it’s all great music and a worthy addition to their catalogue. If you liked the last two albums, but you missed some of the more technical aspects of their early work. Then I think you could happily pick up this album.
Mark of the Blade track-listing
1. The Void
2. Mark of the Blade
3. Elitist Ones
4. Bring Me Home
6. A Killing Industry
9. Dwell in the Shadows