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Metal Blade (2012)
Rating: 5/10

Whitechapel are one of those bands that, if you caught them early on, you remember exactly where you were and what you were doing when you first heard them. This Is Exile (2008), to this day, is one of the scariest albums I have ever heard and since then the Tennessee band have played around a lot with just how they wanted to approach their music. Whitechapel (the album) is no different, featuring a slightly less brutal sound and a much faster pace for much of the album.

The band begin and end the journey with a haunting piano piece that is quiet and reflective, making the impact of what you are about to hear / have heard a lot more interesting than it might be without it. It’s funny how about one minute of music can have such an impact on an album.

Impact is certainly the name of the game here as Whitechapel try really hard to step up their game on songs like ‘Make It Bleed’, ‘Hate Creation’ and ‘Faces’. The band play at increasing speed on each one and the vocals evolve into a cross between a death metal growl and screamy, NYC hardcore kinda tough guy thing. The first time through I really dug it, but it doesn’t hold up on repeated listens, reducing the band to Suicide Silence and DevilDriver territory (you know how it goes, starts out great but totally lacks staying power).

The bouncy, even closer to hardcore, album closer ‘Possibilities Of An Impossible Existence’ and ‘I, Dementia’ have largely the same feel, while the band caters to the hyperspeed lovers on the Cattle Decapitation-esque ‘Section 8’.

‘Devoid’ is a slower number and is an album highlight for me. It’s strong and steady guitar lead lays exquisitely across the layers of guitars and ever changing rhythms. Oddly enough, the song has no vocal work.

‘(Cult)uralist’ is another highlight and arguably the album’s most dynamic track, reminding me the most of the band’s prior work. It has a strong lead guitar presence, a variety of vocal approaches and new drummer Ben Harclerode kills it on this one in particular.

All in all, this is probably Whitechapel’s most forgettable album. While not in total, they largely abandon their sound here to try and take it to the next level. I totally get that, but they come damn close to losing themselves in the process. After a number of near classic releases, a stumble here doesn’t mean much and it may expose them to a wider audience, who knows? For me, this is a fairly mediocre sounding album by a great band.

Mark Fisher

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