For Fans Of
Back in late 2008, a high school chum of mine showed me Whitechapel’s ‘This Is Exile’, their breakthrough song and album of the same name, and I hated it. Absolutely fucking hated it! That song and that record embodied what I loathe about extreme metal; endless blast beats, next to no dynamics, and a strong reliance on repetitive breakdowns.
Was it extreme and heavy? For sure! Was it fun and engaging to listen to? Nope!
That wasn’t exclusive to just Whitechapel’s sound, mind you, but I think that the band would agree with me. As ever since ‘This Is Exile, they’ve tightened up their sound, become more dynamic, gone even heavier (somehow), and have backed off on that monotonous blasting (which has pleased yours truly to no end). Yes, like the past two albums, ‘Mark Of The Blade’ does utilize the occasional blast beat and breakdown section, but it’s never near the extent of older material and is thus very tasteful and engaging as a result. Now, while this new record is just as heavy, just as crushing and just as groovy as you’d expect from the band, it also sees them successfully treading new waters.
See, ‘Bring Me Home’ and ‘Decennium’ are the first ever Whitechapel songs to feature clean vocals. I love these two tracks personally and think they’re two of the best to be found on the album. Not just because they show off a lighter, deeper and far more emotional side to the band, but because they both flow and build so bloody well. Plus, the way that the acoustic guitar in ‘Decennium’ remains as the blistering drums and heavy riffs fade away at the end was a great touch to cap off a great listen. Oh, and if you’re curious what vocalist Phil Bozeman sounds like when he’s singing, think Corey Taylor in full Stone Sour mode, just with far better screams.
Now, if you’re one of those close-minded, ‘No singing, only screaming!’ individuals (*cough* wankers *cough*) within the heavy metal community, then you might think this is the band “selling out”. (If you’re one of those people, you’re probably just salty that the band trolled you about there not being any clean singing on this album). The problem with that argument, though, is that Whitechapel’s softer side is most other bands heaviest side. Sure, these two tracks may get spun on Triple J’s The Racket, if the album’s actual singles aren’t used instead, but I can’t see these two appearing on Triple M. Or any other daytime mainstream rock, “heavy” music station for that matter, either. So take that “selling out” BS somewhere else because I ain’t buying it. But look, that’s just two out of eleven songs here, so don’t think that the band has gone completely soft on us. Because they are still going fucking hard!
My case in point is songs like ‘Tormented’ and the excellent title track, which are so irresistibly groovy that Stray From The Path and Red Hot Chilli Peppers would blush like timid anime schoolgirls upon hearing them. They’re also heavy as shit, which always helps in this genre. Elsewhere, ‘A Killing Industry’, ‘Dwell In The Shadows’, and ‘Venomous’ are the faster, thunderous Whitechapel of old. It’s good to see the band can still whip up more intense tunes when possible and knowing exactly when to pick up the pace for the better of the album. Seriously, those three songs are fantastic and are right up there with the eponymous track and ‘Elitist Ones‘ as some of the record’s heaviest cuts. Also, the snappy, fast vocal phrasing on ‘Venomous’ and ‘Elitist Ones’ only reinforces the fact that Phil Bozeman is one of the best rappers in metal today. Alongside Slayer’s Tom Araya, of course.
Now, while ‘Mark Of The Blade’ is fucking solid record, I don’t think that it’s perfect and without flaws. Hence the ’85’ and not a ‘100’.
‘The Void’ is a pretty standard song to kick the album off with and is rather forgettable when compared with what follows. The same goes for ‘Tremors‘. Definitely not terrible, just decent at best. Likewise, ‘Brotherhood‘ is one of the few instrumental tracks the band has to their name. But the band’s music isn’t as progressive or as technical enough to sustain one’s full interest once Bozeman’s vocals are removed. I don’t come to these guys for instrumental songs. I have Animals As Leaders and Polyphia for that, and I just don’t think this is Whitechapel’s area of expertise, as ‘Brotherhood‘ proves.
Again, the song’s not terrible, it’s just kinda there. Like that one guy who shows up to your party despite never receiving an actual invite, the bloody spod.
You can never please the metal elitists. After all, they got in that position by being unflinching, insufferable bastards in the first place. Sure, Whitechapel may have been one of the last metal bands you’d expect clean vocals from but by sweet fucking Jove, do they work here! Of course, when the band is being their usual brutal, heavy selves, it’s sill great and is business as usual. Well, except for that instrumental song, that just ain’t you, guys.
All up, ‘Mark Of The Blade’ is a grand record dedicated to the band’s die-hard fan base, and it’s one that fits perfectly alongside ‘Our Endless War’ and their brilliant self-titled record as one of better Whitechapel albums to date. Now, before I sign off on this review I’d just like to remind people of one thing about the band’s progression over the years and the clean vocal inclusions on here. If Whitechapel released the exact same album every two years they’d just be a heavier Five Finger Death Punch. And sweet shit, one Five Finger Death Punch is more than enough!
1. The Void
2. Mark Of The Blade
3. Elitist Ones
4. Bring Me Home
6. A Killing Industry
9. Dwell In The Shadows