Review Summary: In a genre notorious for bland and substanceless music, Whitechapel has actually managed to put out an album that stands out against the rest...by having even less substance.
Metal is a funny word when applied to music. To be honest, metal seems to have more subgenres than any other type of music out there, covering a vast expanse of different sounds, moods, and motifs. There's pop metal, hair metal, death metal, metalcore, doom metal, traditional heavy metal, and the list goes on. You can even go more in depth with things such as funeral doom, deathcore, drone metal, goth metal, power metal, black metal, and so on. Out of all of these genres, none have exploded quite as fast as deathcore. So why is this happening? More than likely, most people are turned off by the traditional death metal genre, so most death metal bands decided to adjust to the metalcore fad, adding breakdowns and cutting down on the gutteral vocals to get a larger fan base. For the past year or so, acts labeled as "deathcore" have been getting signed left and right and the genre has rapidly become overpopulated and stale. Whitechapel, I'm sorry to say, is simply another one of those bands that got swept up in the deathcore frenzy.
The description of Whitechapel goes basically the same as any other description of a deathcore band does. They have some guitar players who throw out a constant barrage of the typical "jun wee" riffs associated with the genre, a drummer who pretty much sticks to basic 16th and 32nd note drum patterns and speedy blastbeats, a bassist, though you would never realize it, and a vocalist who belts out the same low pitch growling and raspy screaming as most of his contemporaries, though he displays a bit more versatility than other vocalists of the genre.
So if the music itself is just the same as the rest of the sea of average cookie cutter bands rehashing the same ideas over and over again, why does it get a lower rating than the rest? The reason is simple. Whitechapel simply has no substance to its music. Now to avoid confusion, substance comes in many forms, but usually as meaningfulness in the lyrical content of the songs (but this is a deathcore album so that all but negates that idea). However, substance can be defined simply as something that can be held on to or felt, something that sticks with you, and I'm sorry to say Whitechapel makes some of the most forgettable music I've ever heard. Even after listening to the album over and over again I can't remember the name of a song without looking at the tracklist to see what song is playing.
As far as the songs themselves go, there is no variety to speak of. All the songs are the same mixture of downtuned riffs and roaring vocals played out over the same type of drumming you can find in literally any other band with roots in death metal. The band tries a few times to throw in slower sections, but it almost seems like they can't let themselves do a melodic section. If the music starts getting to slow and melodic a breakdown riff immediately comes in and kills the mood. The only time this works out in the band's favor is the final twenty or so seconds of Eternal Refuge. The guitar part actually contains a halfhearted melody, and the breakdown riff actually makes a nice contrast and provides a great closing to the song. Sadly, it almost seems as if they did it by accident. There really are no highlights or low points in the album to speak of, as the songs just continually pound through the speakers in a swirling torrent of palm muted chugs, breakdowns, pinch harmonics, and unrelenting double bass, and its terribly difficult to figure out when one song stops and another starts, and the whole thing is just a giant disjointed mess of half finished ideas and bland songwriting. The album is really just tedious to listen to.
Other aspects of the album like lyrical content and such really don't matter in this genre, but the lyrics that they come up with are really exceptionally bad. Words such as the F word, sacrifice, evil, and various forms of dead pop up way to much and, when you can understand them, the lyrics take away what little fun there is in listening. One or two songs can be good listens if you are in the mood for unrelenting heaviness, but other than that this album really doesn't merit a full listen. Eternal Refuge and the title track are really the only two songs here that I feel are worth anything, so if you must I say download those two, and if you just absolutely go nuts over it then by all means purchase the album and have a blast.
This Is Exile is really just a stale rehashing of the same musical ideas that have been done to death over the period of time deathcore has become prevalent. Whitechapel clearly has the the potential and ability to make decent and enjoyable heavy music, but it just seems like they are content with riding the wave of success their genre is enjoying at the moment rather than break out and really try and create something that will be remembered a few years down the road. I just can't listen to this album without thinking how great it could be if they would realize their full potential.