Review Summary: Whitechapel's 4th full length release sees them take a bold and ambitious step in a different direction, in order to add some contrast to what has become typical in the somewhat crowded deathcore scene.
With deathcore gradually becoming quite the crowded scene, Whitechapel's latest, self-titled release sees them contrast greatly from what is generally expected from the genre. It now more easy than ever to encounter what seems like the same band and the same record time and time again, but it gives me great pleasure to say that Whitechapel knock this right out of the metaphorical ball park, albeit in a somewhat ironic way, as it was the old Whitechapel that contributed greatly to this, sometimes bleak, 'same old' sub-genre of metal.
What I feel is one of the most refreshing and pleasing aspects of this release, is the fact that it is still undeniably a solid Whitechapel record, that is sure to please the fans that have been WC disciples since day one. But at the same time, it manages to create something fresh and original, and most importantly correct a great deal of the flaws that their previous albums contained. It seems that frontman, Phil Bozeman has woken up and smelt some seriously strong coffee, as his all round performance on this album is far superior to anything Whitechapel have previously released. I personally always found the free-flowing, unstructured style of the majority of the tracks highly satisfying, as it made for less predictable and twice as exciting records, however I never appreciated this particular style being applied to the lyrics and vocal work. For example, on Whitechapel's debut album, 'The Somatic Defilement', I think that Bozeman perhaps took the traditional 'angry' deathcore lyrics slightly too far, however in 2012 he is thankfully no longer "Amputating the salty clitoris" of his rape victims, and seems to have developed the ability to produce far more focused and meaningful lyrics. As for the actual vocal work itself, Phil Bozeman thankfully continues to grab the listeners by the scruff of the neck with his deep trademark growls and infrequent but satisfying 'fry' screams, which is perhaps one of the aspects of the record that will appeal to the 'old school' Whitechapel fans. I think that, at times on this record, Phil bozeman's vocal talents are captured in a particularly satisfying nutshell, and display what he is truly capable of. For example at the end of the track 'Section 8', the lyric "YOU ARE WORTHLESS!" is delivered in a deep, throaty, elongated growl, and is followed by possibly one of the most intense breakdowns you will ever hear from a deathcore band. I think that it is moments like this on the record that really highlight the talents, not only of Phil Bozeman, but of the entirety of the band.
Aside from the actual music, another fresh, new aspect of this album is the arrival of new Whitechapel drummer, Ben Harclerode, and I personally think that he is the best thing that could have possibly happened to this band. In a studio interview, Ben said himself that one of his primary goals for the record was to "compliment the song, the riffs, and the vocals" and I think that he achieves this better than he, or anyone else could have ever hoped. Overall, I think that Ben's performance on this record maintains a style of complex modesty, in the sense that his technique throughout is immaculate, and at and times his fills and free hand technique show signs of pure brilliance, however it never becomes too overpowering, and on the whole allows the guitars and vocals to come across as more potent, which was of course one of Ben's initial targets for the album. On a final note, I feel that Ben's pedal work throughout the album, is some of the most consistent, and at times, complex that I have ever heard, and this makes his performance on the record all the more impressive, but more importantly, successful.
Overall, I feel that on this record, Whitechapel manage to integrate a perfect balance between fresh, new surprises, and the maintinence of their original style. For example, the first track on the album 'Make It Bleed', rather than opening with a catchy, crunchy guitar riff (which is what most listeners would expect of them), they use a rather melancholic piano piece to introduce the album instead, and I think that it is little things like this on the record, that are symbolic of a new, more creative Whitechapel. Having said all of this, Whitechapel still manage to satisfy their long-term fans with aspects of their music such as Phil Bozeman's intense and poweful vocal work, their infrequent but highly satisfying breakdowns, and the deep, snotty guitar riffs that walk hand in hand with the guitars and vocals. I think the evolution of Whitechapel's music is made even more clear from tracks such as devoid (a vocal-free track, opened with another melancholic piano piece, containing melodic guitar riffs, and consistent pedal work), that Whitechapel are no longer you're average deathcore band, but are ambitious and insightful musicians, with a passion for what they are producing. However, dispite all of my poisitive feedback for this record, an album wouldn't be an album without some negative features and room for improvement, and this is no exception. I feel that throughout the entire album, the guitar work remains fairly bland, with no catchy, stand-out riffs that stick in your mind after listening to it. I feel that what whitechapel are lacking, is purely creative and original guitarists, such as the likes of Jason richardson (Chelsea Grin), and Joe Cocchi (Within the ruins), who's guitar work leads to truly inspired and articulate records.
To conclude, I feel that on this record, Whitechapel have taken a bold and ambitious step in a different direction, away from the bleak, samey deathcore scene, and more in the direction of originality and creativity, carefully avoiding 'unecessary' breakdowns, annoying, 'whiney' vocals, and overcompensated drum patterns, in order to create the sort of record that is seldom seen in the deathcore genre.