Review Summary: Whitechapel's tightest release to date, take it or leave it.
Whitechapel is often unfairly lumped together with other black sheep of the deathcore scene; bands like Oceano
, Suicide Silence
, and Emmure
, that have essentially taken the idea of death metal, wiped their ass with it and released their excrement-stained toilet paper to the public in the form of 40-minute LPs. And of course, people bought it. Although Whitechapel share a few less than desirable traits with these bands, such as the unnecessarily frequent use of breakdowns and monotonous guttural screams, they managed to be one step ahead of those bands for one reason: they actually know how to play their instruments. For every breakdown Whitechapel play, they counter it with a blistering riff or a catchy melodic guitar lead. For the most part, the breakdowns themselves aren’t the mindless binary chugs common to the genre; they’re more groove-based and strategically placed at the climaxes of the songs. And yet Whitechapel still manage to shoot themselves in the foot, because for every well-placed breakdown they use, there are a handful of throwaway chug-fests scattered throughout the middle of their songs, generally speaking. The frivolous chugging can only be seen as an amateurish crutch – a result of poor songwriting, and these crutches have ultimately prevented Whitechapel from ever making a truly memorable album.
Little has changed from Whitechapel’s self-titled release to their newest outing, Our Endless War
, which isn’t exactly a bad thing. As usual, Mark Lewis’s production pulls no punches, finding the perfect balance between grittiness and clarity. Musically, as mundane as some songs from Whitechapel
were, the good songs on the album were among the best in their catalog. Thrash-y opener “Make It Bleed” showed the band at their most structurally cohesive, beginning with an ominous piano intro leading into a surprisingly mature riff-barrage, fit with clean refrains in the middle of the track serving as momentary breaths of fresh air between the pummeling blasts of death metal. This sense of cohesion is further developed on Our Endless War
. Whitechapel no longer fill the meat of their tracks with onerous chug-tech shifts; rather, they’ve come to finally write songs
– fully realized and unified in their ideas, whether good or bad. This makes Our Endless War
not only the easiest Whitechapel album to listen to from beginning to end, but also the band’s tightest release to date.
Opener “Rise” serves as the calm before the storm, easing into the album’s eponymous track. “Our Endless War” has its feet firmly planted in hardcore, even kicking off with a perfunctory “let’s go!”
that would have been better saved for a live setting. However, its sheer energy and the infectious leads in the chorus make it an undeniable head-banger and possible live staple, despite being one of the album’s more straightforward cuts. Whitechapel prove that they haven’t lost a step speed-wise on the gripping penultimate track “Blacked Out.” On the other hand, the relatively tame closer, “Diggs Road,” presents a level of restraint foreign to standard deathcore affairs. From the ominous clean guitar bookends to the multiple guitar solos, it’s a constantly progressing track that seldom reuses ideas (sans the devilishly catchy chorus) and never sacrifices its cohesion for unpredictability. The aforementioned songwriting improvement is also apparent in the album’s two bonus tracks, which have hints of the adolescent vigor that made their early material so alluring.
Whitechapel’s focus on song-to-song coherency is not to be confused with consistency, though. The good songs shine as they should, but likewise, the bad songs are really
terrible. Groove-based tracks, such as “The Saw Is the Law” and “Let Me Burn,” make up the bulk of the album. But Whitechapel take groove to a whole new level with “Worship the Digital Age,” which could’ve been a B-side to Emmure’s Eternal Enemies
if I didn’t know any better – possibly the most inane brodown-infested song of their entire career. This is followed by “How Times Have Changed,” which shows the band at their most technically boring – a three-and-a-half minute deathcore caricature if you will. On a more universal level, Phil Bozeman’s lyrics have regressed from silly to downright stupid.
Nothing satisfies me
A cold dark room is where you'll find me
I can feel the hatred slowly climbing
Go fuck yourself if you don't like what I'm writing
Don't ask me where to start
And I don't really care if your life is falling apart
Don't waste your time, you're gonna burn in hell
Say seven hail Mary's and kill yourself!
Usually death metal lyrics are passably asinine, but some of these cringe-worthy lines are impossible to ignore. This is made worse by the fact that Bozeman’s vocals are as stagnant as ever. He doesn’t even attempt to hit the highs like he did on A New Era of Corruption
and This Is Exile
; rather he lazily alternates between run-of-the-mill death growls and irritating guttural lows for the ‘ultra-heavy’ sections.
What Whitechapel has achieved on Our Endless War
is a double-edged sword, not unlike their previous albums, and the new hitch is ironically what plagued their material in the first place: the songwriting. Instead of having good ideas in bad songs and vice versa, the tracks are divided into being either thoroughly great, or extraordinarily abysmal. This is a step in the right direction for Whitechapel, though. Now that they can write actual songs, all they need to do is scrape off the excess in order to make the truly memorable album they were always capable of.