Review Summary: Whitechapel takes a step back.
Whitechapel have walked an interesting line throughout their career. The chugging breakdowns that plague the genre of deathcore are apparent throughout their discography, but often contrast with Phil Bozeman’s impressive vocals and the chaotically technical guitar and drum work. Whitechapel have managed to stay on the favorable side of their genre, each album progressing away from deathcore’s worst tendencies. In 2012, their self-titled album introduced new elements to their sound, primarily technical death metal and progressive metal. The result was modern and original, playing to their strengths while still planted in their signature sound. Our Endless War
attempts to progress in the same vein. The guitar work is business as usual, playing repetitive mid-tempo grooves while occasionally bursting out in a frenzy of technical guitar playing wizardry. Newcomer Ben Harcelode’s drumming marks sharp tempo changes, which also plays to his talents as a sticksman. However, Whitechapel’s latest ultimately becomes one of the most sprawling, schizophrenic examples of the genre in recent years.
Our Endless War
ultimately feels like a companion piece to the previous offering, expanding on the newfound influences while slightly changing up the Whitechapel formula. The album kicks things off with a dissonant intro followed by the accessible and furious self-titled track, featuring zero breakdowns. It instead utilizes impressively fast tempos during the verses and bridge with a mid-tempo chorus acting as the centerpiece. Every other song switches between lightning fast technical deathcore and mid-tempo grooving riffs. Tracks like “The Saw is the Law” and “Worship The Digital Age” thunder along at stomping paces, never leading anywhere especially interesting. Slower songs were never the band’s strength, and ultimately suffer from the same pitfalls as usual, with the exception of the wonderfully dissonant “Let Me Burn.” Each of the last three tracks make bizarre attempts at atmospheric sounding experimentation before suddenly breaking out into shredding guitar solos that feel completely out of place, despite being a welcome change-up.
Our Endless War
shows a band in an identity crisis. A few quiet interludes come across as attempts to showcase atmosphere and variety from the usual downtuned riffage. The continued absence of numerous breakdowns show an attempt at evolving, and seem to have been replaced with slightly experimental flourishes. They don’t always work, but the attempts at shaking things up is certainly refreshing. One odd change is how the lyrical themes have evolved. Instead of focusing on horror or corruption, almost every song has Phil Bozeman growling about Southern lifestyle, criticizing the “digital” age, and rebelling against authority. While this might have worked as interesting ideas in the writing room, the lyrics end up being their most uncreative and obvious as ever. With lines like “You are nothing, you are nothing, we are everything”
and “I’m so sick of everything. What in this life is left to gain? It’s the same thing every day. I need to change…”
it’s clear that Bozeman is suffering from some major writer’s block here. This music is aggressive, fast, intense, and heavily distorted. Singing about your heritage and how technology is ruining society honestly come across as silly when they’re written poorly and are coming out of a monster voice. Deathcore ultimately needs to be intense and psychotic. Luckily, Bozeman’s voice is so distorted and low it’s easy to ignore what he’s saying and just focus on his impressive vocals.
Despite some bewildering songwriting choices and uncreative lyrics, about three or four tracks are some of the most creative and interesting songs Whitechapel have ever written, specifically the title track, "Blacked Out," and "Let Me Burn." The rest are decent additions to their catalogue, but not really rising their potential to what it could be. Their self-titled was a fantastic peak, and this can’t help but feel like a step back from its progression. This follow-up is full of interesting moments, but is as sprawling and inconsistent as the band's early material. In short, those who have enjoyed the band's music before should find plenty to enjoy within Our Endless War
. If you can appreciate experimentation and unconventional musical elements in deathcore, give Whitechapel’s latest a listen. As with each of the band's albums, there are gems to be found within.