Review Summary: This release will leave you dissatisfied and depressingly bored, but that's par for the course when it comes to Whitechapel.
There are few bands with such a confusing concoction of popularity and mixed opinions as Tennessee's trademark deathcore act, Whitechapel. Whether or not the band's claim to fame was their 2007 release "The Somatic Defilement
" - which became a household name of the genre in the months following its release - remains uncertain, but they have survived the past seven years since their debut and have emerged from the 2014 production cycle with a(n ostensibly) new direction for their music. Filled with the same angsty anti-establishment and anti-religious tropes they began to cultivate with the release of "A New Era of Corruption
", Whitechapel may have changed their aesthete and their talk with "Our Endless War
", but the music they deliver continues to be all bark and little-to-no bite - an unfortunate fate shared by many of their peers.
Phil Boseman's vocals on "Our Endless War
" retain the same impact and powerful delivery that drove Whitechapel's sound on their previous releases. Alternating between his trademark highs and lauded guttural lows, Boseman's vocal style forces the rest of the band's sound environment to follow his lead - a situation I can't help but find ironic when contrasted against the lyrical themes that condemn conformity. Despite being proficient when it comes to the microphone, the man behind Whitechapel's vocals isn't the best at presenting his ideas lyrically without shrouding them with angst and a myriad of words that rhyme with "fuck
". While they've never been revered for expressing themselves intelligently, Whitechapel provides another example of their refusal to change for the better with their lyrics on this album.
The guitarwork is, by and large, catchy and evocative but lacking in substance below the surface level. On the title track and its follow-up, "The Saw is the Law", the structure generally consists of simple and mediocre riffs with distorted tones and an underlying composition that fails to evolve past what you hear in the opening ten seconds. Beyond the tried-and-true "moshpit" riff that bounces back and forth along the frets in "The Saw is the Law" and the occasional bout of technicality that seems to only have been included because the band couldn't think of an actual riff to put in its place, the riffage on "Our Endless War
" is stagnant and stereotypical of Whitechapel's roots as a deathcore act. This wouldn't normally surprise me, but this six-man band has three guitarists; their music has the complexity that you'd come to expect from one. All in all, there's little that changes from their self-titled release back in 2012 - and if anyone in the band expects to be taken seriously, their lack of change needs to change.
The drumming on this album tends to follow in the guitar structure's wake, pummeling sometimes mindlessly and sometimes intelligently in order to keep pace with the schizophrenic chords the guitarists are playing. Some of the best fills on "Our Endless War
" can be found on "Mono", but they don't last long before the band decides it's time for a poorly-executed breakdown that serves no purpose other than to artificially extend the running time of the song. The basswork fulfills much the same role as the drum fills, taking a backseat in the mix while still being faintly audible in the whole mess of noise. Thankfully, the engineer behind Whitechapel's efforts seems to know a bit about how bass works, and used Crisp's involvement to boost the rest of the instrumentation to a higher level of impact. It's a good thing, too, because impact is about the only positive trait "Our Endless War
" exemplifies, even in the slightest.
Unfortunately for the boys from Tennessee, Whitechapel appear to be back in square one with this album. Having failed to showcase any tangible evolution in their music or their skill in the two years since their self-titled record came out, the few enjoyable tracks on here are overshadowed by the rest of the album - not to mention dull lyrics and a shoddy mixing job. Problems like these have plagued Whitechapel since the band's inception, but it seems they have finally streamlined their standard of quality; it's unlikely we'll see them ever get better than this, and that's a damn shame considering how unsatisfied "Our Endless War
" left me. Lacking in progression, in substance, and most importantly in potential, Whitechapel's 2014 release prophesies a dismal future for the band's music. I hope they have it in them to prove me wrong.