Review Summary: Whitechapel right the ship.
Though Whitechapel have been making waves since they first launched themselves into the deathcore scene almost a decade ago, it wasn’t until 2012’s self-titled release that they truly began to find their sound. By doing away with the excessive breakdowns and over-the-top lyrics of their first three albums, Whitechapel
was undeniably a deathcore album but lacked much of what made the genre so difficult to take seriously. They further pursued this direction on follow-up Our Endless War
, and though it marked the band’s tightest compositions to date, much of the aggression and heaviness that made the band memorable in the first place was absent. Fans and critics alike screamed “sellout,” and Whitechapel’s path forward was shrouded in uncertainty.
Mark of the Blade
is an attempt to bridge the gap between the more commercial sensibilities of Our Endless War
and the unadulterated hostility of the albums that came before it. The sextet’s trademark groove is more pronounced than ever, yet heaviness never trumps the overlying sense of melody and cohesion. Additionally, Phil Bozeman’s performance is considerably less pedestrian than on Our Endless War
, utilizing a variety of harsh vocal patterns and even a few instances of surprisingly well-executed clean singing. Opener “The Void” is perfectly exemplifies the album’s sound, combining the tried-and-true deathcore formula with addictive death metal riffing, topped off with a superb guitar solo. In fact, the solos that Mark of the Blade
has to offer are outstanding across the board and add a great deal to the overall package.
Improved soloing and occasional clean vocals aside, however, this is unmistakably a Whitechapel album. Not a whole lot has changed as far as songwriting is concerned, but the general quality of each individual track is clearly a step up from the band’s previous work. There’s more than enough variety to keep every song from flowing into one another to the point of monotony, quite a feat as far as deathcore is concerned. “Brotherhood,” a surprisingly engaging fully instrumental number, thoroughly demonstrates the band’s improved technical proficiency; Hell, many of the tracks even have a good deal of audible bass, a rarity in the genre. “Dwell in the Shadows” and “Venomous” are without a doubt two of Whitechapel’s best songs to date, contributing to the album’s stellar back half.
Lyrically, Mark of the Blade
is nothing special, but as a whole it’s adequate enough to not detract from any other aspects of the music. “Elitist Ones” is the most interesting song on the album from a lyrical standpoint, serving as an attack on music elitists who judge bands and fans solely based on their genres of choice. I suppose it’s kind of a silly concept for a metal song, but it’s unique and sincere enough to earn a pass in my eyes. “Bring Me Home” and “Decennium” are bound to be the most controversial tracks on the record due to their use of clean vocals, but in the context of the album neither seems out of place. They’re not the best songs that Mark of the Blade
has to offer (although Decennium is up there), but both are perfectly respectable additions to the band’s repertoire.
There was a great deal of pressure on Whitechapel to right the ship after the disappointing Our Endless War
, and Mark of the Blade
succeeds in doing just that. Boasting some of the sextet’s best and most diverse material to date, it’s a culmination of their entire career and a testament to the potential of deathcore as a genre. Minor lyrical nitpicks aside, Mark of the Blade
is an immensely enjoyable release that’s sure to create many a living room mosh pit this summer.