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Whitechapel are the creators of one of my favorite albums of all time, and as such I keep a close eye on them. I was very disappointed with their 2008 album This Is Exile, so I was hoping this album would be a return to roots. I wasn't even close in my prediction, but on the other hand, I do enjoy this album...though it's not the album I wish it was.
As the latest trend seems to be, Whitechapel have come to the conclusion that deathcore is a dying genre, and as a result have created an album that is essentially a death metal album struggling to let go of the deathcore genre entirely, and only half-succeeding. However, unlike Carnifex's and Job for a Cowboy's death metal transition albums, this one succeeds in that it not only eliminates most of the deathcore influence, but at the same time doesn't sound boring or confused in its direction or presentation.
The album's most prominent change from Whitechapel's older work is the new guitar direction. It is much heavier and grooving than the band's older guitar sound, and there is a lot more emphasis on the slower side of the guitars. The majority of the guitar work is rhythmic chugging, which is just about the only thing that still serves to identify Whitechapel as a deathcore band. There aren't really any fast parts on the album; as I've said, there is a lot of chugging. For the people who dislike deathcore, however, you'll be happy to know that there aren't any true breakdowns on the album at all. The album also incorporates many more melodic sections than Whitechapel's older works, and they dominate the songs "End of Flesh", "A Future Corrupt", and "Prayer of Mockery", as well as the chorus of "Devolver". You'll also find guitar solos in a few of the songs, such as "Reprogrammed to Hate", but they feel generic and boring, feeling more like bad extensions of the melodic leads than solos. The bass guitar is sometimes audible through the blasting of the three guitars, but not often.
Phil Bozeman has improved his vocals from This Is Exile, which is no small feat, given he was the only member giving it his all on that album. As he has stated in interviews, his main goal here was to use more diction to make his lyrics more interpretable, and it has definitely worked. You can understand a large majority of the words without looking in the lyrics book at all, and at the same time his voice is more guttural than it was on the previous album. The vocal execution is also very forceful (read: not forced), and he delivers the lines with extreme vehemence. Check out the emotion in the chorus to "Reprogrammed to Hate", his shouts of "WELCOME TO HELL" in "Devolver", or my personal favorite, the halt of the instruments at 0:28 in "The Darkest Day of Man". His highs, on the other hand, haven't improved much at all, if improved they truly have. They have a bit more emotion added to them, probably because of the added diction, but I still dislike the overall presentation of the vocals because I've always enjoyed Phil's emotionless screams in the past two albums.
And that leaves the drummer. An odd thing about Whitechapel's drummer on this album is that even though the guitars are chugging at a relatively slow speed, the drummer uses blast beats and variants almost constantly to give the music an illusion of speed. Sometimes it works; sometimes it doesn't, and it simply feels like the guitars and drums are completely out of tempo. The kit's sound itself is quite watered down by the guitars, which were probably intended to take front and center on this album. Fair enough, since they're probably the shining element of this album, but the end result feels a bit lacking due to the partial tuning-out of the drummer.
As with the last album, lyrics are a weak point on this album. The actual vocal execution is great, yes - but the words Phil is saying are all repetitive rants on religion that just feel pretty stupid. It's almost like a sixth grader decided to be an atheist because all of his peers were, and then wrote some second-rate poetry about how much God sucked. Now, mind you, I have no predispositional problem with lyrics dealing with any religion, but fuck, at least try to make them sound intelligent. The only reason you'd try to tell someone your opinion on religion through music is to sway their opinion, so don't make it appear that people who believe what you do are all morons.
This is a great improvement over This Is Exile - though that in itself isn't saying much - but at the same time, Whitechapel doesn't seem to have any plans to return to the stellar formula they created with The Somatic Defilement. I doubt that Whitechapel will ever return to their former greatness going down this path, but that being said, this is a good album, especially for a death metal hybrid.