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So, Whitechapel's new album has finally rolled around. Nice cover art, guys: the Tennessee state flag's design on top of a saw blade. Inspired! Obviously, that's really the very least of Whitechapel's issues, but as a minor plus side, it's nice to see some qualitative consistency across the album's overall presentation, because goddamn, this suuuuuuuuucks.
Whitechapel have decided right here and right now that they no longer want to be a metal band. That, of course, isn't an insult by itself: it's the manner in which the band decide to go about shedding their metal façade that leaves such a horrible taste in my mouth. An album like this literally couldn't have been made in any year before 2012, as it took eight full years after the initial deathcore explosion for bands to effectively scrounge up every quasi-metal flavour of the week which flickered around over the past decade, and combine it into such a monument to trendiness as is on display here. Seriously, you name it, this album's got it. Deathcore? Check. "Atmospheric" deathcore with stupid little washes of ambient guitars irritatingly floating through the rest of the music, which is clearly too neanderthal-brained to accommodate them? Double check. Djenty alternation between palm mutes and open-note twanging? Gotcha covered there. Nu-metal grooves, and nu-metal whispering, and nu-metal melodramatic breathing, with some horrendously contrived angst to top it all off? Look no further. I have no problems with any of these things on principle, but they mix together here with about as much harmony as a blind chainsaw juggler on a unicycle performing in a daycare centre. The band will shift between literally every idea they could recall at the time, and while the end result isn't exactly what one would call "spastic" (which, to that adjective's credit, would make this album a lot more interesting than it currently is), it's incoherent and doesn't carry any unifying theme through any of the songs.
Of course, even if these elements were somehow mixed together in such a fluid and seamless manner that even fans of fucking Gorguts took a minute out of their day to weep in awe of Whitechapel's beautiful compositions, it would be considered somewhat of a prerequisite for said elements to have value in and of themselves, and very few of them even fulfill that criterion. Whitechapel were never stellar or anything at writing breakdowns, but on their two good albums to date, they got the job done and, at the very least, didn't feel like they were there to take up space. The ones on display here are just slow and tedious as fuck; the guitarists don't even try to incorporate melodies into the breakdowns, the rhythms are stale and uninteresting, and the drummer refuses to add in at least a bit of syncopation on the kick pedals or anything else that would spice up the rhythms even a little bit. Whitechapel often attempt to go for the Emmure approach of chaining breakdowns onto breakdowns in order to create what is ideally a never-ending chain of catchiness, but the band fall flat on their face whenever attempting to do this: the breakdowns are only ever linked together in a chronological sense, as opposed to a compositional sense. Throughout the album, bouncy breakdowns bleed into djent grooves which bleed into triplet patterns which suddenly speed up to blast speed because oops our breakdown jam session started to develop a mind of its own. These blastier sections aren't great, and most aren't even good, but as they serve as the album's only respite from base, poorly executed chugging, they almost come across as a positive in regards to the album's quality. If you were to take this stance, I'd like to kindly remind you that Whitechapel's previous albums (even This Is Exile, the awful one) were all stuffed to the brim with blast beats - to settle for less because it's all the album offers you is foolish, especially when most of these blasts are accompanied by simply faster-paced but equally banal chugs or pseudo-technical "atmospheric" melodies which are nothing if not totally emotionally sterile.
Phil Bozeman's vocals have surprisingly maintained their quality over the years, and I'd even go so far to say that his high, raspy shrieks have improved, becoming a fair bit more vehement and providing more of a sense of "carving" into the music. The new techniques he's adopted, however, certainly tip his scales towards a net loss in overall quality. On this album, Phil Bozeman decides that despite already possessing a perfectly intelligible vocal style, his fans are just itching to hear him recite pieces of his immaturely misanthropic poetry in a method of delivery angsty enough to make Jonathan Davis and Corey Taylor simultaneously make a double take in the general direction of Whitechapel's recording studio. I've never been a fan of spoken word or whispering in my extreme music, but the inherently-awful technique is taken to new extremes here as Phil spews out such timeless gems as "You bleed, we bleed, what's the point of these lies?" and "We don't want you dead. We just want you to feel what it's like to be burned alive." Consider yourself talented, Brozeman: you managed to somehow write lyrics so mindless and devoid of inspiration that you got me - the guy who unflinchingly reads the lyrics to "Pigtails Are for Face Fucking" and "Diarrhoea Induced Gag Reflex", the guy who pays very little attention to lyrics in general and makes a conscious effort to avoid mentioning them in a musical review - to come out of my shell and publicly denounce the crap you have put to paper for this particular musical effort. Feel free to consider yourself singularly abysmal.
No one wants to or needs to hear this. Listening to this long enough to write a fair review for it, I permanently sacrificed millions of brain cells, 40 IQ points and three inches of my manhood; and were I not endowed with the genitalia of King Kong, you can bet your ass I'd be suing Whitechapel for the damage sustained to my pride and joy after hearing such a pathetic, soul-draining attempt at music. "The Night Remains" is probably the only consistently decent song, actually being fast-paced, bouncy, and facetious enough to resemble a poor man's Felony; the rest is Whitechapel's former self having a naughty sleepover with Periphery, Slipknot, and Meshuggah, during which Whitechapel gets gang-raped, tainted by all of the others' filthy, horrendous seed and forced to bear their children. If you see this thing being sold in stores, dramatically break it in half over your knee, and behold as all those around you with even the faintest refinery of musical taste break into an enthused round of applause.