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Whitechapel have been one of the largest figures in the deathcore scene to date. Having formed in 2006, their first three releases were met with heavily varied opinions, most being that their content is regarded as too simplistic and that both albums following their debut, The Somatic Defilement, had nothing different to offer. The latest self-titled effort from Whitechapel also features a new drummer, Ben Harclerode. Does this fourth full-length installment finally have what it takes to set Whitechapel apart from from the abundantly flourishing generic deathcore that surrounds it?
Whitechapel is an album full of unexpected twists and turns, and when first faced with the content the composure seems messy and unkempt. Later, this augments into a varied mixture of different musical genres that helps deliver a fresh side of Whitechapel unheard of until now. "Make It Bleed" and "Hate Creation" are completely by-passable, being comprised of a mostly generic effort. Although, it's safe to say that not many people would be expecting a 40 second piano/violin introduction, which is how the album itself opens.
"(Cult)uralist" is where the material begins to pick up, and the album from this point on takes on an overtone of gritty industrial influence. Catchy chants with simplistic lyrics create an instantly recognizable hook, often woven together with an eerie guitar progression in either the forefront or background. This newer style is heard loud and clear in songs such as "I, Dementia", "Section 8" and "(Cult)uralist", which feature some unique synthesized divisions and are the most stand-out tracks amongst the 10 songs given. "Section 8" and "I, Dementia" both have introductions that again reinforce the industrial influence present and give a breath of fresh stench into the deathcore style.
Why the band felt the need to pick up a third guitarist in 2007 begs for questions to be raised, since there are generally only two guitars heard at any given time. In this fourth full-length album, the guitars are just as simplistic and droning in nature as what has been heard by Whitechapel before. What time they aren't chugging palm-muted riffs, they're chugging palm-muted riffs. The only variance is a lead guitar that offers short solos and 'eerie' one-note background noise. Having three guitarists should provide more differentials when it comes to riffs and styles, but what is present are the same chunky palm-muted chords in slightly different beefy patterns. This is the real downfall of Whitechapel.
Two of the more unique and equally bass heavy tracks that explore the unexpected twists and turns endeavor are "Dead Silence" and "The Night Remains". While the former has some attention grabbing lyrics, head pounding drum patterns and fluid guitar solos, it is undoubtedly the rustic sounding classical/folk guitar outro to this track that makes it shine the brightest. "The Night Remains" is where we hear the guitars finally break away from the standard palm-muted chugging and become more exploratory. This track also has a noteworthy vocal segment that cuts in and out, snatching the listeners attention and immediately latching in relentlessly. Every now and then, vocal styles will change from a death metal growl to a black metal shrieking reminiscent of (forgive the lack of better comparison) newer Cradle of Filth. Somewhat commercial and unwelcome, seemingly out of place given the content that surrounds it.
Whitechapel has a tendancy to come off messy and confused to which style it wants to take. Is it deathcore? Industrial? Black metal? Folk? Symphonic? All of these elements are somehow meshed together in this content, but surprisingly it works to create a captivating and enjoyable experience with minimal repetition that mostly is at fault when it comes to the guitar work present. If you can sit through a couple of mediocre tracks, and don't mind a little variety sprinkled throughout your metal, then the new Whitechapel may be for you.
- Villi Thorne