Whitechapel Album Review – ‘Mark Of The Blade’

 

The last decade has just flown by since Whitechapel burst onto the scene. Five studio albums and a live release plus a relentless touring schedule have catapulted Whitechapel to the forefront of extreme metal. The upcoming release of their sixth studio album ‘Mark Of The Blade’ now marks a turn in their illustrious career.

Over the years Whitechapel have already added new features and elements to their music. As always that comes with some disgruntled fans of the earliest phase of the band. However, there were only a few. The development of the band has rather lead to a greater popularity culminating – so far – in a Top 10 spot in the Billboard charts with their last album ‘Our Endless War’. ‘Mark Of The Blade’ has the potential to upset a lot more die-hard fans as Whitechapel experiment more than ever.

The album starts with two more or less classic Whitechapel tracks in the form of the opener ‘The Void’ and the title track ‘Mark Of The Blade’. The tracks are brutal and heavy and frontman Phil Bozeman grunts and growls as aggressive as ever. On the other hand, the track are not as fast as previous releases but focus more on the groove-laden part of Whitechapel. That is a recurring theme on ‘Mark Of The Blade’. Whitechapel show that they can more than blastbeats beyond lightning speed. And they achieve that without losing the brutality that is their trademark. Moreover, they combine this brutality with slower and groovier parts as well as melodies that we haven’t heard from Whitechapel. Just listen to the twin-axe guitar melody towards the end of ‘Tremor’.

The other big development in Whitechapel’s sound is the clean vocals. Whitechapel  had already announced that they will experiment with clean vocals and added it to two songs on the album. First of all – and that may come as a surprise – Phil Bozeman actually has more than  decent clean voice which again shows that the band has so much more to offer. ‘Bring Me Home’ can be called a ballad starting slow,  acoustic and with clean vocals before the band incrementally increases the intensity and harsh vocals take over. The second song with clean vocals is the last track ‘Decennium’. The song is also the longest which leave even more room for experimenting with the interplay of clean and harsh vocal as well as slower and heavier passages. The fact that this is the last track on the album might point towards the future and even more progressive elements in the music of Whitechapel.

‘Mark Of The Blade’ will certainly create some controversy. This just seems to be the natural reaction from some fans of the earliest releases. However, Whitechapel had to answer the important question whether they want to limit their music to the ultrasonic sound of the first album or open up their compositions to other elements. They have chosen to take the second path and they have done so skilfully. ‘Mark Of The Blade’ is certainly the Whitechapel album with the largest variety. The songs are more recognisable and memorable which should only help to gain a larger audience. Brutality remains at the core of Whitechapel’s sound, though. That should satisfy most of their older fans as well. Kudos to the band for deciding to open their sound. I think it will only be beneficial for the longevity of Whitechapel’s career.

8.5 of 10