There is a short list of things that, despite the inimical forces of nature and time itself, do in fact get better with age. Wine, whiskey, and denim some of the more obvious items on this list, but one might not expect to see Tennessee deathcore staple WHITECHAPEL lounging upon the cosmic shelf. 2014 saw the release of Our Endless War, which delivered a well-received collection of tracks displaying the natural evolution of the band’s sound, producing an album that is decidedly WHITECHAPEL in nature.
Two years down the line, 2016 brings WHITECHAPEL to a decade in the industry. A decade in any industry is an impressive feat, but to have strived so long in the decaying deathcore genre is nothing but commendable. But like a fine whiskey, or an expertly crafted vintage wine, it seems the years of brewing have imbued the band a defined flavour, or rather, a signature style and sound, carved out of the marble by ten years of routine, practice, and six studio albums.
Being the band’s sixth release, with a loyal and divisive collection of fans, 2016’s Mark of the Blade has a lot of live up to. From the outset, this new offering does little to relent in its crushing down-tuned barrage. Indeed, album opener The Void sets the stage for a fresh, refined and renewed WHITECHAPEL. Combining with impeccable precision the aggression and pacing of the band’s earlier material with a luridly crisp mix and seemingly effortless groove-orientated assaults, the album’s opening three tracks display a matured WHITECHAPEL.
But that is where things change. The album’s fourth track, Bring Me Home, proves a first for WHITECHAPEL with the unexpected appearance of an almost progressive metal, featuring ponderous pacing, and some very admirably performed clean singing from vocalist Phil Bozeman. This track offers up a vastly different approach to WHITECHAPEL’s sound, and it is a most welcome progression. Bring Me Home proves a highlight of the album, namely for its catchy choruses, thoughtful structuring, and a particularly impressive guitar solo from Ben Savage.
Savage’s lead contributions remain a staple across the album, excelling to new technical and compositional heights. These sections provide a favourable breath of fresh air amidst the low-end maelstrom of riffs traditionally populating WHITECHAPEL’s songwriting. Incredibly fast, powerfully written, and almost perfectly phrased, Savage does an excellent job of expressing his growth as a musician.
Mark of the Blade is a very proficient album. It showcases much of the finer aspects of previous material in an updated context incredibly well. Thanks to renowned studio genius Mark Lewis, the band’s latest offering boasts one of the best guitar tones created for extended range guitars and a breathtakingly clear and dynamic production effort. However, it almost seems a shame that the latest progressions in songwriting from the band aren’t expanded upon even further. WHITECHAPEL can perform this new breed of progressive deathcore in wonderfully natural fashion. One can’t help but wish that more of the album was similar to the two decidedly more progressive pieces. Fortunately, there is a certain brilliance to the album’s instrumental, Brotherhood.
This is perhaps one of the strongest efforts in deathcore this year. With some of the strongest, most musically mature writing from WHITECHAPEL, there are many praises to be bestowed upon Mark of the Blade. This is a well-honed and oiled machine, without becoming mechanical in its execution. While it will certainly be divisive among the fans of the band, the progression displays is most certainly a positive direction. This is the best of WHITECHAPEL, and a brilliant, luridly defined snapshot of their music one decade into their journey.
Mark of the Blade is set for release on June 24th via Metal Blade Records.
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