I’ve always been wary of something when it is labeled as ‘deathcore’. Not because I dislike that type of music, but more often than not it is a lazy description of something that ‘isn’t quite death metal’. There also seems to be a negative connotation surrounding the word, bands quickly being discarded and labeled as ‘deathcore’ in a pathetic attempt to segregate bands because they have silly haircuts and stupid attitudes towards fashion. You can disregard that if you so wish, but listen with your ears not your eyes and consider the music instead of focusing on what a band looks like. Whitechapel’s self-titled fourth record throws any pre-conceptions you have about the band out the window and delivers 40 minutes of genuinely exciting death metal.
A self-titled is usually used as a defining statement of who a band are and what they are about. After six years together, if this is what Whitechapel are all about, I back it one hundred percent. Having been aware of Whitechapel, they were never really on my radar, creating some good records but never anything that made me sit up and pay attention. With this latest effort, that has completely changed. Frontman Phil Bozeman’s vocals, I believe, are the strongest they’ve ever been. There is a deeper and harsher growl in his voice that was less apparent on earlier recordings. There also seems to be less of a focus on beatdowns, although still apparent, and more on chainsaw riffs. Tracks such as ‘Section 8’ and ‘(Cult)uralist’ bring these crushing riffs and still managed to create melodic vocal hooks without losing any of the heaviness. They’ve also managed to create a darker and more mature sound on certain tracks. Opener ‘Make It Bleed’ begins with a chilling piano segment that does appear throughout the rest of the album, but it is brief enough that it acts as a nice catalyst for the following brutality from the barking vocals and crashing drum-rolls. Standing head and shoulders above the rest of the tracks, ‘I, Dementia’ slows the pace down with a thudding, head-banging riff that will get the kids in the pit knocking each other senseless. There are a lot of similarities with some of Unearth’s earlier records, as well as the latest Job For A Cowboy album, so if any of those appeals to you, you should definitely check this one out.
This is probably the biggest surprise of the year for me personally. Having gone into it not expecting too much, and to end up hearing one of the strongest records of the year instead can only be a good thing. I was more than happy to be wrong about Whitechapel and if you have the same reservations I did, give this a go anyway because you will not be sorry.