Since forming in 2006 Tennessee death metal/core band Whitechapel has been one of the mightiest most brutal pioneers of the genre especially seizing its reins with their 20120 album A New Era of Corruption. Last year saw the band release the Recorrupted EP which included of most note new track Section 8, an impressive song offering suggestions of the band exploring new directions in thought and imagination for their new self-titled album. It really was just a hint without giving full notice of the intriguing creativity to be unveiled on this the fourth Whitechapel album, a release sure to have fans and metal talking/debating.
The album is likely to divide people as to its position against the older material and releases, certainly against A New Era of Corruption. It is impossible to imagine any will dislike it completely but the degrees to how they welcome it will be varied as already seen amongst reviewers. For us it is an impressive attempt to evolve their already devastating sound into an even more decisive and unique invention. Is it better than its predecessor? No but nor is it a step back. It is an entry through a new door of imagination and ingenuity, a sideways investigation quality wise with unpredictable and compelling results. It is not 100% successful but near as could be asked and what release is ever perfect anyway.
Released June 19th through Metal Blade Records, the album discovers and conjures distinct and intrusive atmospheres to compound and expand their already destructive sounds. The tracks are adventurous and at times surprising without losing the core of Whitechapel, and when at times the unbridled intensity is held in restraint the band achieve the same impact through shadows and a blackened craft of disturbed enterprise and melodic violations. As you read you are undoubtedly forming an opinion before a note corrupts your senses but this is definitely one time that the music has to do the persuading or dissuading alone.
The album strikes from the start with its best track in Make It Bleed. Its intro is an emotive lead of piano and brewing keys, their combination a mournful beckoning into the thunderous explosion of sound soon to follow. Riffs crush from a great height and vocalist Phil Bozeman spills malicious bile with every word. Within the black intensity and rampaging aggression though there are slithers of teasing grooves guiding one through the mass of aural corruption. As everything presses down upon the ear more violently the track takes a respite with some outstanding melodic guitar right out of the song book of Breed 77 and combines the two approaches with a defined and skilful touch. The song twists one inside out keeping up with all that is going on, its addictive pull insatiable right up to its last note, itself a lingering snarl.
From such a great start you would imagine a step back but not with Whitechapel, they just relentlessly ignite and incite the fullest and deepest pleasure with tracks like Hate Creation, (Cult)uralist, and I, Dementia. The first is a brawling mass of violence rupturing the senses whilst clean sonic swipes forge a sharper intrusion. Vocally Bozeman mixes up his excellent vocals with some clean spoken parts reminding of Corey Taylor/Slipknot. The middle song is a colossal predator prowling and provoking with melodic lures and incendiary sparks of malevolence whilst the last of the trio is one of the most imaginative and inspiring on the release. I, Dementia from its first presence scrapes and niggles at the synapses like a sonic leech bleeding the senses as muscular riffs force the lesions wider. Like the demon in every shadow of the mind, the track manipulates with taunting greedy grooves and bone splitting rhythms. It is a masterful track which leaves a permanent inciteful presence after its departure.
The band is at the top of their game inventively and musically, the mentioned tracks and those like Faces, Dead Silence, and The Night Remains just as impressive compelling. The album is the first with new drummer Ben Harclerode and he really is a step forward in that department though his predecessor Kevin Lane was far from a slouch, but Harclerode is a force of nature, his power and creativity persistently climatic and even when he is not so noticeable he is still driving and spearing the sounds ingeniously.
Weirdly and though still a mighty component of the album Section 8 loses the impact it had when first unleashed last year, whether it has been remixed or just the other tracks have bypassed it in quality the song is far less remarkable in the context of the release.
Closing with the excellent enveloping Possibilities of an Impossible Existence, a track of blackened heart and even darker vindictive substance, the album is outstanding and though surprisingly different to what most would expect from the band it is invigorating and an immense base for titanic glories ahead.