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WHITECHAPEL Mark Of The Blade

By Peter Atkinson, Contributor
Monday, June 27, 2016 @ 1:45 PM


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WHITECHAPEL
Mark Of The Blade

Metal Blade Records




With its bludgeoning triple-guitar attack and frontman Phil Bozeman's imposing basso, Knoxville, Tenn., sextet WHITECHAPEL has been one of deathcore's most dependably formidable acts over the past decade. But I guess you can only deal in uber-brutality for so long.

The band's sixth album finds it both expanding and somewhat mellowing its sound, with the result being an odd-ball blend of the usual deathcore thunder and an unusually ample slathering of, of all things, nu-metal and rap-metal overtones. Amazingly, the rap-metally title track, with its bouncy, propulsive groove and Bozeman's jaunty cadence, is as infectious as anything the band has ever done, and certainly the most fun - dated though its approach may be.

Not so hot are “Elitist Ones” or “Tormented“. With their deliberate, dissonant rumble and Bozeman’s matter-of-fact belligerence - “show some fucking respect, Karma will come for your neck” or “fuck the world, I don't care anymore” - there is an awful lot of KORN or LIMP BIZKIT to be heard in them. And while not as dreadful as that may seem, thanks to WHITECHAPEL's undeniable muscularity, it's a puzzling direction to take, to be sure.

With their uncharacteristically moody, soft-and-surge delivery and intermittently clean vocals - a first for the band - “Bring Me Home” and album closer “Decennium” recall SLIPKNOT or DISTURBED. Bozeman's earnest Corey Taylor-esque cleans and spoken passages make for a jarring contrast to his usual ursine roar. “Bring Me Home” is modestly effective, especially given its genuine emotion as it deals with the death of Bozeman's father, but “Decennium” sounds contrived and calculating - a “flick your Bic” type of song by a band that usually brings enough flamethrowers and napalm for everyone.

Speaking of which, “The Void” opens the album with the band's signature bluster – meaty, vicious riffs, galloping tempos and Bozeman at his most fearsome and full-throated. “Dwell In The Shadows” brings the swing a la the title track, but with more energy and vigor and stomps all over the other rappier tracks. And “Killing Industry” and the aptly titled “Venomous” are chunky, breakdown-studded, double bass-powered ass rippers, deathcore to their, umm, core.

So there is plenty of what makes WHITECHAPEL “WHITECHAPEL” on Mark Of The Blade to go along with the sometimes curious experimentation. And while it's good to see a veteran band at least try to spread its sonic wings after sticking to its guns for so long, it's tough to hear it fall a bit short and even grasp a bit at straws.

The catchy groove and lighter tone of the title track is great. And if WHITECHAPEL was content to merely streamline things a bit and harness its aggression into something modestly more listener friendly, that might have been enough. But the band overreach on “Decennium” and underwhelm on “Elitist Ones”, “Tormented” and “Tremors” - another rap-tinged number - making Mark Of The Blade as uneven as it is admirable.

3.0 Out Of 5.0

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