Knoxville deathcore unit Whitechapel’s new live record and a live/documentary DVD is fitting as the sextet is on the verge of one decade together with a large majority of the original lineup intact. If you’re not hip to the band the live material ain’t going to be the place to start (that’d be 2010’s A New Era of Corruption) though the cradle-to-midlife documentary featured here won’t hurt. There’s the usual round of reflections, some behind-the-scenes footage and all the stuff you’d want as well as a live show recorded before a hometown crowd at the International.
How is it? Depends on how much of a hardcore Chapelhead you are. The thrill of seeing/hearing “The Saw Is the Law” lies in direct proportion to how much time you’ve already spent with the band. For the uninitiated, as is the case with much of this outfit’s output, the music can come off as gruff ‘n’ heavy without too much more going for it other than its allegiance to the loud. Having said that, even for the casual metalhead there’s enough to grind to here, whether “Our Endless War”, “Section 8”, or “Worship The Digital Age”.
It’s not a record filled with wild dynamics and the kind of performances that, say, make a jazz record exhilarating but you knew that when you walked through door. And in fact that’s been one of the battles this band seems to have fought over the last decade: fans can’t get enough and critics seem marginally amused to broadly dismissive as to whether Whitechapel’s music does much for the larger body of music. The faithful will tell you that it’s the group’s mixture of a multitude of genres, the influence of everything from Cannibal Corpse and Agnostic Front to the regular rounds of Metallica and whatnot, and that’s what gives the music that edge, makes Whitechapel the band for them.
What the hey. The group’s record and ticket sales have been consistently strong and more than a fair share of those who’ve gathered the gumption to check in with the live shows have reported having a good time. Maybe that’s enough of a litmus test for any band and, certainly, watching the live portions of the DVD, one can gather that there are necks and fists and feet that all go a-hurtin’ the day after a Whitechapel gig and that the band clearly prides itself on its raging and unforgiving intensity.
And that unforgiving intensity is something that also serves the band well on this release: The best stuff is the three-song run that comes about midway through the album with “Possession”, “Prostatic Fluid Asphyxiation”, and “Vicer Exciser”, although there are other strong points here, including the closing bonus track “This Is Exile”, plus “I, Dementia”, and “Faces”.
Does this change Whitechapel’s standing in the metal world? Probably not. This is a band that’s going to continue slogging it out with the hardcore fans without much in the way of critical support but the faithful will no doubt find new recruits to bring to the fold along the way.
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