Mark of the Blade takes the Whitechapel we used to know and tosses it away for something new.
Metal may be marked as the heaviest genre of music, but it has also become quite repetitive in its use of breakdowns, blast beats, guttural vocals, and lyrical tropes of killing and demons. For all the songs that include technical chemistry, hellish lows and soaring high vocals, it sometimes all sounds the same. From time to time we are given albums that remind us that metal is also a unique genre, and in some ways, the one that continues to evolve the most, as some bands continue to push essence of sound and reinvent it.
Mark of the Blade makes for the sixth release from death-core giants Whitechapel, yet in its 48 minutes, Mark of the Blade proves to not only create an improved spin on the sub-genre’s tropes, but build upon the sound that is modern metal. Dating back to their first releases The Somatic Defilement (2007), and This Is Exile (2008), the two became a staple for the band in the world of metal, coming into the arena with guttural vocals, blast beats, and the chaos of three guitarists. These albums paid tribute to the acts of Jack the Ripper, along with your typical hell and demons lyrics; it wouldn’t be until A New Era of Corruption (2010), where vocalist Phil Bozeman would trade in biblical demons for demons of another kind. Instrumentally there is a strong connection between these three albums, and it was in their self-titled release (2012) and Our Endless War (2014) that lighter elements would be introduced, as well as the band in general experimenting on their traditional sound of darkness.
Mark of the Blade takes the Whitechapel we used to know and tosses it away for something new. Gone are the repetitive blast beats and Bozeman’s monotone gutturals; what is now presented is more experimentation in rhythm and musicians taking their prior experiences to build upon their craft. This album greatly improves upon the techniques introduced in Our Endless War while introducing new components. Opening with the tracks “The Void” and “Mark of the Blade”, Bozeman comes flying in with a rapping style of vocalization while the guitars jump back and forth with precision and speed. You can expect your typical heavy tracks that make for great moshing moments, such as “Venomous” and “A Killing Industry”. There is unity in all the tracks, an almost spiritual mind connect in detail and essence that is rarely found in music, as not only does each song flow so well, but the timing and moments of impact hit with each note. This is probably most evident on the instrumental end with the track “Brotherhood”, as the guitars, bass, and drums work create an ominous, head-banging, fist pumping hoorah for all their years of commitment and grind.
Beyond instrumentation, there also comes (while not that new) lyricism of vocalist Phil Bozeman. It was by A New Era of Corruption that Bozeman began attempting to discuss matters political and personal. Perhaps one of the most interesting tracks on the album is “Elitist Ones”, where Bozeman tackles the elitism within the metal scene, trashing and tearing apart those who want to brand what “real metal” is; his voice rages on with lines such as “Give some fucking respect! / Karma will come for your neck.” Next to that, the most recognizable (and easily a career high for the band) is “Bring Me Home”. Since the beginning of their career, Bozeman has provided one of the most recognizable low vocals in the metal scene today, but “Bring Me Home” introduces the first time Whitechapel has used clean vocals on a track. What comes is haunting, dark, and beautiful, as Bozeman sings and screams about the passing of his father. Nightmarish in its instrumentation, each moment sticks and lingers upon the listener’s ear, plucking at their heartstrings.
What Mark of the Blade gives us is not necessarily a new sound to metal, but confirmation that metal (or music in general) can always push its boundaries. This is an album that displays that you don’t always need to follow a straightforward method of super low, constantly chugging metal songs to make something heavy, but that heavy can be a feeling. Whether vocals are screamed or sang, heaviness from music is a power that can be crafted with time, practice, and discipline. After six albums, Whitechapel has proven that it will be a name to always be remembered. Their power, grind, and dedication to their art has continued to grow, as this band takes the lessons of previous albums and further develops them. Mark of the Blade is a 21st century album that reinvents the sound of heavy.