Tennessee five-piece Whitechapel have titled this, their fourth album, eponymously. They are not the first band to take stock after recording an album and say – yes, this is us, this music represents us and what we have been striving to achieve. Perhaps this is a good time then for me to discover them, now that they are operating at what they consider to be their musical peak. Their official biography describes them as deathcore, not a term or a scene I’m especially familiar with.
Well, I have albums by many of the big extreme metal bands who strangely all begin with S – Sepultura, Soulfly, Slipknot, Sugababes*… so I think I can get a handle on these guys and judge whether they are justified in their artistic confidence.
Opener ‘Make It Bleed’ only ignites after a few listens in the way you want it to but is musically inventive and has some wonderfully clean, fluid guitar lines amongst all the noise that remind me of Suicidal Tendencies Rocky George. ‘Hate Creation’ though is the real deal, a brutal swipe at Slipknot‘s crown in catchy extremity. Cult(uralist) is where the deathcore thing really makes sense. It has the technicality of metal and the raw emotion of hardcore. And my god it keeps building to ‘I, Dementia’ by which time you realise Whitechapel are really on fire here.
‘Section 8’ starts like Wolves In The Throne Room and ratchets up the death-0-meter with lyrics about rotting from inside out. By the time you hit ‘Faces’ (pun intended) and ‘Dead Silence’ a key influence begins to reveal itself. Both tracks leap out of the stereo, grab you by the throat and scream Hatebreed at you, and a lightbulb goes on. This is a very good thing. It’s easy for an unfamiliar listener to become overwhelmed by all the nihilism and noise of modern extreme metal, but with patience you find stylistic differences, subtleties and invention.
This album really rewards repeated listening. Gradually, the family tree of influences grows and reveals itself, old school US hardcore punk, death metal, black metal, industrial rock. It’s all here blending seamlessly into a thoroughly modern sound.
Classy instrumental ‘Devoid’ is almost soothing after all the blast beats and screaming and leads into closing track ‘Possibilities of an Impossible Existence’, and again gleefully stamps on Slipknot’s toes. It’s a little slower and stuck on the end after ‘Devoid’ it at first seems a bit flat. Listened to in isolation however it begins to reveal itself as one of the highlights.
Well now children, we have all learned about deathcore and Whitechapel. Like the notoriously grimy area of London they are named after, Whitechapel are darkly fascinating. I recommend you visit, but you may not want to live there.
* Okay, maybe not the Sugababes.