Sound — 7
Whitechapel is a deathcore band from Knoxville, Tennessee. Since their founding in 2006, they have managed to keep a steady lineup, except at drums, and have managed to slowly creep into the American mainstream. "Our Endless War," the band's fifth studio album, is their first album to crack the US Billboard top 10. This album is also the band's first album to gain a significant chart position outside of the USA, charting 72nd or better in Canada, Germany, and Austria.
As with any metal band's increasing mainstream appeal, fans will question if the band will change the music to accompany a mainstream audience, known as "selling out." The manner in which Whitechapel has handled its transition to the mainstream is enlightening. This album is still solidly deathcore, but it feels much more polished than previous Whitechapel albums. Not only is the production much cleaner, but the songwriting is too. Whitechapel relies much less on chugging riffs than on melodic passages. The songs also seem less erratic; there's a lot less of those riffs that are many different notes played fast without repeating. Nevertheless, this album is still face pounding metal regardless of how much it seems that Whitechapel has matured.
In addition, Whitechapel's rhythm section stands out on this album. When I listen to older Whitechapel albums, it just seems OK, but here it really jumps out how tight the rhythm section is. Of course, it could just be due to more diligent production values, but I'd like to think that Whitechapel really has improved. In fact, the drumming of Ben Harclerode is so precise that it feels like it made up of a collection of samples. Once again, assuming that the drumming is live for the most part, kudos to Mr. Harclerode.
Despite the maturation and taming (at least by deathcore standards) of Whitechapel, the album still doesn't feel incredible. To me, it seems like the previous albums were mercurial jam sessions compared to the focused compositions that make up this album. Moreover, while Whitechapel has definitely shown growth and improvement, the end result isn't dissimilar to what many other bands are putting out. In fact, even though I like Whitechapel's progression, I feel that it has caused them to lose that degree of uniqueness that made them stand out in the metal world.
Now just because the album is not amazing does not mean that it can't be good. I believe that it will please previous Whitechapel fans since each song is certainly charged enough to induce a good headbang every minute or so. These songs would definitely play out well live. And every now and again, there comes a jam/groove that does sound new, unique, and exciting. I guess the best way to sum up this album is that previous fans will be pleased by Whitechapel's progression but people who have never heard them before will likely fail to see them as any different from any other deathcore band.
Lyrics — 7
If there is one thing that has retained continuity from Whitechapel's previous work, it is the vocals. There aren't any clean vocals to speak of and the brutal vocals are as brutal as ever, if not more. The melodies maintain a certain continuity throughout each song, evoking the more focused feel of the rest of the elements of this album. Though the vocals are more "focused," they leave nothing behind; Phil Bozeman gives a passionate performance.
The lyrics of the album discuss social issues within America. They also manage to discuss the issues coherently (as far as metal goes) but politically correctly so as not to step on any one's toes. Basically, it appears that Whitechapel knows how to walk the line between being rebels and being musicians who have political views that nobody wants/cares to know about.
Here is an example from "Our Endless War":
"My country tis of greed, sweet land of idiocracy.
This is our endless war!
While we still have liberty
Lets take back our justice for all
We can march at sundown upon capitol hill
We're calling you out
Come face us now and see your true war
Let's take it back
We the people have spoken against
Our endless war!"
Overall Impression — 7
Overall, this album signifies the recognition by Whitechapel that they are not a small, local phenomenon. In an attempt to become slightly more mainstream (but remember, this is still deathcore) they have refined their songwriting, production skills, and instrumentation to make an album that is much more polished, diversified, yet, ultimately, more predictable than any of their previous releases.
While this slight transition in focus is not a home run, it still feels like a positive stepping-stone of sorts. When Whitechapel fully realizes the potential of the changes in style that they've made, I believe that they have enough talent to make an album that could be described as great, maybe even killer.