Dark introspections lead to nuanced creations.
It is all but inevitable that with the passage of time a given style subset within music will become more expansive; not necessarily losing what it was in the beginning of its run, but coming out as significantly different all the same. Arguably the most curious developments of late within the ever evolving world of modern metal has been the various twists and turns occurring among the prime movers of the mid-2000s deathcore craze. While subsequent lineup changes coincided with Arizona’s Job For A Cowboy moving towards a more progressive death metal template and Californian trustees of the same scene Carnifex have taken to a blackened symphonic take on their craft, Tennessee-based trailblazers Whitechapel have been treading a more nuanced and less bombastic path. Particularly with the recent advent of 2019’s “The Valley,” front man Phil Bozeman has taken to a confessional, autobiographical mode of lyric composition, with his band mates following suit with a more stylistically varied and atmospherically rich take on things.
In every respect, this six-piece’s latest studio venture “Kin” is a sequel to its aforementioned predecessor, further building upon the dual road of ravaging harshness that defined their earliest albums and a melancholy, almost folksy acoustic counterpoint that has come about more recently. Bozeman, who vacillates between his signature ultra-guttural barking sound and his almost pop-infused squeaky clean croon, plays the part of narrator to a story that parallels the confessional flavor of “The Valley,” but moves into more of a fictitious “what if” story-line that brings in an element of cosmic horror. The resulting plot-line can be summed up as an alternate world where every choice made by Phil himself is the wrong one, leading his fictitious twin for which the album is named to a state of ruin not all that different from the nightmare scenarios that frequently accompany a proper extreme metal experience. The surrounding music proves mostly effective in tying this dark, partly supernatural story together, though at times it seems to meander a bit, unwilling to fully commit to a dissonant storm of aggression during its rougher points and often drifting into ephemeral atmospheric moments.
This conceptual work makes its structural nature known fairly blatantly from its very onset, though as it progresses the delineation of each chapter becomes a bit more nebulous. The opening foray “I Will Find You” introduces things on a fairly lofty and epic note, intermingling some tuneful acoustic work reminiscent of In Flames with a rage-filled thrashing element that merges the kinetic feel of bands like The Crown and Arch Enemy in with their more bottom-heavy, breakdown prone riffing style. It comes off as more of a melodic death metal affair with some danker moments, complete with a flashy guitar solo that channels the idiomatic approach of Michael Amott, and sets a more nuanced tone for the rest of the album. Other offerings from this collection such as “A Bloodsoaked Symphony” and “Without Us” cut their gloomy atmospheric balladry with a chunkier, slow-paced, almost djent-like stomp that is no less aggressive than the more thrashing material found here.
Then again, there are some songs to be found on here that stick to a more consistent set of expressions, though still differing from each other to the point of making for a highly mixed up experience when taking the album as a whole. Among the more chaotic offerings rounding out the bunch stands the blast-happy crusher “Lost Boy” (which does veer into a spacey, melodic passage for a time but is mostly impact-based) and it’s more consistently extreme cousin “To The Wolves”, which sounds the closest to an overt throwback to the intensity of “The Somatic Defilement” and “This Is Exile”. By contrast, the power balladry of “History Is Silent” and the wholly melodic and mellow ballad “Orphan” listen closer to the woeful spirit that typified the typical Nevermore ballad, albeit with a more pronounced contrast between Phil’s clean passages and his occasional reversions back to a growling, ravenous bear. There’s even a brief instrumental passage with plenty of light textured acoustic noodling in “Without You” for any who prefer the softer side of newer Whitechapel.
As with any album that ties itself to a singular story narrative, the lynchpin is the degree of clarity by which the tale is delivered, and the music proves adaptive enough to convey the wide array of negative emotions and dark imagery tied to the album’s concept. However, when taken apart from its highly confessional and personal nature and treated as any other album in the deathcore style, it comes off as a little disorganized. The abruptness by which most of the cleaner passages take over for the barrage of angry riffs and shouts, along with the vocal work accompanying the softer points sounding a tad over-processed, proves to be its Persian Flaw. At this juncture it’s a foregone conclusion that Whitechapel has moved beyond the consistently hateful and raw sonic blend of the mid-2000s and any older fans that dropped off as a result will likely not be roped in by this, but the current fan base will find a definitely solid blend of extremes that is slightly more forceful and complex than “The Valley,” but also a little less focused and clearly tied together.
Released By: Metal Blade Records
Release Date: October 29th, 2021
Genre: Progressive-Death Metal
- Phil Bozeman / Vocals
- Ben Savage / Guitar
- Alex Wade / Guitar
- Gabe Crisp / Bass
- Zach Householder /Guitar
- Alex Rüdinger / Drums
1. I Will Find You
2. Lost Boy
3. A Bloodsoaked Symphony
5. The Ones That Made Us
6. History Is Silent
7. To The Wolves
9. Without You
10. Without Us
Continuing to forge a more expansive and atmospherically rich path within the deathcore paradigm, Knoxville natives Whitechapel deliver a measured and multifaceted sequel to the confessional narrative set to rage and despair that was 2019’s The Valley