Whitechapel - A New Era Of Corruption
Record Label: Metal Blade
Release Date: June 8, 2010
Most genres of music have a few particular records that are considered “holy” to fans of the style, records that all other entries are measured against and that are generally deemed untouchable in terms of quality. Magnum opuses such as The Who’s Who’s Next, Black Flag’s Damaged, or Metallica’s Master of Puppets serve as the standards for their genres. Many of these genre-defining albums gave their sound legitimacy in the eyes of outsiders (the critically acclaimed Master of Puppets demonstrates this). If there’s any genre that has yet to gain any real respect in the music world thus far, it’s the oft-ridiculed “deathcore,” a melding of death metal and hardcore. Enter Whitechapel’s A New Era Of Corruption. This is the record that demonstrates deathcore’s possibilities and staying power, drastically raising bar from the simple blastbeats-n-breakdowns formula.
For those unfamiliar with Whitechapel, they’re a six man deathcore outfit from Knoxville, TN. They have two prior releases under their belt, both forgettable: 2006’s The Somatic Defilement and 2008’s This Is Exile. However, Whitechapel have brought a lot more to the table with their latest effort, and for fans of anything heavy it can’t be missed.
New Era starts out predictably enough. A gunshot sounds, gut wrenchingly low 7-string guitars churn out dissonant power chords and drummer Kevin Lane shows off some impressive dexterity with the aforementioned blastbeat. Vocalist Phil Bozeman does his best impression of a demonic beast. Everything seems entirely standard.
But then Whitechapel showcases their new trick: Self restraint. The guitars play recognizable chord progressions with discernable melodic lines. Lane chooses not to hammer out blast beats for extended periods of time, instead providing solid back beat padded out with speedy fills. He handles the drums with appropriate aggression but keeps it (I know this will sound ridiculous) elegant. Bozeman delivers his lines in trademark brutal fashion, but he manages to do it clearly.
I was amazed, listening to this record, that I understood almost every single line during the first listen. For deathcore, figuring out even a brief passage through listening alone is a rarity at best, and being able to understand Bozeman’s furious lyrics brings a level of ferocity to the table that I haven’t heard from any other deathcore band. All of a sudden the intensity of the music and vocals are backed up by the intensity of the lyrics, which are themselves are a step up from the norm, too. New Era isn’t a concept album like Whitechapel’s other releases, but Bozeman keeps things purely political, eschewing the deathcore tradition of disgusting descriptions of death and dismemberment. There are even memorable choruses (Shocker!). Bozeman also shows off his diversity as a vocalist. There aren’t any crystal clear clean vocals on this album, don’t get me wrong, but he’s capable of utilizing a full range of screams and growls while avoiding entirely the ridiculous pig squeal. His vocals are culled together from various subgenres of metal, such as black metal’s rasp and the traditional cookie monster of death metal. Bozeman’s bark is distinctive, diverse, powerful and decipherable: With this performance, he’s easily in the top tier of today’s nonmelodic vocalists.
The guitar work is, to put it simply, top-notch. The three axe men are extremely talented, layering in chugging breakdowns, soaring melodic leads, and traditional riffage. In particular the lead lines prove to be the highlights of most songs. Melody plays a much larger part on this record than in Whitechapel’s previous efforts, and having a melodic line to follow through songs makes New Era significantly more listenable than releases from rival acts like The Acacia Strain. There are also great little extra touches peppered throughout the album. The acoustic break on the track “End of Flesh” is a welcome break from the crushing riffs and leads into a solid breakdown, and “Prayer of Mockery”’s staccato leads and blistering death metal solos give life to an otherwise uninspired track.
So far I’ve been all praise, but A New Era Of Corruption does have its problems (although none are crippling). The final tracks of the album (from “Murder Sermon” to the end) are lackluster in comparison to the energetic start, and is where the band hides their most generic material in all respects (lyrically and musically). They’re also still a little too liberal with the blastbeats and breakdowns despite reducing their prevalence, and this is especially noticeable in the later tracks. Though it’s cool that Chino Moreno of Deftones and Vincent Bennett of The Acacia Strain guest on tracks, their presence is barely noticeable. However, my biggest complaint is the bass guitar, or lack thereof. Groups like Psychostick have shown that bass can be audible and enjoyable in extreme metal, so I don’t see why the custom is still to make the bass impossible to hear.
I could be off my rocker. I’m sure many people will push this record to the side as “just another deathcore album,” and it definitely won’t bring Whitechapel to the forefront of popular music (as Metallica’s black album did), but A New Era Of Corruption corrects many of deathcore’s usual problems and accentuates its best traits. Whitechapel haven’t reinvented the wheel here, but what they have done is polished and perfected a sound that was, until now, severely lacking. To quote another reviewer who heaped praise on a similarly genre-defining album, It must really suck to be Chelsea Grin right now.
Good review. These guys are about the only regularly referenced band in deathcore that is consistently regarded as credible. I personally really like the band and their style. I've yet to see them live and thus can't comment either way, however that disappoints. Hopefully they tighten up. You deconstructed things really well, adding base to why certain things worked which was great. Nice work.
Good review. I definitely agree with the comparisons between this band and The Acacia Strain. IMO, The Acacia Strain has a monotonous sound. If you've heard one song, you've heard them all. Anyways, I am not a fan of deathcore, but albums like this demonstrate the better qualities of the genre.