Seeing that it is 2016, and it has been two years since Our Endless War, it seems that we are due for another studio album from Knoxville’s pride and joy, Whitechapel. And right on cue here it is in the form of Mark of the Blade (Metal Blade).
Young bands could stand to learn from that work ethic as it netted Whitechapel a Billboard Top 10 spot for Our Endless War. That’s a pretty awesome feat for a Metal Blade artist. If memory serves me right, the last time someone on that stable landed on such a lofty chart spot was As I Lay Dying. Yeah, that one didn’t end well.
Will Mark of the Blade spring the trick again? Yeah, probably. After all this is the album that’s been making headlines on metal news sites for containing clean vocals (‘Bring me Home,’ ‘Decennium’) and taking aim at elitists (uh, ‘Elitist Ones’).
Plus it follows the same game plan as Our Endless War and the self-titled before it. What’s that said game plan? It’s less deathcore or death metal and quickly making itself comfortable in the real estate that housed Devildriver for so long; “groove metal”. Who came up with that moniker? Hell, if I fucking know, but it’s certainly proved itself popular. To me it loosely translates to some kind of mutant post-thrash metal. I guess it became vogue in the aftermath of Pantera. If it truly is a subgenre, then its best albums are Burn My Eyes, Chaos A.D., and Wolverine Blues.
But you know what the funny part is? The best moments here are the non-groove bits. That’s not discounting tracks like ‘Dwell in the Shadows,’ ‘Venomous’ and the aptly titled ‘Tremors’ which will fit nicely along Whitechapel live staples like ‘The Saw is the Law.’ But what’s most impressive is that the clean vocals, albeit sparse, truly work. It’s not unlike in Lamb of God’s melodic turn in ‘Overlord.’ And the fact that they were feeling ballsy enough to try an instrumental in ‘Brotherhood’ that has some ‘The Call of Ktulu’ leanings to it.
So, it’s another solid release from Whitechapel, who will likely continue to forge onwards to decent sales and many a Summer tour. Groove metal be damned, there are plenty of cool moments here. I mean, I could do without ‘Mark of the Blade’ and ‘Elitist Ones,’ but there’s more than enough to make for those missteps. Now excuse me, I have to find more subgenres to dislike.
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