We've talked about this before, but watching a band evolve and grow is one of the preeminent perks of being a music fan. When an artist adds a few pieces to each successive effort, the feeling as a listener is one of encouragement - you inherently want to see that artist turn the corner from being a talented band that hasn't quite put it together to a unified force. Tennessee's Whitechapel has managed to improve on each album, and so fans and media alike were hopeful for this new record "Our Endless War".
As ever with Whitechapel, the name of the game remains ‘power.’ Each cut is written to the margins with overpowered, blasted-out aggression that’s irrepressible in its authority. Whitechapel has long excelled in this manner of songwriting, challenging competitors to match them for ferocity. Each cut, whether it be something at the front like the title track or at the back such as “Blacked Out,” is a veritable power cell of non-stop metal crunch.
It’s worth noting that while Whitechapel is in the vanguard of bands who write with crushing force in mind, that doesn’t mean that they’re writing music which devolves into nonsense. It would be easy for the Tennessee metallers to simply fill the measures with raw distortion like so many of their hardcore and death metal contemporaries, but Whitechapel persists in maintaining their career long idea of laying down some accessible rhythms that provide a solid base for the mayhem that follows. “Let me Burn” would have descended into madness if the songwriters hadn’t provided it a leg to stand on, which is important.
New for “Our Endless War” is an elusive feeling of…dare it be called ‘fun’? Hiding in the cracks of the pulverizing onslaught is a swagger that’s a nice addition to the Whitechapel arsenal. “The Saw is the Law” is possessed of a melody that tries not to draw attention, but the cadence is undeniable and hard to resist. The affect that populates the song is easily visible in only a couple other spots on the record, but it’s presence is the new dimension that Whitechapel is presenting for the masses, which shows their dedication to trying to advance their sound. Couple this with some self-referential lyrics to their logo, and Whitechapel might just be showing some personality amidst the carnage.
Whitechapel's new record, while ever so slightly different from their previous ones, still maintains some of the same basic qualities. First and foremost, this is an exhausting listen. The unrelenting combination of musical battery and a vocal delivery that is two inches from your face leaves you feeling physically worn out well before the record is over.
Secondly, and perhaps marginally disappointing, Whitechapel's album eventually becomes a whole lot of the same thing. This has been a problem that the band doesn't seem to be able to dodge, which makes one wonder if the desire exists to do so. Whitechapel's insistence on producing full albums of this type begs a more metaphysical question - at what point is a particular quirk a matter of a band's idiom, never to be changed? The only way we'll find a satisfactory answer to this question is by watching the rest of Whitechapel's career. Nevertheless, Whitechapel’s talent is evident – for future efforts, it would be remarkable to see them break the chains of what may be self-imposed constraints, and explore the possibilities of their ability.
"Our Endless War" is incrementally better than "Whitechapel," which in turn was incrementally better than "A New Era of Corruption." The gears of progress turn slowly, but they do turn. While Whitechapel may not have yet turned the proverbial corner and become the band they can be, fans can rest assured that the band is still on pace to get there.