Music is the single greatest healing force there is. No matter what is going on in life, the songs and albums, and often the memories attached to them, always help to get through the tough times. As I write this I am dealing with one of my best friends passing away. And while I spent the rest of that night going down memory lane with our old tunes, I found that the next day, yesterday to be exact, what I kept listening to again and again was the brand new WHITECHAPEL album, Mark of the Blade (out now, Metal Blade Records). It may seem like an odd choice while grieving, but there is something about the sheer intensity of the songs on this disc that has been very helpful and cathartic.
Starting off with “The Void” a sea of riffs awaits us, all three guitars churning away, and Phil Bozeman is the screaming captain of this vessel. Title track “Mark of the Blade” was a favorite for me as soon as it was released as a single. The groove is hellacious, and I fucking love the way the music drops out at just the right time on the chorus. This one’s gonna wreck some heads live for sure, and the rhythm section is big and bombastic as well. You can imagine what “Elitist Ones” is about: those metal fans who decry everything while maintaining that their bands are superior (meanwhile, half those bands they listen to have zero social media presence, and can’t even get arrested here in the U.S., let alone a gig!).
“Bring Me Home” is the perfect song for me right now, as it deals with the loss of a loved one (in this case Bozeman’s father passing when he was 10 years old). A slower number with a lot of clean singing, it is poignant and heartfelt, and also a little different for these guys. But at the same time it is still 100% WHITECHAPEL, and features one of THE best guitar solos this group has ever laid to tape. “Tremors” is another groove-heavy affair, and “A Killing Industry” just comes at you with a seemingly endless flurry of punches. Instrumental “Brotherhood” is a trap at first, with its acoustic intro. Then everyone kicks in and the whole band gets to show their chops big-time, reminding us just how good they are.
My runaway favorite on the whole thing though is “Venomous.” On the way to and from work the last two days I have had this on REPEAT over and over. The riffs sound like they were soaked in gasoline and set alight, and Bozeman is in top form throughout. At the halfway mark the song takes it up another notch with excellent results. Closing the disc is the six-minute and change “Decennium” a song that embodies the love they have for their fans, and it’s another instant standout. WHITECHAPEL have definitely pushed themselves with Mark of the Blade. Sure, they’ve done that the last three albums, but here they’ve really connected on an emotional level for me, and for that I’m eternally grateful.
STANDOUT TRACKS: “Decennium”, “Mark of the Blade”, “Bring Me Home”, “Venomous”, “Brotherhood”, “The Void”