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WHITECHAPEL The Brotherhood Of The Blade

By Peter Atkinson, Contributor
Monday, December 21, 2015 @ 5:38 PM

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The Brotherhood Of The Blade

Metal Blade Records

Thanks to usual wretched traffic and irksome inside-the-Beltway rush-hour logistics of Interstate 66 heading out of D.C. into “red state” Virginia, I got to last summer’s ill-fated Rockstar Energy Drink Mayhem Festival just as WHITECHAPEL’s side-stage set was coming to a close. But while I didn’t see the band, I sure could hear and feel them as they rumbled along in the distance while I made my way through the largely empty Jiffy Lube Live parking on my way to will-call. It was like there was a long freight train passing by the whole way, with frontman Phil Bozeman’s bellicose roar rising above the din.

I tell you that by way of telling you this: WHITECHAPEL has just issued the live CD/DVD set The Brotherhood Of The Blade. The promo for which, however, was the audio portion only. So once again, I got to hear, and feel, the band without actually seeing them in action - I missed them during the 2012 Mayhem Fest as well because I arrived too late.

The DVD, according to the accompanying press materials, contains a “feature-length video release [that] follows the band on tour and at home, and dives deep into the hearts and minds of one of metal's brightest up and coming bands” along with a concert shot/taped in 2014 at The International, in the deathcore brutes' hometown of Knoxville, Tenn. The CD portion, which we will examine here, is essentially the concert soundtrack, plus the bonus track “This Is Exile” that is not included on the DVD set.

WHITECHAPEL does offer a certain visual flair – given its six-man, three-guitar lineup that is only a few beer kegs, baseball bats and jumpsuits away from rivaling SLIPKNOT, with a sound that is, at times, almost identical – that is missing sans the DVD. On a cramped club stage, with a hometown crowd on hand, it’s got to be a pretty imposing sight, especially once the music starts and the action kicks up in the pit. It certainly sounds intense on the CD, especially thanks to the clear, almost impossibly clean, thunderous recording captured by Audiohammer producer Mark Lewis, who has worked on the band’s last few studio albums.

The band's set, which seems a bit chintzy at just a dozen songs – a baker’s dozen on the CD – including the minute-long intro “Rise”, clocks in at 50-some minutes. But it is bludgeoning 50-some minutes to be sure. The three-headed monster guitar attack is tuned low and played loud over the accompanying bulldozing rhythms, a perfect combination for the breakdowns that regularly punch their way through with Tyson-esque authority.

WHITECHAPEL's sound is not one built on dexterity or subtlety. There's no bobbing or weaving here, the band aims for the gut and works it mercilessly, channeling SLIPKNOT, LAMB OF GOD, PANTERA and some pretty “hard” hardcore along the way. When it comes to sheer, concentrated brutality, few bands deliver it with WHITECHAPEL's muscle.

Nevertheless, the kids have been diggin' what WHITECHAPEL's been dealin.' The band's 2014 album Our Endless War cracked the Billboard Top 10, in spite of – or perhaps because of - its snub-nosed single-mindedness. The hometown crowd on Brotherhood is certainly into it, and manages to muster the strength to sing along and regale the band with “White-Chap-El” rallying cries despite the beat down it takes at the sextet's hands.

The Brotherhood set, perhaps not surprisingly, is weighted toward material from Endless War and 2012's Whitechapel that is probably more familiar given the band's recent rise in popularity, but also goes back to the 2007 debut The Somatic Defilement with the one-two combination of the metalcore-ish “Prostatic Fluid Asphyxiation” and the spastic, very SLIPKNOT-like “Vice Exciser”. That “Mono” from Endless War offers a similarly SLIPKNOT-y delivery and cadence shows the band's sound has only developed by a matter of degrees over the years – with the occasional adventurous turn like the straight-up hardcore of Endless War's title track. But it has certainly grown tighter and more punishing, making Brotherhood one of most concussive live albums you're likely to hear – or see if you get the DVD.

3.5 Out Of 5.0

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