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Whitechapel Hit the Mark on New Album

The American deathcore band’s frontman Phil Bozeman on turning to clean vocals and singing about happy things on their sixth album ‘Mark of the Blade’

Anurag Tagat Jun 24, 2016
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Whitechapel release their album 'Mark of the Blade'. Photo courtesy of Metal Blade Records.

Whitechapel release their sixth album ‘Mark of the Blade’. Photo courtesy of Metal Blade Records.

On the title track of their sixth album Mark of the Blade, Knoxville deathcore band Whitechapel’s vocalist Phil Bozeman ”“ currently one of the genre’s most formidable voices ”“ coughs audibly before breaking into beast mode. Who’s he warning? Bozeman says over the phone from Vermont, where Whitechapel played as part of the Decade of the Blade tour, “One of the things that was mentioned was that it was kind of raw and wasn’t overly produced. So we just decided to leave it in there.”

Mark of the Blade, out today via Metal Blade Records, still manages to stomp its way through murkier, fittingly buzzsaw riffing as well as polished metalcore influences through its triple guitar attack. In between the unsparing soundscapes are a few curveballs, including Bozeman trying his hand at clean vocals on tracks such as the meditative “Bring Me Home” and the poignant album closer “Decennium.” Bozeman likens it to wanting less of the same things. He explains, probably in the most American way, “One of our biggest things over here as far as food are cheeseburgers. I love cheeseburgers but I don’t want to eat a cheeseburger every day for the rest of my life, y’know? I want to eat something new, it’s the same thing with music. I don’t want to just continually write the same thing over and over again.” He adds that trying clean vocals was a “foreign” experience, but counts these two songs as the highlights on the album.

Artwork for 'Mark of the Blade'.

Artwork for ‘Mark of the Blade’.

So if you actually end up understanding some of what Bozeman is [now] singing about, that’s the other difference you’ll notice in the band’s style. Even for their death metal-oriented past that included gruesome lyrics on songs such as “Hate Creation” [off 2012’s Whitechapel] and “The Saw is the Law” off 2014’s Our Endless War, Bozeman says Mark of the Blade has more “positive lyrics”. He adds, “There are some songs that have brutal lyrics, but for the most part it has an uplifting and positive side. They’re not like corny, cookie cutter kind of stuff but it’s more of a positive feeling instead of just feeling hatred all the time, because as humans, at the end of the day we all just want to be happy.”

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But don’t people listen to death metal [or in Whitechapel’s case, a type of death metal mixed with hardcore breakdowns] for the horrific, graphic narratives? “Fans expect the brutality, they expect the hatred, but when it comes to music, there are no limits. If [American death metal pioneers] Cannibal Corpse wanted to do an acoustic country album, they could if they wanted to, it’s all about just what you want to create [”¦] If Justin Bieber wanted to make a death metal album, he could. It would be very odd and unexpected, but if the music is good and people enjoy it, what does it matter who did it?” Although they may have stated in the past that they do keep fans in mind when they write music, Bozeman clears the air to state that Whitechapel have always made music for themselves first.

Ahead of the album release, Whitechapel will already be on the road across the U.S. as part of traveling festival Vans Warped Tour. The gruelling 40-date festival features over 75 bands ranging from punk bands like Sum 41 and Good Charlotte to metallers like Bullet For My Valentine and Veil of Maya. Whitechapel were last part of the Warped Tour in 2010. Bozeman jokes about what he’s looking forward to the most, “It’s outdoors and during the summer time, everybody is more alive.”

Later in the year, they head to San Bernardino, California to perform at the one-of-a-kind Ozzfest Meets Knotfest, curated by Ozzy Osbourne and Slipknot. India, however, is still not on the radar. Bozeman says they’ve never had an offer come their way yet, but heard praise from fellow deathcore band Suicide Silence, who performed in Bengaluru in April last year, as part of festival series CultFest. Bozeman adds, “They said it was awesome. Places that we’ve never been is always going to be a better experience just because those people don’t know what it’s like to see us live. We hope it happens.”

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Stream Mark of the Blade in its entirety here.

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