This Is Exile
posted on 7/2008 By:
For the record, up front I will say this to avoid having to defend myself later: I don't hate deathcore. I don't hate Whitechapel. I just find both of them to have less staying power than a variety of other bands in a variety of other metal styles, despite their reliance upon earth-shattering drop-C# grooves. I've heard deathcore’s place in metal described as "what a California roll is to sushi: it's something that gets you in the door until you realize everything else is not nearly as shitty." (Dr. I. Chainey, "Five Unpopular Opinions.") I would say that sums up my opinion of this sub-genre quite nicely. It’s a gateway drug for the youngsters, the same as nu-metal before it and the harder edge of hard rock before that.
I'd heard for awhile that Whitechapel is on the top of the pile of new deathcore bands, and that much I believe, although I'm basing that seconded opinion on this record because The Somatic Defilement barely interested me at all. I found that earlier record to be uninspired and uninspiring, just another record in a sea of soundalikes, generally unnecessary. This Is Exile sports a hefty-yet-clean production, with some solid drum production and a meaty guitar tone, but in a catch-22 situation I almost find myself preferring the duller, muddier guitars of Somatic. (I’m certain I’m alone in that preference, and I’m cool with it.) The vocals on Exile range from Bozeman's much-mentioned gurgled growls to a pretty venomous midrange—far more of the latter (and of a doubled Deicide-esque demonic sound) than on the previous record, and for that I’m thankful, as I found Bozeman’s performance on the debut to be monotonous. The changes in vocal approach are welcome, I’ll admit, helping keep the album somewhat un-mired in the genre’s “blast/chug/blast/chug/slow chug/blast/chug” formula for as long as possible.
Where most deathcore fails me is that (WARNING: sweeping generalization ahead) largely the bands are far better at the "core" than they are at the "death." Even at the top of the heap, Whitechapel suffers from that deficiency, as their breakdowns are vastly more memorable than the death bits. Moments like the “fuck your world” refrain in “Eternal Refuge” or the repeated “we are the disease” in “Possession” are the hookiest parts of the songwriting equation. I know that’s the nature of this particular beast, but all these damn one-note staccato riffs get old after about four songs. To be fair, there are moments of songs here and there that break out and shine above the pack—like parts of “Exalt” where Bozeman sounds a little like Ben Falgoust (Soilent Green / Goatwhore) or the black-metal-esque “Daemon (The Procreated)”—but none of those moments add up to a full track of sheer metallic glory to these ears. Also of note is that, for all the emphasis on their triple-guitar approach, never once did I hear anything, a note or a riff or a solo, that warranted a third guitar, except maybe in the live setting. Maybe it’s me, but it just seems like if you’ve got the guy, fucking use him. To quote another great thinker, the Rev. J. Campbell: “three guitars, no riffs.” Sadly, ‘tis true.
So here's the final verdict: many of you made up your mind about this album, one way or another, before you clicked on the link that brought you here, and honestly, you’re probably right. If you know you don't like deathcore, if breakdowns make you angry, then stay away from this, please, for everyone's sake. But if you're into what this band does—and I’ll admit they do it well enough, if still very predictably--then I'd wager you'll be pleased with this record because, a refined production and vocal presentation aside, it’s more of the same, just slightly better.
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