By Dr. Abner Mality

Tennessee's Whitechapel exist in a kind of grey and nebulous area. Their heaviness can't be questioned, their songwriting skills continue to improve, but their overall style just isn't to my taste. It isn't the trendy over-technical deathcore kiddie massacre that many old farts claim nor is it the bumbling breakdown-overkill of knuckleheads like Emmure. The band makes genuine attempts to improve and to vary their songwriting, it can't be denied...but there's still a nagging something that holds them back from true greatness.

This self-titled record is as moody and dark as hell, featuring atmospheric touches like stark piano on "Make It Bleed", "Devoid" and "Possibilities of an Impossible Existence" and uncomfortable electronics on "I, Dementia" and "Section 8". Those touches seem minor but with the flood of copycat breakdown thieves drowning the world, they really help lift the band out of the mire. The songs proper range from intelligently arranged ragers like the ripping "Make It Bleed" to bland deathcore such as "(Cult)uralist".  The mixture of fast and slow is in evidence throughout...the slower tunes often tend toward tried and true crushing breakdowns which we've heard before but at least delivered with ferocity. Just when you start to get tired of the formula, Whitechapel tosses in something really good like "I, Dementia"  or "The Night Remains" (which is just fucking BRUTAL).

One thing that does tire you out are the mush-mouthed gutturalisms of Phil Bozeman, which become monotonous. I feel these guys have the artistic room to try different vocals now and then, but they haven't made the plunge yet.

Not too many deathcore albums have the heft and design of "Whitechapel" but I don't know if it's enough to convert the unconvinced.