Review: “Kin” by Whitechapel

After the huge success of the critically acclaimed “The Valley” there can be little doubt that in transcending Deathcore, Whitechapel have struck their richest vein of song writing through years of dedication to their craft. If there was any doubt that the fans are loving what they are now hearing from the band, you only need look at the streaming statistics on Spotify alone for the three pre-release singles for this very record, the Knoxville Tennessee outfits first with drummer Alex Rüdinger (Cognizance, Intronaut, Threat Signal) in the studio. Between “Lost Boy“, “A Bloodsoaked Symphony” and “Orphan” they have in excess of two million streams and that’s before the album has even dropped. This time out the band have had the luxury of producer Mark Lewis producing his fifth Whitechapel album in a row while tracking at guitarist Zach Householder’s home studio before leaning on the talents of David Castillo (Leprous, Carcass, Amorphis) to mix at Ghostward Studios in Sweden and Ted Jensen (Rise Against, Trivium, Green Day) to master in Nashville, thus retaining the services of the team that helped make “The Valley” such a success.

As an album “Kin” has been described by the band as a lyrical continuation of the harrowing true story of Phil Bozeman’s upbringing in “The Valley” and you only need look at the song titles to see that reflected like the mirrored surface of a still millpond before the stone skimming starts. The story begins with “I Will Find You“, a song very much in the style of “The Valley” and picking up where “Doom Woods” left off with a unique blend of Death Metal and Norwegian Black Metal that oozes class with slick transitions between the heavier and melodic parts as Bozeman mixes achingly beautiful clean singing moments with his usual throat shredding uncleans. Lyrically as the album plays out, Bozeman explores a kind of alternative reality that ask the question that we have all asked of our relationships in dark times, what if, and then walks us down a dark path that is nothing short of fascinating as an onlooker. He plays dual roles, as if the demon on his own shoulder, seeing himself at a distance and controlling his younger self with the unclean vocals, whereas his younger self is reflected in those cleans, something that also rears it head in “Lost Boy” as a natural progression, which means the lyrics are perhaps less introspective that you might expect in a tale of this harrowing nature. There is little to mask some of the Tool and Deftones isms that appear here with an attempt to perhaps capture the moody nature of the atmosphere those bands offer in the opening pair of cuts and as a dynamic it works incredibly well, perhaps due to the presence of a third guitar giving an extra weight and gravitas to the sound. Laying down the gauntlet for the heavier side, “A Bloodsoaked Symphony” is all stomp laden Groove Metal and savage unclean vocal attack with an interesting almost rap scream aspect to it at the start that might catch you off guard, proving perhaps that they can still turn on the brutality full force should they so desire, however for the most part “Hickory Creek” from “The Valley” seems to be the template from which Whitechapel have worked. The thunderous “The Ones That Made Us” is a huge piece of majestic brutality in dark and swirling moods with the crushing staccato riffage with an almost Vildhjarta like quality overlaid by sumptuous leads that stuns like a unexpected blunt force trauma. Those moshpit friendly chugging riffs are balanced off perfectly by the drum work from Rüdinger, who has a fantastic drum sound throughout and helps make this band better than the sum of its parts.

Putting the breaks on somewhat with “History Is Silent” that has a melodic acoustic first half before an anvil heavy mid section comes crashing down to twist the knife in an unexpected direction. Its delicate and intricate nature remains dark despite its melancholic nature and while this one is perhaps pushing the envelope a little bit too far in the first half, it is one that grows over multiple listens. It does however get lost like a small vessel capsized at sea in the sheer weight of brutality and dark energy as “To The Wolves” sweeps it aside as a urgent and blood thirsty Blackened Thrash cut with a whammy bar drop solo in the first half that is jaw dropping. It’s been said that guitarist Alex Wade grew up in the Seattle grunge sound and is a big fan of bands like Alice In Chains and in “Orphan” is Whitechapel have created something gritty and yet slightly awkward because Bozeman’s vocals aren’t too far away from say Aaron Lewis of Staind on this one and while it has a beefed up sound in comparison thanks to the extra guitar layering, it comes off a little bit flat, like it’s missing that gut punch heavier moment that would really make it stand out from any other band of that ilk. The acoustic “Without You” serves as something of a palette cleanser of delicate intricacy before the skull pounding “Without Us” comes in swinging with similar vibes to “The Ones That Made Us“, brutal mid tempo chugs overlaid with vibrant leads. The almost mournful title track is one that rounds the record off well and could perhaps extend the icy piano moment of the finale a little bit longer as the emotive journey comes to a bitter end. As an album, “Kin” has a cinematic quality within its storytelling an as a piece of work has to be judged not on single tracks but as a complete album because there are moments that don’t stand out in isolation but in the context of the album work incredibly well. It has the same sense of majesty that “The Valley” has and as something of a companion piece it has enough surprises of its own to make any investment in it worthwhile. The question really is, how to Whitechapel move on from this because it doesn’t seem like there is enough weight of material to complete a three album cycle [8/10]

Track listing

  1. I Will Find You
  2. Lost Boy
  3. A Bloodsoaked Symphony
  4. Anticure
  5. The Ones That Made Us
  6. History Is Silent
  7. To The Wolves
  8. Orphan
  9. Without You (instrumental)
  10. Without Us
  11. Kin

Kin” by Whitechapel is out now via Metal Blade Records

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