Since their foundation in 2006 and throughout their now 15 years of musical trajectory, the name Whitechapel has been strongly associated with a very specific label: “Deathcore”. Which is understandable, since this band from Knoxville, Tennessee quickly became one of the maximum pillars and exponents of this relatively new subgenre of Metal. Who doesn’t remember that explosive debut with The Somatic Defilement? Or the legendary This Is Exile? Or the crushing A New Era Of Corruption? Albums from a first stage in their career that forever cemented their legacy among the Deathcore elite.
It has not been a secret to anyone that Whitechapel in recent years has undertaken an endless search for musical evolution, in which they are not satisfied with leaving their mark at the top of the Deathcore game, challenging the paradigms and labels attached to their sound with the firm intention to grow as musicians with each overwhelming live performance and with each great album recorded in the studio, while growing as human beings expressing their greatest qualities through their art.
This progressive evolution of the band reached a definitive point in 2019 with the release of the majestic album The Valley, where Whitechapel experimented with very novel elements in their musical style that in some sections moved them away from Deathcore, but made them advance enormously in their search for a constant evolution in his style. This being accepted by a large part of his loyal followers who have grown up with Whitechapel as the soundtrack of their lives for over a decade.
Beyond the great musical elements presented, The Valley had a huge plus exploring through its lyrics the horrors experienced by its vocalist Phil Bozeman during his childhood. Who in a very honest, emotional, and at times visceral way managed to narrate all these real events translating them to the songs on this album.
The stage was set for plenty of tours taking the songs of this great work to live audiences around the world, but the global situation derived from COVID-19 forced Whitechapel to put these plans aside, who as a result of this decided to close the cycle of The Valley prematurely … But not the saga.
Whitechapel immediately regrouped to think, write and execute what would be a new studio album, taking the direction and all the elements that made The Valley great and magnifying them even more, adding even new elements to this album, making it even more versatile. than its predecessor. From this background the eighth Whitechapel album was born: Kin.
Released on October 29 through Metal Blade Records and produced by Mark Lewis, Kin was a 100% structured work conceived by Whitechapel during the COVID-19 pandemic. This new album represents a direct continuation of the events that occurred in The Valley, but with very important twists in its narrative, connecting all the songs on the album and ordering its tracklist in a chronological thread, making each song a different chapter, but still linked to the rest of the story.
Described by Phil Bozeman himself as «A fictional take on a non-fictional story», this album recounts a series of internal battles fought by its protagonist throughout this album against an evil entity that lies inside his mind. This background of the history of Kin is perfectly captured in the flawless work done by Jillian Savage in the creation of the album cover, representing the internal conflict of both parties illustrated on it. Between these protagonists there’s a valley, in which when turning the cover upside down we can appreciate the silhouette of a demon that represents the evil that lies in it. How about the instrumental work? Well, Alex Wade simply tells us “This is The Valley on steroids”, so with that in mind we already know what to expect from the beginning.
Without further preamble and starting from where «Doom Woods» closed The Valley with a haunting «The devil is alive», this chapter called Kin begins with an acoustic intro followed by a powerful «THE DEVIL IS DEAD!» which gives way to “I Will Find You”, the perfect and ideal track to kick things off, since it gives us an idea of all the facets of Whitechapel that will be present on this album, including the references and direct connections with The Valley that appear in the first verses of this song.
From this first song, a key element in the development of the album’s plot can be evidenced, and it is the use of different voices by Phil Bozeman, which represent the characters that fight an incessant battle throughout this album. The clean voice represents the «Real self» of the protagonist of this story, while the guttural voices represent the evil entity inside him. Who intends to find the protagonist after escaping from the valley.
We quickly move on to “Lost Boy”, Kin’s first official single where the revolutions of this album suddenly increase, commanded by the speed of the percussion of Alex Rüdinger who makes his in-studio debut as the new official drummer of Whitechapel after a year as their tour drummer. Also highlighting the impeccable interpretation on guitars by the trio of guitarists formed by Alex Wade, Zach Householder and Ben Savage, the latter also having a masterful guitar solo that fits perfectly with the brilliant instrumentation that creates a gloomy and frantic atmosphere where a great riff written by Savage shines, who according to him, was inspired by the sound emitted by the owls of Tennessee to write it.
During this fraction of the story, the protagonist manages to find a shelter after escaping from the valley where the events that marked his childhood took place, but the evil being chases the protagonist tirelessly until he eventually finds him. Reminding him that he cannot run away from him as both parties are connected and essentially one and the same.
With a gloomy bass intro by Gabe Crisp we continue this story with “A Bloodsoaked Symphony”, the second single track from Kin. In this song we have a mid-tempo that follows the rhythm of a blackened heart pumping furiously all the blood that we can see bathing the entire videoclip of this song that presents a constant Groove Metal vibe on the riffs, while Phil Bozeman unleashes his signature growls with pure filth and evil.
In this song, the evil entity takes over the protagonist’s mind and blinded by an obsessive nostalgia, he decides to start a blood ritual to resurrect his parents, although in the end the result is not what he expected, much less the one he craved. Being this evidenced looking at the gaze of the protagonist at the end of this song’s videoclip.
Coming to the next song we got “Anticure”, the first ballad on the album commanded by an emotional and versatile interpretation both on guitars by the trio Wade/Householder/Savage and vocals by Phil Bozeman, who with his clean voices represents the protagonist making a call to his evil entity to undo the damage done with the evil ritual of «A Bloodsoaked Symphony», telling him there was no point in trying to revive his loved ones since although their bodies live, their looks are not the same and their souls are no longer entirely there. Therefore, it is necessary to leave behind a poisoned past that only generates pain. The evil entity represented by the guttural voice responds by recriminating the weakness of the protagonist and refusing to be controlled by someone who always decides to run away from all his problems.
This conflict continues in «The Ones That Made Us», where the evil entity returns with greater force and realizing that he cannot reunite with its loved ones by resuscitating them, for that reason he contemplates a much more cruel and radical way out: Suicide. Ending his life and incidentally, the life of the protagonist in order to achieve his mission.
Throughout this song the protagonist is seduced to end his own life, with the evil entity trying to convince him to make this decision by telling him that there is no point in continuing to fight in vain, since his loved ones are waiting for them. Offering him one last chance to get rid of his cowardice.
Instrumentally this part of the story is perfectly ambiented by evil riffs and envolving melodies on the guitars, but the real star of this brilliant song is Alex Rüdinger. Who with very versatile and varied patterns influenced by Jazz, manages to create a controlled chaos with plenty of extremely flawless fills and some blast-beats here and there. It’s like capturing a lightning in a bottle and using this energy at will.
On «History Is Silent» the protagonist with a very nostalgic tone recalls everything that made him happy during his childhood, while questioning how he ended up involved in this intense conflict. While the evil entity also appears expressing his frustration by not being able to carry out his plans.
Phil Bozeman on several occasions has been very open about the influence that bands like Tool and A Perfect Circle have had on his clean vocals style. This is fully evident on this song, where Phil manages to implement a style inspired by these two bands while adding his own variations and guttural vocals in the chorus.
The calm with which “History Is Silent” ends is a perfect contrast to give way to the explosive devastation unleashed with “To The Wolves”, which is undoubtedly Kin’s heaviest song where Whitechapel proves that in the midst of all the experimentation and evolution featured on this album, are still capable of reaching the core of their power to unleash all their fury at full blast.
The more “Old School” fans of Whitechapel will have a very familiar feeling with this song, since it has a very similar structure to “End Of Flesh” from their album A New Era Of Corruption, even though it has some twists that add large doses of freshness and dynamism to this track commanded by a ferocious blast-beat by Alex Rüdinger, matching the fury and resignation of the evil entity realizing all the damage it has caused and the evil it represents, assuming that his methods only bring pain and anguish. At the same time he wishes mercy for the soul of the protagonist while he awaits a punishment due to his actions.
From this point on, both parties suffer a notable division, the evil entity in the previous song realizes the gravity of his actions and reaching «Orphan» the protagonist suffers a deep desolation as he feels vulnerable for losing not only his loved ones, but also an entity that had already been part of him. In this section the protagonist feels that he says goodbye one last time to his loved ones, setting them free from the spell of the ritual performed on them in the chapter of “A Bloodsoaked Symphony” and resuming the eternal rest of their souls.
This feeling of desolation is perfectly transmitted by Whitechapel in a majestic ballad in which Phil Bozeman sings 100% with clean vocals, feeling so comfortable in this technique that he already adopts new nuances and adds new doses of force to his singing technique. Also noteworthy is Ben Savage’s beautiful solo that blends perfectly with the emotional atmosphere that this song seeks to capture.
One of the great keys to the instrumental success of this album is Ben Savage’s great ability to capture through his instrument the emotions that each song on the album seeks to recreate. Savage has a moment of free rein to display his creativity on “Without You”, a short acoustic instrumental that creates an atmosphere of utmost peace and calm, a space of truce and peace in the midst of the internal battle waged throughout the album.
The temporary calm hides the heaviness that suddenly appears when “Without Us” begins with an extremely crushing riff and a very Doom Metal atmosphere commanded by Alex Wade and Zach Householder on the solid base of rhythm guitars, where the protagonist of this story faces one more time the evil entity. In this last encounter they both agree that there is no reason to relive the past, since that portal is forever shut, so it is necessary to leave it behind and face the future. Both finally manage to understand that they need each other to exist, making peace after a long conflict fought so far, representing a victory for the protagonist.
This victory is consolidated by reaching «Kin», the homonymous song on the album that closes this story and confirms the victory of the protagonist over his evil entity. This final chapter is set in a beautiful and emotional ballad dominated by acoustic guitars and an epic guitar solo by (We all stand up and applaud) Mr. Benjamin Savage, who delivers one of his finest performances on the guitar not only from this album, but also from the entire Whitechapel’s discography.
During this ending section, a definitive moment in the story occurs when the protagonist begins to express the sympathy he feels towards his evil entity, letting him know that despite the multiple conflicts and the damage that he caused, he understands his intentions were honest, no matter how evil and incorrect his ways have been. The evil entity understands this by also repeating “Our delusion is the easy way out”, while the guttural voice sinks amid the clean chants in the final chorus. Sealing Philip Bozeman’s victory by absorbing the evil from his being and getting ready to move forward with his life, giving an emotional ending to this story titled «Kin”.
Once again Whitechapel defying all the musical expectations that grow around them have managed to climb one more step in their growth as artists, transcending far beyond labels and subgenres with a new masterpiece in which they have pretty much mastered the art of songwriting for conceptual albums, something they did very well on The Valley, but took it to new levels this time around on Kin.
It is not safe to say whether or not Kin surpasses its predecessor album, and it’s not necessary to fall into that discussion anyways as both albums strongly complement each other. These are two albums that, in addition to musical evolution and maturity, are united by the living testimony of someone who through his artistic gift, teaches us to understand, face and embrace the emotions lying within us, no matter how dark they may be. Moving forward releasing the burdens of the past, while honoring all those who remained in our memory. Making us say at the end of this album simply:
«Thank you Philip Bozeman and thank you Whitechapel.»