Whitechapel – Kin (Album Review)

As human beings, none of us is a stranger to pain and suffering. For some, this struggle is borne from outside sources, while a great many of us find our most significant opposition to be located deep inside ourselves. Artists are, of course, not immune. As such, the haunting depiction of a war waging inside one man has recently been put to record with Kin, Whitechapel’s latest offering, which arrived on Friday, October 29, 2021 via Metal Blade Records.

It’s no secret that Whitechapel’s previous LP, 2019’s The Valley, marked a massive shift in the band’s stylistic approach. Serving as a merciless self-inflicted catharsis for Vocalist Phil Bozeman, the landmark collection laid bare the singer’s turbulent upbringing, as well as his struggle to escape the prison of his own mind. Kin, the sextet’s eighth full-length, injects a supernatural element into the tale, exploring the idea of two diametrically opposed forces—call them what you will: devil and angel, past and present, Thing 1 and Thing 2—trapped in a war for control of one body.

While it is a concept that has been previously explored by others, Kin takes its 11 songs and crafts a monstrously inhuman dichotomy that pits self against self. And with their storytelling, Whitechapel—Bozeman, Guitarists Ben Savage, Alex Wade, and Zach Householder, Bassist Gabe Crisp, and Drummer Alex Rudinger—takes a true story and twists it into fiction. With the help of longtime Producer Mark Lewis (The Black Dahlia Murder, Trivium), they manage to pen a collection that, upon hearing just the first track, promises to be on all of the Best of 2021 lists.

It all begins with guitars that seem to suggest a dusty landscape somewhere in a forgotten time and place. With its bluesy grit, it languidly lures Bozeman out to centerstage where he is prepared to voice a vicious soliloquy—as the villain. Steering the tone from Alt Country toward more familiar terrain, the frontman snarls the threat “I Will Find You” as we meet the evil that lurks inside. It’s a suffocating and infectious introduction that hooks its claws into the listener and forces them down into the oubliette of Bozeman’s mind.

Diving headlong into this fathomless crypt, Whitechapel then launches into the initial encounter of “Lost Boy” and the blackened sludge of “A Bloodsoaked Symphony.” They contrast these brutish moments with the languid guitar intro of “Anticure,” showcasing the immense melodic talents of Lead Guitarist Savage. Though it’s a harsh confrontation, as one piece of the self threatens the other, the song’s bleak outlook is oddly poetic—with lyrics such as This house is poisoned beyond repair / And the souls of our past life are trapped on the inside.

In fact, much like its predecessor, Kin is an emotional powerhouse that is beautifully devastating. So, yes, there is plenty of bludgeoning Metal, but the true weight of the collection resides within its haunting lyrical content. Unless you lack that important muscle inside your chest cavity, it’s hard not to feel the agony that birthed tracks like “The Ones That Made Us,” where the malicious doppelganger tries to convince his twin to end their life, or the similarly morbid “History Is Silent” and “To the Wolves.”

Then there’s “Orphan.” With its minimalist video released just a few weeks ago, the truly moving single is poised to break the band wide open into the mainstream. And it’s not just the clean vocal approach, either. Encapsulating the powerful self-realization that sometimes we have to shut our hearts off in order to survive, it is a universal appeal to those who have ever felt alone and miserable. It also marks the pivotal turning point of Kin, as its successor, the instrumental “Without You,” provides a healing balm that segues into the thundering “Without Us.”

With the final face-off culminating in the scarred survivor who stands before us, Bozeman and co. end their latest masterpiece with the titular “Kin.” Beginning with acoustics and taking on a similar feel to “Orphan,” the song might be one of their most accessible to date, musically speaking, but it hits with all the might of a derailed train colliding with the chest. It is, just like the album, an anchor attached directly to the heart, drowning your soul in the self-hatred and loathing of one man’s warring psyche.

For Whitechapel, Kin is indisputable proof that The Valley was not some random dance with Lady Luck. Instead, these 11 songs beautifully depict the strength it takes to persevere, even when your greatest foe resides within your own body. If you believe that the best music is authentic, it would be difficult to find a collection of songs that bleed a more vibrant sincerity all in the name of art. Call it a cathartic release, bold self-exploration, or a conceptual masterpiece, but the record is destined to vie for the honor of Whitechapel’s magnum opus with its sister, The Valley.

In no way trying to suggest that the band cannot top their 2019 and 2021 offerings, Cryptic Rock gives Kin 5 of 5 stars.

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