Whispered are one of those groups, like Children of Bodom, Kalmah, and Wintersun who seem to walk the line between melodic death metal and hyper-aggressive power metal. The big twist with Whispered is their Japanese theme. They take this beyond just cover art and lyrical content, as their songs include a fair sized splash of traditional Japanese folk instruments and melodies. Basically, imagine if Children of Bodom treated ancient Japan the way Nile treats ancient Egypt. That's Whispered in a nutshell.
As with any band that comes with a gimmick, there's a certain point at which the novelty wears off and the music needs to be able to stand on its own merits. On that count, I'd say Whispered mostly succeed. Their musical ability is unquestionable, as every member delivers. The vocals come in a mid-range snarl that suits the music very well, the guitars are sharp and technical without losing all their aggressive edge in the process, the drumming is spot-on, and even the bass has a few moments where it gets to shine through. All this is interlaced with the aforementioned Japanese instrumentation in a way that makes many of the songs surprisingly pretty, but which still lets the metal side of the operation take the reins. They also toss some occasional surprise factors into the mix, most notably an unexpectedly effective saxophone section. In terms of production, the sparkling clarity isn't exactly evil sounding, but in this type of composition I think it's a necessity.
One minor note I'd like to make is that this band has now released two solid records that are each elevated by a long (10-15 minutes) but exceptionally strong closing track. I'm not sure why exactly, but they've done it on both albums.
Now as many of you can probably guess from my description, Whispered are not an especially gritty-sounding band, so this isn't the type of album that is likely to appeal to purists who want their metal ugly and mean above all else. Instead, I'd say it's an enjoyable treat for fans of those groups I mentioned earlier, since it delivers their basic style with a relatively unique spin.
So is this an earth-shatteringly awesome record that everybody needs to run out and buy? No. But it's a very good album that I thoroughly enjoyed, and as long as they are able to maintain their current balance between style and substance, Whispered will continue to have a comfortable seat at the metal table.