Tennessee is well known for its musical styling. From bluegrass to country, to rock and roll, the lightning bug state percolated it all. Elvis Presley or Sun Records ring a bell? On the metal spectrum, the state has produced three notable acts in extreme metal: Whitechapel, The Tony Danza Tapdance Extravaganza, and Today is the Day.
After their inception in 2006, the Knoxville sextet (including vocalist Phil Bozeman, guitarists Alex Wade, Ben Savage, and Zach Householder, bassist Gabe Crisp and drummer Ben Harclerode) became prominent in the crowded deathcore market. Their last two full-length albums – 2010’s A New Era of Corruption and 2012’s self-titled release Whitechapel (see our July 2012 review) – debuted in the top 40 of the Billboard 200. Impressively, their self-titled release sold nearly 10,000 copies in its first week alone. This is in stark comparison to a band with a more traditional brand of death metal, such as Dying Fetus, whose 2012 album Reign Supreme sold only 3,000 copies in its first week. The contrast points to a shift in the musical tastes of emerging metal consumers and the marketability of the maligned subgenre. According to Wade, their strong sales are indicative of the power of Tennessee’s musical lineage.
“Some country artists have that kind of raw and gritty feel and I kind of feel like, coming from the South and coming from Tennessee, it definitely plays into our music,” says Wade. “We like it to sound a little grungy. I think that definitely being raised in the South, that attitude definitely helps play into that.”
Deathcore is often characterized as over-produced and sterile, complaints with which the band is acutely aware. Using those aspects, Wade associates with Tennessee to set themselves apart, the band’s evolution is attributed to the awareness that less is more.
“I kind of feel like music these days is almost a little too cookie cutter. It’s almost like people just drop certain things into a template and it just kind of works out,” explains Wade. “I kind of hope that, in the future, music kind of almost devolves and goes back to more of its roots, kind of like Slayer, Sepultura type stuff — just real raw and real angry. That’s what we’re slowly trying to shoot for, I think. Self-titled was a really good step in that direction, because it was a little more unpolished than our previous CD, A New Era of Corruption. I think that it is an area of music that we’re trying to head towards.”
Whitechapel are planning on re-releasing their debut, The Somatic Defilement, in spring of 2013. Wade says the band has been collaborating with producer Mark Lewis on the reissue, who worked with them previously on their self-titled release.
“I’m really excited to put it out,” says Wade. “We didn’t polish it up too much. We wanted to leave as much of the original sound as possible.”
The progress between the aforementioned debut and their 2012 record is considerable and noted. The Somatic Defilement was a basic deathcore album with pure brutality, intensely fast riffs and the typical breakdowns found in most of the genres offering’s from that time. In comparison, the 2012 release had more depth with many melodic elements, with segments reminiscent of Meshuggah and Opeth. Appealing to traditional deathcore fans, the band has also crossed over into the hearts and wallets of the metal crowd. Their non-stop touring has had them not only headline large tours, but also share the stage with titans like Motörhead and Slayer.
“If you had asked me six years ago if I thought that this is where I would be, I would definitely say, ‘Hell no,’” says Wade appreciatively. He concludes, “I never thought that in a million years that I would actually be playing music for a living. Life can definitely throw you a curve ball.”
See Whitechapel with Emmure, Unearth, Obey the Brave, and The Plot for You at the Den (2500 University Drive N.W.) on Tuesday, January 29.
By Allison DrinnanAB, Alberta