Having spent several years lauded as one of the frontrunners in their genre, in 2012 Whitechapel stand as a defining force in contemporary heavy music. Building dramatically on the trademarked bludgeon of their first three releases, with Whitechapel the Tennessean sextet have inarguably delivered their most intense, dynamic, and downright hostile record to date. Drenched in atmospheric darkness, the record is also rife with gripping melodies that drag the listener in to the tumult, willing or otherwise, and across its ten tracks it is infused with an emotional depth that pointedly separates the band from the plethora of two-dimensional mosh-starters that have sprung up in their wake. "These songs are some of the best material we have released to date, and the whole vibe of the record compelled us to self-title it," states guitarist Alex Wade. "With every record we strive for something different – we're always going to stay true to what Whitechapel is, but we want to evolve and do something that is fresh and engaging both for ourselves and for the people who support us."
Setting the scene with the brooding piano that prefaces the storm of frantic riffs and pulverizing drums of opener "Make It Bleed", it is clear that Whitechapel are coming from a place of pure darkness this time out. At times teetering on the brink of despair while always primed to fight anything and everything that gets in their way, every track has its own personality, fitting perfectly alongside each other to form a breathtaking whole. From the heads down attack of "Section 8" or the merciless "(Cult)uralist" to the apocalyptic drama of "Dead Silence" or the loping grooves of "Possibilities Of An Impossible Existence" the band put it all on the line, creating something that is as honest as it is devastating. "There's a lot of variety on this record – it has the fastest songs we've ever written on it, but it also has the slowest songs we've ever written, so whether you like the slower grooves of A New Era Of Corruption (2010) or the really fast riffs of This Is Exile (2008) there is something for everyone on this album," explains Wade. "It also has a much stronger sense of dynamics, because if you're just smashing someone over the head one hundred percent of the time it can get monotonous, and there's more melody to it too. Some of the choruses are really dark but have so much melody you could almost sing over them – which is something we would never do, but having that dynamic there is exciting to us." Having grown displeased over time with A New Era Of Corruption, primarily due to the fact it was comprised of songs written by individual members rather than as a shared effort, the band rectified this with Whitechapel, and Wade believes this collaboration plays a large part in what sets the record apart from its predecessor. "In the credits of the last record it was like this guy wrote this song, and then this guy wrote that song, whereas there's so much collaboration on this record it wasn't worth going through it to try and list it in the credits, it is the product of our efforts. I think that's cool, and it's good to know that when we work together we're at our finest."
A further contributing factor to the record's power is the addition of drummer Ben Harclerode (ex-Knights Of The Abyss), who joins Wade and guitarists Ben Savage and Zach Householder, bassist Gabe Crisp, and vocalist Phil Bozeman. "Most drummers that we had seen play our songs would kinda have to dumb it down rather than play it exactly the way it was on the record, but Ben sent us a video of him playing "Reprogrammed To Hate" and every single note, every little cymbal accent was there, so we were extremely blown away by how he had replicated what Kevin Lane had played on previous albums," Wade states. "He sent us another video playing the much faster "Father Of Lies" and after that we knew we had to get him down to jam with us. He learned an eleven-song setlist, turned up, sat down behind the kit, and we ran through the whole set without stopping, it was like he had been in the band for years. The power and precision he brings to Whitechapel is just amazing, and having him in with us writing the new record definitely took that side of things to the next level."
While frontman Phil Bozeman has proven himself one of the most formidable vocalists and lyricists in metal of the last few years, his previous efforts pale in comparison to his contributions to Whitechapel. "While it's definitely brutal I would say that first and foremost it's a dark and depressing record," he states. "I didn't go for one big concept that unites all the songs this time out, I just wrote about whatever I was feeling. I like that it's kind of scattered and covers a lot of topics, and I think that's an important part of the record's power." Whether ruminating on his general disillusionment with humanity ("Faces"), decrying the sheep-like nature of society as people allow themselves to be led rather than standing up as leaders themselves ("(Cult)uralist"), or giving in to the belief that there is no hope for the future ("Possibilities Of An Impossible Existence"), Bozeman never pulls a punch, and his vocal performance is equally unflinching. "I didn't want to just have the same monotone kind of screaming, I wanted to branch out and really get the emotion behind it across. This was about getting so angry you just had to let it all out. You're not even worrying about how good it sounds, you're just yelling out of pure spite and rage, and I think that really comes across. I didn't want anyone listening to it thinking it's just the same old bullshit. We're better than that."
Working with producer Mark Lewis (Deicide, Devildriver), according to Wade it was not until they were in the studio and the songs started coming together that the band realized just how good a record they were making. "Honestly, everyone at the beginning of this record was kind of iffy about it," he laughs wryly. "As we were putting the demos together we were like yeah, this stuff's pretty cool but we were a little worried about it. But then when we got in there with Mark, every time we added a layer it just got better and better." Blown away by Harclerode's razor sharp performance and the huge drum sound engineered by Lewis, a killer guitar tone infusing the wealth of punishing riffs with life, and a monstrous bass sound kicking things in the ass, at every turn the band's enthusiasm grew. "It was all just coming together amazingly, and as soon as Phil did his vocals it was like oh my God! This is our favorite record!"
Returning to their rightful place on the road, the band are enthused to take these new songs to their rabid fan base. They stand confident in their belief that their followers will hungrily devour the latest evolution of their sound, and having dramatically bolstered their fan base through blowing away the unsuspecting crowds on 2010's Warped Tour they are sure to draw in new adherents anywhere they play. While Wade firmly believes that the band are still growing and striving to improve, for now he could not be happier with the fruits of their labor. "Every band at some point plateaus, it's inevitable, but we're not there yet, we're still growing, and I think this record proves that. Looking at the finished thing – the music, the vocals, the overall vibe behind it, all the way down to the mix and the master – it's almost like a perfect storm where everything came together just right and resulted in the record that we needed to put out."