Getting older is sometimes hard to do. Growing up can sometimes be harder. For a metal band, doing either can often spell certain doom, but for Whitechapel, the musically destructive, lyrically scathing deathcore outfit named after Jack the Ripper’s killing grounds, the path to realization and maturity has turned out seemingly every way but the one they’d probably like it to.
Let’s examine exhibit A – Whitechapel’s support slot on the recently-concluded Dead Throne tour headlined by The Devil Wears Prada. Within hours of the tour being announced, fans were quick to point out their feelings on the inclusion of Whitechapel on a bill populated by not one, but two openly Christian bands, the other being For Today. Those unfamiliar with Whitechapel need only reference a song or two’s worth of lyrics to pick up on the heavily negative and often blunt-force-like lyricism of vocalist Phil Bozeman – words that often, especially throughout the band’s second full-length This is Exile, reference anti-religious messages. Yet, despite a legion’s worth of Facebook tough-guy talk and a fan-based lashing for touring with Christian bands, Whitechapel’s second tour with The Devil Wears Prada seemed like no big deal to them.
“Backlash, who gives a shit man? It doesn’t matter who you tour with,” says Whitechapel guitarist Zach Householder with a marked amount of confidence. “I’m sick of having to act like ‘I’m gonna just tour with these kinds of bands’ and ‘I really hate anything that’s not metal.’” By the second-to-last day of the tour in the bustling city of Royal Oak, Michigan, Householder found it much easier to see an appreciation for those willing to come out as opposed to those filling up boards to complain about the bill: “I guess a hardcore Whitechapel fan won’t pay the ticket price to come and see the band they want to see, but it shows the dedication to the fans that still come out and try to be open about all the other bands as well. […] If you hate us for doing this tour or you think it’s stupid, more power to you.”
Even with the slight cold shoulder from fans, it wasn’t too far out of reach for the band to join this tour – and certainly one they will walk away from better off. “We’ve gained more fans doing this tour,” says Householder of the bill, also pointing out that despite any differences people might feel these bands have that aside from already knowing the ‘Prada guys, “the For Today and Enter Shikari guys [were] awesome dudes and stand-up people.”
But the confusion or frustration for Whitechapel fans doesn’t quite end there. Exhibit B instead turns our eyes to the newest release from the band, the quite polarizing Recorrupted EP. Holding only one original among a group of remixes, a cover song and an oddly good acoustic rendition, the release felt forced and a bit misguided – though the vibe from Householder reflects a simple feeling of appeasing as opposed to how many of felt about it.
“We didn’t really make a big deal about the EP being released, it was just kind of something to hold everyone over,” points out Householder. “Intention-wise, in my opinion, was to give a song to hold people over, and the Pantera cover was something we always talked about doing. The remixes – I appreciate the skill that goes into those remixes, ‘cause I can’t physically sit down and do remixes like that, I’ve never tried it. But I appreciate the talent of Big Chocolate and Ben Weinman. But if I’d never heard it before, would I go out of my way to listen to it? Probably not. It’s just something different to put out there. We’re not trying to do one thing, it was just something quick and easy to do too. The “End of Flesh” acoustic was something [guitarist] Ben [Savage] had on the backburner, might as well bring it to life – and it worked.” However, Householder jokingly adds the only way it would have worked to add vocals to said cut would be to bring in Mikael Åkerfeldt from Opeth to do them.
The lone wolf of originals on the disc, “Section 8,” has made its way into the Dead Throne tour setlist though, giving those attending the dates the first taste of what is in store for the band’s upcoming fourth full-length. “It’s definitely not typical Whitechapel song, it’s a little different,” suggests Householder. “We’re not giving it all away just on one single, it’s just a good solid song to kind of show the direction we’re still going go. Take the heavier, sludgier stuff of Somatic Defilement and the faster stuff of Exile and put in a little bit more progressive stuff like on New Era of Corruption. We’re just gonna honestly sit down and do what the fuck we want to do.”
As for said full-length, Whitechapel will be doing things a little differently this time around. Mark Lewis, who mixed Recorrupted, will return to help the band as they take a different path this time around. After tracking drums at Audiohammer with Jason Suecof, the band will go home to Tennessee where they plan on recording in a studio set up in guitarist Alex Wade’s house. The idea has garnered mixed opinions though according to Householder. “Everybody’s like, ‘You gotta go somewhere and be pissed off’, like Exile was in the middle of winter in Maine, or Maryland…maybe it was New Hampshire. It was just, snow everywhere, we were crammed in a tiny hotel room and crammed in a small studio too. Maybe that’s why it turned out so angry.”
Though the trio of guitarists has been constantly writing, they’ve taken this tour to sift through everything written thus far according to Householder. “Every time it seems we go to the studio, we’re always pushed for time to really crunch down and put everything together. But this time, honestly, we’re not gonna stress ourselves out about it. If we’re not done by the time they want us to be done, we won’t be done. This is gonna be an album where we’re all gonna sit down and say to ourselves, ‘I’m happy with every single bit of it’. Gonna try lots of new stuff out, nothing out of left-field for Whitechapel, we’re just gonna do what we do and expand as a band and mature. Can’t do the same thing over and over and over again.”
Throwing around words like maturing or growing always seems to bring out the phrase ‘We don’t want to say that word’, but Householder has no problem saying that Whitechapel is looking to do just that with their upcoming fourth record. It will also be the first record they’ll pen with the newest addition to Whitechapel, former Knights of the Abyss drummer Ben Harclerode. “Kevin [Lane] got us up on our feet,” says Householder. “Kevin was always the ideal guy, it’s just tour takes it toll on people and things happen. He’s a very creative guy, very creative with the instrument, not to mention overall just composing music. With Ben, by far the best drummer we’ve ever had. He’s breathed a lot of life back into this band as far as – it’s nice to play a show and not have to worry about a drummer. And to not have that on your conscience and everything is solid and on tempo. I’m excited to get in the studio with him and write because just doing the one song was a prime example of what he’s capable of in the studio and some of the stuff he just filled in on the fly. The Pantera song he learned in like a day and just killed it. There’s very miniscule editing to the drums on that EP. Maybe a few things got moved around a tiny bit, maybe a tom hit was off or something, but his feet and everything – perfect.”
But despite whatever has been said or will be said about Whitechapel, it seems like that this recent chain of events, as well as what is to come, will be a turning point for a band with recording and a Spring headliner tour with Miss May I on their plate. “I feel like this album we’re about to put out,” says Householder, “I hate to put pressure on us, but it’s going to make or break us.”