Deathcore come innovative outfit Whitechapel have undergone the skin-shedding required to reveal their next layer and grow even more as musicians. The Tennessee heavy music outfit have dug deep in their evolution from 2007’s The Somatic Defilement 2008’s This Is Exile all the way through to the nucleus of their nu-deathcore style with their self-titled record in 2012.
The experimentation just went deeper from there, and usually when this happens fans protest it and beg for reversion, but this time fans were not only along for the ride, but they were all about it.
Whitechapel continued to muse; they bended and swirled, and continued to transform until they came up with The Valley in 2019 which really grabbed the attention of their loyal fans. With lyrics sensitive to vocalist Phil Bozeman‘s real-life experiences and cathartic disposal, the band just returned with Kin, to continue the story of where Phil left off.
When Ben Savage came to talk to us about the new record and the 2021 layer of Whitechapel, we knew that Kin was going to turn heads, in the same way The Valley did.
“It was the basis to honour the story of The Valley, and just bring it into a new world, a new reality,” the band’s guitarist says when presenting his thesis statement to Kin. When it came to the new record, “we knew the story that Phil just wanted to share, and dig deep, as far as musical ideas, and when the pandemic happened, we had a lot more time to to work on it.”
More recent Whitechapel albums have had Bozeman’s vocals as a real conversation starter; a centrepiece for the band, not because the rest aren’t incredibly talented (which they obviously are), but because Bozeman’s emotive lyric writing and diverse vocal delivery has arguably been core to distinguishing the band from their peers.
However, as the band approached their eighth record, Savage felt like he had the opportunity to experiment with it too. “I just wanted to do more with the guitar, make it kind of like a greatest hits of all my favourite music in just one album.” The guitarist appreciates Bozeman’s vocal flexibility to adapt to instrumental experimentation. “We’re lucky enough to have Phil as a singer and see what he can do with it, and he delivered,” particularly as the band are all fans of the same kinds of music.
Anecdotal outputs of this process were singles unleashed unto the world in advance of Kin‘s release on October 29th, namely ‘Lost Boy‘, ‘A Bloodsoaked Symphony‘, and ‘Orphan‘, and even further encapsulated through their very carefully thought out music videos.
The first single was very intentional for the Knoxville heavy outfit. “Lost Boy is like a real shock to the system. The video kind of tells like a very summarised version of the story on the album, but it’s very fast and is speeding by, so you don’t really know what to make of it.” In describing it sonically, Savage reflects – “it’s got elements of our old sound and elements of the new.”
On ‘A Bloodsoaked Symphony‘, the band “just wanted to make a horror type movie because that the song’s about Phil’s evil self, so we just tried to make it as evil and dark as we could.”
Emerging from a dark and sinister sophomore single, Whitechapel wanted to demonstrate the variation on Kin, which is what led to ‘Orphan’. “We wanted to do the opposite of Bloodsoaked, make something more vulnerable, more personal, more visually calming, just to try to give everyone a full round of what to expect on the record.”
Whitechapel have become one of those few post-modern heavy bands that are not only so heavy they’ll melt your face off, but they’re not shy to wear their hearts on their sleeves – and the pinnacle of this is shone on the band’s 2015 documentary The Brotherhood of the Blade. The movie really helps fans get to know the band, as it follows them on tour, and is centred around a hometown show in Knoxville at a venue called The International.
It’s common to see these biographical documentaries with the more mainstream metal/rock bands, but refreshing to experience it with a deathcore band within our scene. “We were lucky enough to have our drum tech Mathis Arnell who’s a great cinematographer. We were kind of like his guinea pigs. It was so cool that he could make that for us.”
On whether fans could experience another doco from the band, unfortunately the chances seem slim. “It’s a lot of work for very little pay-out as it’s expensive to make, but I don’t know, maybe if there’s good demand for it and it’s in the budget,” the guitarist shrugs. If you haven’t seen The Brotherhood of the Blade, it’s definitely worth a watch.
What is in the budget for Whitechapel as well as everyone else who is living for it is, shows. As we start to adjust to a post-COVID landscape, bands in the core scene are starting to revitalise gigs again, but with precaution. “In February, we’re on the road with Cannibal Corpse in the U.S. and we’ll backstage there’s no guests, anywhere – so we’ll kind of be in our bubble when we’re on tour but we just really want to make it happen.”
The band are looking into some additional touring options at the moment too. “There’s talks about maybe going overseas later in the year (2022), but nothing’s definite, so we’ll have to just play it by ear.”
Despite the current volatility of international touring, Australia are getting hungry for a Whitechapel tour. Over the years of the band’s lifespan to date, they’ve made it down a total of three times, and many may only remember the latter two, namely Soundwave 2010 (and had to cancel their appearance at Soundwave 2014) and an Aussie tour with DevilDriver in 2014. However, Savage reminds us of the band’s very first tour downunder in 2009 on their This is Exile tour.
“We’ve actually been over with Psycroptic and did a headlining tour across all of Australia. Not many people know about that. We played Wagga Wagga, Sydney and Adelaide in this old prison. We also went to Perth played in a skatepark – it was before anyone really knew us.”
On whether Australia can expect to see Whitechapel on a tour in the medium-term, Savage suggests that “when all this COVID stuff chills out, we’ll see.” Clue or ambition? Time will tell.
That’s where we had to let the guitarist go, with a busy day ahead of him. “We’re gonna go to a record store today and pick up the album, it’s kind of a tradition.”
Interview by Ricky Aarons (@rickysaul90)
Stream Kin here
Whitechapel – Kin tracklist
1. I Will Find You
2. Lost Boy
3. A Bloodsoaked Symphony
5. The Ones That Made Us
6. History is Silent
7. To the Wolves
9. Without You
10. Without Us