Welcome to Napalm Flesh! This week we have an interview with vocalist Phil Bozeman and guitarist Zach Householder of rising metal stars Whitechapel. We also have exclusive reviews of new releases from Reino Hermitaño, Satanic Bloodspraying and Testament
Since 2007, Tennessee death metallers Whitechapel have carved quite a name for themselves into the flesh of the music scene. Hailed for their brutality and technical versatility, each album has been loved more than the last, and their newest, self-titled effort is no exception. This young band already has multiple headlining tours under its belt, and has supported major tours such as Summer Slaughter, the California Metal Fest IV, Warped Tour, and for the second time in 2012, the Rockstar Energy Mayhem Festival—which is where Napalm Flesh sat down with vocalist Phil Bozeman and guitarist Zach Householder to get the details on this fast-rising star of a metal band.
SLUG: It’s early in the tour, but how has your second round at Mayhem treated you guys so far?
Bozeman: This is the tour we did 3 years ago, and to this day it’s still the best tour we‘ve ever done. This one has topped it—no offense to the bands on the last tour, but Slipknot is one of those bands I’ve never seen live until three nights ago, so it was a big experience for me. We’re doing it again with Slayer, that’s a huge addition to the tour. It’s been great, you can’t ask for a better tour really, especially if you’re a metalhead.
SLUG: Are there any of these bands you’re meeting and hanging with for the first time? Any surprises?
Bozeman: We know Devil Wears Prada. Upon A Burning Body is a band we’ve played with when we very first started, and parted ways but we knew who each other were. Now they’ve really come onto the scene, it’s crazy. There’s a lot of bands when we first started playing and we weren’t anything, it’s cool to see bands grow and become relevant. We haven’t hung out with anyone from the Main Stage, but I’ve seen some of the Slipknot and Slayer guys around.
SLUG: Your new self-titled record is getting some great reviews, and it definitely has a new and wonderful versatility to it. How was the writing process for you guys this time around, actually working as a cohesive group rather than individually? Were there any unexpected moments, good or bad?
Householder: I felt writing this album was almost the same as every other album, but when all of us came together to do pre-production sitting behind a computer, we all voiced our opinions more-so than other times in the past. The writing process changes even more when you go to the studio. I think a big difference was being at home to record at Alex’s studio for most of it, being close by. Once things got done, we all had an opinion on something, especially on song structures. Together, we all had more of a voice on the album than usual. We’re rushing new albums anyway all the time, I think we’re getting better at doing it more efficiently.
SLUG: This is your first time writing with drummer Ben Harclerode in the band, and I know you guys have said playing old stuff with him was a seamless experience. How was it as far as writing new material was concerned? Did the spark maintain its power?
Householder: Guy’s a genius man. I mean, he’s half-batshit crazy, but composition-wise, musically, understanding theory, he’s a smart guy with music. I haven’t seen anything you put in front of him on drums that he couldn’t play. He’s the best thing to happen to us. I love Kevin Lane to death, he will always be part of this band, we still talk to him, he’s a dear friend. He just wasn’t in the right mindset for it. Going a year having fill-in drummers after Kevin, Ben is just what we needed. He fit right in—he’s part of the family.
Bozeman: At this time, I have no worry about the drummer anymore. It’s great.
SLUG: You touched on a lot of different things on this album lyrically. Where did you draw inspiration from?
Bozeman: One subject, it’s not about it, but it sprung from social networking. The last song is dedicated to my three sisters, and everything that’s happened with my family. It hits stuff like that. I didn’t want any sort of “theme” or anything, I’m kind of done with that. I just wanted to write what’s on my mind, and that’s a million different things. I was happy with it because it wasn’t anything people had to sit there and try and figure out, it’s more straight-forward. It gives it a stronger relationship to the fans, I think.
SLUG: In particular, I love the poetic power in “The Night Remains”; it’s really the stand-out song, lyrically speaking. What inspired that, as well as the kind of adjustment in prose-style you used to write it?
Bozeman: That song was kind of random. It was just a weird, fucked-up kind of place that I made up and wrote about. It felt like I was writing a horror story. I feel like the music for that song has that kind of old-school horror movie sound to it, really creepy and you feel like a killer’s right around the corner.
SLUG: You’ve hailed producer Mark Lewis for his enhancement of the music you’ve built on this album, can you elaborate on what his influence did for this record?
Bozeman: I love the guy to death. He hears stuff that we don’t hear. There’s only one thing with the vocals—I don’t regret it, I still love it, but the songs on this album are tough. I do my best to pull it off live. I’m not just gonna stop and not do it, but it’s pretty rough—it takes a lot out of me. I feel like it’s catchy, but it’s really close together on some parts—you’re yelling constantly, and you just run out of breath. But I kind of feel like that puts more emotion to it; I’m so pissed off I’m gonna yell till I can’t anymore. This album wouldn’t sound anything like it does without him.
SLUG: How do you guys feel about the current metal scene?
Bozeman: I’m glad to see tours like this, it’s metal—you have the old-school feel with the new generation. The only thing I cannot stand about the metal scene is the subgenre craze that’s started since the new millennium. We are always going to be pigeonholed as death-core. I understand death metal, the brutal side like Cannibal Corpse, and I understand that we’re not blasting thrashy all the time, we have slow groove, but why can’t we just be a band like Pantera was? They were just metal. They had slow, sludgy songs and parts. Then you throw the metal elitists in the mix, and you hear them say things and you’re like, “Seriously? It’s fucking music.” I don’t try to fish for that stuff and see what people write, but you inevitably see it. Everything sucks to everyone on metal message boards. Basically if you’re not from the ’80s or early ’90s, you suck. No new generation is accepted by the metal elitists. Music nowadays, there’s a lot of experimentation, and it’s cool. I don’t hate on any type of music, even if I don’t like it.
SLUG: What up-and-coming metal bands are you most excited about?
Bozeman: I think Last Chance To Reason. I’m not necessarily the biggest fan of their music, but they are ridiculously talented, the singer is unbelievable. The singer needs to be discovered. He does stuff with his voice that reminds me of Mike Patton. He can sing so well.
SLUG: What’s next for Whitechapel after Mayhem Fest wraps up?
Householder: We’ll be going on tour with Hatebreed, All Shall Perish and Deez Nutz on the 10-Year Anniversary tour for Perseverance through September and October.
Exclusive CD Reviews
Veneración del Fuego
Reino Hermitaño = Black Sabbath + Siouxsie and the Banshees
With Veneración del Fuego, Peru’s Reino Hermitaño enters the world stage. While breaking no artistic ground, the band can boast of sheer authenticity—dirge riffs, strings tuned to new frontiers of flaccidity, drums straight off a Roman slave ship, and tubes cranked hot enough to fry omelets. However, the band’s legitimacy derives foremost from an awareness of origins. Reino remembers the Conquista and its wretched aftermath. Violence and despair, here, count for something. Not mere dabbling in witchcraft, the band’s exploration of the lugubrious seems powerfully political, akin to the uses of diabolism analyzed in Michael Taussig’s anthropological classic The Devil and Commodity Fetishism in South America. Reino Hermitaño returns to Black Sabbath, reminding us the fathers of darkness were a hippie protest band. –Brian Kubarycz
At the Mercy of Satan
Satanic Bloodspraying = Muknal + Impaled Nazarene + Brujeria
Mystery-guy black thrash from the jungles of Bolivia, Satanic Bloodspraying makes no bones about spiritual alliance or sonic influence (Impaled Nazarene). Guttural, pummelling and blunt-force blatant ("Satanic Skullfuck"), the album seethes in volatility, but remains abysmally devoid of uniqueness, variation and distinction. I know many who'd happily sit through the relentless upchuck of "Tetragammaton" on an endless loop, but they're also the types who'd huff photocopier toner, scour Russian websites for snuff videos and jam screwdrivers into their urethras for a chuckle. Boisterous drum-heavy production only renders the concoction more unbearable as the same blast beat clatters through 24 soul-deadening minutes like an old molar clacking about a public dryer and the one noteworthy track, "March of the Dead" (an ominous excercise in apring early Bathory) just doesn't have enough chutzpah to save this mess. Maybe if more vocals were done in Spanish they'd scrape some style points together, but I just find myself asking things like ¿como se dice "samey" or "this would've been better in the 90s" en Español?" –Dylan Chadwick
Dark Roots of Earth
Testament = Chaos AD era Sepultura + Burn My Eyes era Machine Head + ...And Justice for All era Metallica
2008's Formation of Damnation wasn't simply a "return to form" for Testament, but a fiery declaration that thrash's "big 4" should've always been a "big 6" (let's include Exodus because...fuck you), and it's that sentiment that seemingly informs the enthusiastic gushing all over Dark Roots of Earth. Reinstating child prodigy Alex Skolnick on axe duty beefs up the sound, as do trade-offs with Erik Peterson that whip songs like "Rise Up," "A Day in the Death" and "Last Stand for Independence" into a frothy thrash brew, earnestly worthy of comparisons to their own work on Souls of Black as well as Slayer's groove-laden ’90s cuts. Crisp production keeps every element fat, lush and chunky, as do Chuck Billy's remarkable vocals, particularly the viscous melodies on "Native Blood" and "True American Hate." If I've got to find one flaw (and I do) it'd be the slowish balladry of "Cold Embrace," but we can't all write "Fade to Black" can we? Through and through, Dark Roots of Earth ranks high as one of 2012's strongest metal offerings, a blast of competence and latent freshness in a subgenre saturated with tired once-been's recapturing old glories and insubstantial copycats squeezing dollars from nostalgia. Mandatory. –Dylan Chadwick