On stage Whitechapel might seem a little scary. The band, after all, took its name from the section of London where Jack the Ripper murdered and mutilated, and the group's early songs were a reflection of that.
Guitarist Ben Savage says it would be a mistake to think the group members are what audiences see on stage.
"The idea that our personalities reflect our music ... not at all," says Savage. "We're really grounded. We don't have big heads."
Whitechapel is the first Knoxville death metal band to have made a dent in the international scene and is on the rise. The group's 2010 album, "A New Era of Corruption," peaked on the Billboard 200 at 43, Top Hard Rock albums at 5, Top Rock Albums at 12 and Top Independent albums at No. 3. The group regularly tours Europe, Australia and, later this summer, will make its first trek through South America.
The band is finishing up work on the fourth Whitechapel album. This time the group is recording in Knoxville.
"The last two albums, we'd record 12 to 14 hours a day and then go to an extended-stay hotel," says Savage, before going to the home of fellow Whitechapel guitarist Alex Wade to lay down his final guitar solo with producer Mark Lewis. Lewis, as it turns out, is the rare producer who makes house calls. He travels to record bands on their home turf.
"This is way better," says Savage. "You can actually leave the studio and be worry free and relax at home. It's better for the record because when you're comfortable you have more time to reflect on the material."
Whitechapel came together in 2006, from the remnants of teenage metal band Psychotic Behavior (in which Savage and Whitechapel vocalist Phil Bozeman both played guitar) and guitarist Brandon Cagle. The trio recruited guitarist Alex Wade of Redwinterdying, bass guitarist Gabe Crisp and drummer Derek Martin. Shortly after formation, though, Cagle suffered a serious motorcycle wreck that left him unable to play guitar (Cagle has since become a sought-after sound engineer). Wade's fellow Redwinterdying bandmate Zach Householder was brought into the fold and Martin was replaced by drummer Kevin Lane, who stayed with the group until 2010. Ben Harcleroad is now the band's drummer.
After the release of the group's first album, "The Somatic Defilement" (2007), the group signed with Metal Blade Records and released "This Is Exile" (2008), which established the band as a death metal favorite.
Savage says it was Whitechapel's inclusion in the 2009 Mayhem Festival that stands out as his most cherished moment with the group to date.
"It was just wacky. We were touring with all our idols and we didn't really feel like we deserved it. Killswitch Engage was on the tour. And for everyone in our age group (the Killswitch Engage album) 'Alive or Just Breathing' was the holy grail!"
Whitechapel will tour with the 2012 Mayhem Festival beginning in June.
Whitechapel's 2011 EP "Recorrupted," signaled a branching out, by including a cover of Pantera's "Strength Beyond Strength" and the band's song "End of Flesh" performed on acoustic guitars.
Savage says the band's upcoming album is a more mature work.
"It's definitely more universal rather than being strictly a metal album. People who don't really listen to metal can appreciate it. It's got a more universal rock 'n' roll vibe about it. It's also more of a band album. All of our minds were in on it. We had a month home to write it and finish it up."
He says this album began with riffs and ideas, but there were no completed ideas until everyone gave their input.
"The last one was more we all had our own songs. This album started from ground zero and we built up every song and it wasn't done till we were all happy with it."
Lyrically, Bozeman's lyrics have evolved from historical or fantasy horror to more universal themes.
"Phil is now more about writing about personal trials," says Savage. "The music is more rooted in the real aspects of things we've been through."
Overall, Savage says success isn't changing who the band members are.
"I still hang out with the same people I hung out with when we first started. It's only at shows and stuff that you get that 'Wow. We're like a professional band. This is crazy.' In town it's just like it's always been. It doesn't feel like anything different until the night of the show or somebody tells you. We've put a lot of work into this thing, so it's definitely rewarding. It definitely feels good."
© 2012, Knoxville News Sentinel Co.
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