“Whitechapel is a great example of a band coming from…the middle of nowhere, and the reason they were so good is because there wasn’t any scene there. [There was] nothing happening so eventually the few musicians that were there all got into one band and there you go” -Brian Slagel
Every genre has its golden age, the era when its fan base reminisces about legendary bands debuting right and left. Since its inception, Deathcore has never necessarily been embraced within the metal community, yet it still does reign dominant over most modern metal. The golden age of Deathcore is famously (or infamously) know to be within the late 2000’s, when acts such as Suicide Silence and Despised Icon began to gain prominence and notoriety in the metal scene. Whitechapel were formed in the wake of this extreme revolution, only to be thrust upon a pedestal as one of the sub-genre’s finest merely two years later. Said evolution was enabled via the six-pieces second record, their Metal Blade debut This Is Exile.
Good ol’ 2007. Many a deathcore band broke through the underground barrier that year. The most renowned treasures released of that year were along the lines of The Cleansing, The Ills of Modern Man, and Genesis. Sneaking under the radar was The Somatic Defilement, the debut record from Whitechapel. It was the result of an entire year dedicated to polishing their musical direction, and all of that work paid off. They were signed to Siege of Amida Records (UK) and Candlelight Records (US) in 2007, and released The Somatic Defilement in June. Right before their first official tour, guitarist Brandon Cagle was rendered unable to play due to a motorcycle accident, being replaced by Zach Householder. Then in 2008, they signed to Metal Blade Records. At this point in time, the cards were all stacked. Whitechapel were already set in motion to create some of the greatest music in the history of deathcore.
Although The Somatic Defilement only got a miniscule amount of attention upon release in terms of popular sales, it did manage to garner some attention throughout the deathcore community later on as something of an underground gem. It gave the band a reputation as one to watch for. Flash-forward to July of the next year and This Is Exile was released. Unlike its predecessor, This Is Exile made an appearance on the Billboard 200 chart, managing to climb up to 118 overall. This was obviously an instant payoff for Metal Blade, which naturally predated the course of their tour cycle. Whitechapel were swimming with the big fish at this point, and their continued work ethic and consistency would end up being the decisive factor in their evolution into either an extreme band of legend or a fad.
This is Exile’s commercial success opened a whole new bundle of opportunities for the band, primarily being large scale tours. And out of all those tours, one in particular sealed their name within the extreme metal community. That tour was, of course, the Summer Slaughter tour of 2008. On that roster was a variety of extreme metal icons, including The Black Dahlia Murder, Kataklysm, Cryptopsy, and Aborted just to name a few. Regarding the tour, Alex Wade (guitars) stated “We are having a blast and really enjoying ourselves. It feels great getting to share the stage and become friends with some really talented and influential bands. It’s kind of intimidating playing with so many extremely talented bands but I feel like we’re holding our own out there.” Despite all the other tours Whitechapel were a part of, every one paled in comparison to the Summer Slaughter, at least in terms of overall influence and the promotion it gave them.
Naturally, there was a reason for the band’s newfound success. This is Exile is a great record; it sharpened their sound and is a showcase of their own talents in an honest format. The triple guitar attack feeds off of each other, creating musical options not many band choose to partake in. The cycle between deathcore chugs and melo-death inspired riffage is never made bland, despite the repetition of the process. Phil’s trademark vocals were made famous due to this record as well, as his exploration of lower pitched gutturals are found in every modern extreme vocalist to this day. Yet its influence didn’t stop there. Rather than simply perfecting Whitechapel’s sound, This is Exile was able to shed light on deathcore as a genre, aiding its acceptance with the extreme scene.
The deathcore hall of fame has quite a few records upon the pedestal, yet only a select few can be marked as being fundamentally important for the creation of the sub-genre. This is Exile is one such record. The record established both the sub-genre as well as the band as a dominant force in moden metal, despite the sub-genre not growing at such a rate since then. Nonetheless, This is Exile pushed deathcore and shaped it into an ultimate beast of brutality at the time being, even if the sub-genre’s overall brutality has since faded.
The re-issue of This is Exile is available now through Metal Blade Records. Go buy it, man!