Whitechapel – The Somatic Defilement

whitechapel album coverWhitechapel are a fairly young band, forming in 2006. They are a death metal band, with four releases under their belt, from Knoxville, Tennessee. The band have returned with their newest offering, for Metal Blade Records: the re-release of The Somatic Defilement (their 2007 debut album), which has been re-mastered. Overall, the record sounds very much like typical American death metal: crazy good drums, super-fast riffing, occasional break-downs, and hilariously (ostentatious) gross / violent song titles or subject matter.

Vocals switch between standard-fare death metal growling, high-pitched screaming, to more of a ‘hatecore’ bark. Check out the tune “Devirgination Studies” to hear some of this. This could be where others are drawing their ‘deathcore band’ label from. The music isn’t excessively flashy from either guitar or bass. The band seems to have been custom-built around the drummer, who is fantastic for this genre. Whitechapel use the hyperspeed blastbeat as a main texture, and boy do they do ‘fast’ well. The band, by virtue of their skillset, is able to exploit a lot of nuances that others may miss: plenty of tempo shifts, rhythmic variations, and syncopation. It is a very rhythmically interesting album. What jumps out at me throughout the disc, is that when the band slows down, the bass guitar is immense. The ‘bass bombs’ sound like ‘movie theater’ type explosive bass – palpable, very punchy, and guttural. Guitars are dissonant and down-tuned. Occasionally, they’ll throw in a sweep, or a bit of harmony line here and there. That flourish adds some excitement to the tunes.

Criticism:  There was a shift in death metal, approximately in 1999, where the subject matter started to become over-the-top with the ‘porno-gore’ and ‘splattergore’ subgenres becoming popular. It appears that extreme metal hasn’t really changed much in the interim. We’ve still got the blastbeats, the ‘cookie monsters’, and the ‘pornogore’. Based on the band description, I ought to have disliked Whitechapel… fortunately, lyrics are sung so low-pitch that they’re nearly unintelligible. So I can sit back and let the music move me as it sees fit.

At one point in time, maybe the early 1990’s, death metal did this ‘seriously’. Then it became almost a parody of itself, churning up whirlwind after whirlwind of ever-faster drums, ever lower vocals, and more ‘extreme’ subject matter. Lyrics are fairly clear at times, unfortunately so low-pitch that they’re nearly unintelligible. That’s sort-of par for the course for death metal – has anyone ever been able to figure out all the lyrics to Slowly We Rot? What I question is, since lots of bands have been doing this for lots of years, why did Whitechapel break ‘now’? Why not ‘back then’ when half of these ideas were fresh, new, and absolutely explosive on the scene? That said, ‘extreme’ death metal is a very narrow genre with little room for originality or improvement, so a band working in this genre really doesn’t have a lot of ‘escape room’ before it runs in to this criticism.

The Somatic Defilement is a very well-done album. Angry people will love this. Some of the songs have ‘chant-along’ anthemic choruses (i.e. “Fairy Fay”) that a live crowd will eat up! The songs are aggressive, “mean as hell” (i.e. “Prostatic Fluid Asphyxiation”), and delivered convincingly. I do hear undertones which nod to bands like Suffocation, Carcass, Nile, Origin, or Cannibal Corpse at times. The album’s production is clear and the sequencing of songs is logical. The band wisely exploits a dynamic true stereo mix. There’s a nice ‘top and tail’ to the album in that it’s book-ended by movie or soundtrack spoken-word samples. The sampling is not overdone nor are the samples themselves overly long, so the effect is not wasted: it becomes another layer or texture in the music. The technical prowess is immediately clear. It’s definitely worthy to add to your collection, if you love classic American extreme metal, and long for those glory days when it was ‘king’.

whitechapel band photo

Track Listing with Run times:
Necrotizing — 0:35
The Somatic Defilement — 5:19
Devirgination Studies — 3:12
Prostatic Fluid Asphyxiation — 3:33
Fairy Fay — 3:33
Ear to Ear — 3:30
Alone in the Morgue — 2:53
Festering Fiesta — 2:29
Vicer Exciser — 2:52
Articulo Mortis — 4:03

Album Duration: 31:59

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About Iris North

My formal position is: editor and music reviewer. I joined the PlanetMosh army in 2012. I enjoy extreme metal, 'shred' guitar, hard rock, prog rock, punk, and... silly pop music!