Best of 2012 ... so far (Part 2)

Unveiling the top five hard rock and heavy metal albums of this half year
By Peter Lindblad
And then there were five. Fine specimens of skilled musicianship, thrilling energy and conceptual artistry, these sparkling diamonds bear hardly any rust, even if Judas Priest is nowhere to be found among them. From the devastating brutality and white-hot intensity of Whitechapel and Kreator to the steam-punk splendor and adventurous progressive spirit of Rush and black melodic magic of Kill Devil Hill, 2012 has been a banner year for hard rock and heavy metal up to this point.
And though any of the four mentioned above could easily have garnered the top spot, none of them did. There is another whose mystical vision and raging metal tumult simply boggles the mind. It is a perfect storm, one that would make meteorologists quiver with excitement. And it will leave you disheveled and dumbstruck, scrambling your brains so thoroughly that you might not remember where you are or how you got there. Feel free to agree or disagree with the list or its order, as long as we can do it over drinks at an establishment of my choosing.
Whitechapel - Whitechapel 2012
5. Whitechapel: Whitechapel – Nobody’s taken a bigger leap forward in 2012 than Whitechapel. It’s not enough anymore for deathcore’s biggest breakout act to take audiences by brute force. It’s not enough for them to terrify the easily offended with gore-splattered lyrics. These tortured Tennesseans with the swarming, intricately woven triple-axe attack have gone all in on their self-titled not-so-pretty hate machine, with back-breaking tempo shifts, maximum riffage and crazed dynamics threatening to consume Phil Bozeman’s guttural growl. Pretty little piano passages – a tribute to a fallen friend – set listeners up for the kill, as the imaginative sonic architects of Whitechapel makes good on their promise to conquer expectations.
Kill Devil Hill - 2012
4. Kill Devil Hill: Kill Devil Hill – A thick slab of surging, darkly melodic doom metal, Kill Devil Hill’s powerhouse debut bulldozes gothic ruins of riff-heavy rock and builds towering, monolithic new song structures atop the sacred burial grounds of Pantera and Ozzy-led Black Sabbath. More than the sum of its talented parts, Kill Devil Hill – created by former Sabbath and Dio drummer Vinny Appice, with ex-Pantera bassist Rex Brown onboard – introduces to the world Dewey Bragg, a man with the voice of a lion, and guitarist Mark Zavon, whose Panzer-like guitar forays seem directed by Rommel himself. The Alice In Chains comparisons are unavoidable, but with Brown lending heft and potency to the low end and Appice beating the living daylights out of his kit, Kill Devil Hill – immersed in all the haunting blackness and gloom of a graveyard after hours – boasts way more sonic mass than its grunge-era counterparts.
Rush - Clockwork Angels 2012
3. Rush: Clockwork Angels – 2112 was a great album … for its time. Clockwork Angels is better. Blasphemy, you say? Clockwork Angels is heavier – “BU2B” and “Carnies” – and more complex musically, although perhaps less raw and angry. The elaborate story, welded to some of the most grandiose sonic architecture the Canadians have ever constructed, of Clockwork Angels is wonderfully crafted, a mature, thought-provoking concept with none of the holes or the confused hokum of the 2112 saga. Where revisionists might see 2112 as the epochal moment where Rush’s power and progressive-rock inclinations clashed to create a compelling piece of art – which 2112 surely is – Clockwork Angels finds Rush still suspicious of totalitarian authority but more articulate and elegant about how they construct a response to it. And “The Wreckers” is one of Rush’s finest creations.
Kreator - Phantom Antichrist 2012
2. Kreator: Phantom Antichrist – Across a hellish, smoldering wasteland of apocalyptic imagery fly these four horsemen of thrash, soaring to dizzying heights on spiraling arpeggios, pounding whole cities into piles of ash with bombing drums and frenzied riffs that attack with an unquenchable blood lust, and speeding at high velocity into the unknown with an unrestrained fury bordering on madness. Screaming for vengeance, tracks like “United in Hate,” “Death to the World,” and “Civilisation Collapse” rain torrents of fiery thrash down on the unsuspecting, while “Until Our Paths Cross Again” and “Your Heaven, My Hell” offer brief moments of bruised beauty amid an outpouring of transcendent power-metal drama. Once again, Mille Petrozza whips this reconnaissance mission of the damned through its paces, and the result is a magnificent manifesto forged of startlingly brilliant technical musicianship and cataclysmic, compelling song craft. Phantom Antichrist will make you a believer.
High On Fire - De Vermis Mysteriis 2012
1. High On Fire: De Vermis Mysteriis – In the eye of a wintery hurricane of blustery, tempest-tossed guitars and roiling rhythmic seas stands High On Fire’s Captain Ahab Matt Pike, daring an angry God bent on destruction to silence his roaring, ragged voice as he relates the woeful plight of Jesus’ cursed twin brother. Mystery, madness, time travel and gale-force riffs threaten to tear the good ship De Vermis Mysteriis to pieces, but Pike’s able seamanship steers this scarred vessel through treacherous, rumbling melodic currents and violent, battering storms of sludgy metal. Epic is too small a word for such a monstrous beast. It’s only four letters after all. 

The best of 2012 ... so far (Part 1)

Picking the finest metal, hard rock releases of the half year

By Peter Lindblad

If this were a physical examination, the patients known as hard rock and heavy metal would get a clean bill of health. 2012 has witnessed a flurry of fine rebound albums from the reinvigorated likes of Fear Factory, Slash, Rush, Prong, and Kreator – to mention a few. No one is writing them off anymore. Even Van Halen returned from a long self-imposed exile to prove to everyone that Eddie was still God and that nepotism can work, even if they do have incredibly bad taste in first singles – “Tattoo”? Really?
There’s a new half a super group called Kill Devil Hill that’s fusing Pantera grooves with Black Sabbath’s gothic dirges and churning out wickedly melodic metal. For so long, Whitechapel has been chained to a radiator in the grim, dingy basement known as deathcore, but with their latest hate-filled self-titled missive, they have blasted their way out of their restraints and moved on to more adventurous sonic exploration. Cattle Decapitation has scared everybody out of their wits with some of the most uncompromisingly brutal music in recent memory, and progressive-metal architects Gojira have given the French – the French, of all people – a reason to get excited about their musical export business.
And there’s more to come. Testament is going back to its Dark Roots of the Earth, Dying Fetus hasn’t been aborted and The Deftones are reportedly set to release a record this fall. Strap yourself in folks. 2012 is going to be a white-knuckle ride, and a crash is inevitable. As for the first half of the year, I’ve compiled my Top 10, which is subject to change. The first five (Nos. 10-6), included here, are just a taste.  

Fear Factory - The Industrial 2012

10. Fear Factory: The Industrialist – Jackhammer industrial beats and raging vocals swim in the deep, toxic pool of disturbing dystopian visions, crushingly heavy guitars, and cinematic soundscapes of what may be Fear Factory’s most ambitious concept record yet. Fascinating alien melodies probe and prod a sound that is at once cavernous and claustrophobically condensed, with Dino Cazares constructing a Byzantine labyrinth of densely layered guitars under the imaginative lyrics and righteous bellowing of Burton C. Bell.

Slash - Apocalyptic Love 2012

9. Slash, Featuring Miles Kennedy and the Conspirators: Apocalyptic Love – On the heels of a scintillating live album, Slash lays down some of the slinkiest, most infectious grooves of his career, with knock-down, drag-out brawls like “You’re A Lie,” “Standing in the Sun,” “No More Heroes” and “One Last Thrill” capturing at least some the grit and dangerous energy of Appetite for Destruction. Providing a thrilling foil to Slash’s smoking, snaky leads is singer Myles Kennedy, whose spine-tingling vocals circle high above the fiery rock ‘n’ roll crashes Slash and The Conspirators gleefully orchestrate. Axl can have the Guns ‘N Roses name. Slash doesn’t need it.
Prong - Carved into Stone 2012
8. Prong: Carved into Stone – In full gallop, with smoke blowing out of its nostrils, “Eternal Heat” charges hard out of the gate, setting the blistering pace and aggressive tone for what is surely one of the most punishing records of Prong’s career. Seething with rage, Carved into Stone abandons industrial rigidity for a thicker, fuller sound that takes a baseball bat to society’s sick head and beats it bloody with violent, bare-knuckled poetry. Urgent and restlessly creative, Carved into Stone is a heat-seeking missile that’s locked onto its target and that target is you. Get ready to be blown apart.
Over Kill - The Electric Age 2012
7. Over Kill: The Electric Age – Relentless from beginning to end, The Electric Age spits fire and rages against the dying of their light – with apologies to poet Dylan Thomas – by tossing this exceedingly vicious and extraordinarily tight thrash-metal Molotov cocktail right in the face of a dogma that believes extreme music is entirely a young man’s game. Rarely has Over Kill sounded so dangerous and desperate, as rampaging drums, searing guitars, and the venomous, teeth-gnashing vocals of Bobby “Blitz” Ellsworth propel these grizzled, gasoline-guzzling East Coast veterans on a high-octane journey through an urban wasteland of garbage-strewn dark alleys and lawless streets.
Accept - Stalingrad 2012
6. Accept: Stalingrad – Thankfully, Wolf Hoffman didn’t empty his bag of riffs on 2010’s Blood of the Nations, considered by many as the best metal album of that year. A worthy successor, the storming Stalingrad is one scorching meat grinder of a track after another – thanks to Hoffman’s rugged, gnarly guitars and the sweaty toil of a band that’s regained its hunger – and singer Mark Tornillo’s balls-to-the-wall screams are winning over converts who swore they’d never accept an Accept without Udo Dirkschneider. 

Who wears the red leather pants in Loverboy?

Singer Mike Reno tells where the pants are now

By Peter Lindblad
Loverboy's Get Lucky - 1981
In the morning, when Mike Reno wakes and goes to get dressed, he sometimes takes a moment to brief moment to acknowledge an old friend, namely the red leather pants he used to wear in Loverboy.
“They’re in my closet right now,” laughs Reno. “I say ‘hi’ to them every once in a while. When I’m packing my stretch denim jeans, I say ‘hi’ to my red leather pants. You know, those red leather pants used to leave a red mark down my leg and on my ass. Every time I took them off, I had to scrub my ass with soap for about 20 minutes to get the red leather off my butt. I got ‘em, though. I got ‘em. They’re sitting right on the hanger. I look at ‘em every once in a while. They probably fit one of my younger kids. They don’t fit me, that’s for sure. I can fit one leg and then I give up.”
It’s been more than 30 years since Loverboy’s cheeky Get Lucky album cover – the iconic one showing someone’s backside clad in red leather pants and the crossed fingers indicating that a promise made was about to be broken in some mischievous manner – stuck its gluteus maximus in the faces of record buyers looking for a little fun and some high-energy, New Wave-tinged rock and roll. Now pushing 60 years old, Reno admits he can no longer fit into the red leather pants he and the rest of Loverboy made famous. On occasion, however, they do get some use.
“Well, my son Alex used to come with us a little bit [on the road], when he was 20,” explains Reno. “He’d come on the summer tours and help out with the road crew. He couldn’t believe the response. He’d go, ‘These people love you out there. They’re going crazy. They’re throwing their underwear and bras and stuff.’ I went on his Facebook page recently, and I noticed there’s a picture of him for Halloween. And he had a wig on and a headband around the wig and my red leather pants from the closet. I guess he helped himself to my red leather pants from the closet for a Halloween outfit.”
On Aug. 14, Loverboy, one of the ‘80s biggest-selling acts, will release its new album Rock ‘N’ Roll Revival, a mix of new songs and live versions of Loverboy classics, via Frontiers Records. Even producer Bob Rock has come back to the fold, working with Loverboy on “Heartbreaker” and “No Tomorrow,” two brand-spanking new tracks from the band. And in less than a week, Reno and the boys will hit the concert trail once again, this time as part of a massive package tour with PatBenatar, featuring Neil Giraldo, and headliners Journey.
“You know what it’s like? It’s like going to a high school reunion,” said Reno. “We know all the guys in their bands, and they know us. We’ve got big hits and they’ve got big hits. It’s just going to be a hit fest, really. We’ll play like seven songs that were all in the top hit parade, then Pat Benatar’s going to play seven or eight songs that were all on the hit parade, and then Journey’s going to come out and play 14 or 15 songs – ‘cause they’re the headliners – and they’re all going to be from the hit parade. You know, it’s going to be like a family reunion. It’s going to be a total riot to go to that concert. It’s going to be nothing but hits.”
As for those red leather pants, they’re probably not going with Reno this time around. So, what’s the story behind those pants anyway? Reno relates how that particular article of clothing becoming part of the band’s look.
“One of the girls who worked in Bruce Allen’s office, her name was Alison,” said Reno. “Her husband owns Metal Leather, which is a leather shop that made leather pants and jackets and stuff like that. It was a leather shop just down the street from Bruce Allen’s office. And Alison said, ‘I know you guys are just getting started. You can go down there and pick out anything you want, and you can put it on … and we’ll give it to you for half price and save you some money.’ Bruce went, ‘Oh, thanks Alison.’ So Bruce said, ‘Hey guys, get down there, pick out some stuff so you don’t look sh*tty so we can start shooting videos and stuff.’ We went down there, and I tried on a million pairs. I took a black pair and a red pair, and the red pair just fit really great. And I started wearing them around and people kind of started saying, ‘Look at the red leather pants.’”
Having sparked a reaction, Reno continued wearing them, and eventually, they became Loverboy’s calling card.
“So when they started shooting videos, I wore the red leather pants and then one thing led to another … and I always had a headband on when we played concerts because I was sweating so much that my hair would just get like I was in the shower,” said Reno. “So I put on a headband and it would suck up some of the moisture so my hair wouldn’t look so sh*tty. So, I wore the headband and the red leather pants, and it just somehow turned into … to tell you the truth, Paul wore the red leather pants probably more than I did. Somehow they equated it with me, probably because of the video – one of the first videos to come out, I wore them that day. Paul (Dean) wore the black ones. But if you really look at all the videos, Paul’s wearing red leather pants more than I am. Somehow they equated it with me, and I just went along with it. Why bother rocking the boat and make a big deal out of it.”
Sans red leather pants, Reno and his Loverboy band mates Dean, Matt Frenette, Doug Johnson and Ken “Spider” Sinnaeve, who replaced the late Scott Smith, will be making the tour rounds this year. Below are the tour dates with Journey and Pat Benatar:
Loverboy supporting Journey and Pat Benatar featuring Neil Giraldo:
21 San Bernardino, CA San Manuel Amphitheater
22 Stateline, CA Harvey's Outdoor Arena
24 Paso Robles, CA Paso Robles Fair
26 Cheyenne, WY Frontier Days
28 Seattle WA The Gorge
29 Spokane, WA Northern Quest Casino
1 Great Falls, MT Montana State Fair
3 Salt Lake City, UT USANA Amphitheatre
4 Boise, ID Idaho Center
6 Sturgis, SD Buffalo Chip Campground

8 Indianapolis, IN Indiana State Fair

10 Wantagh, NY Nikon Theater At Jones Beach

14 Watertown, NY Watertown Fairgrounds

15 Canandaigua, NY Constellations Brands PAC

17 Louisville, KY Kentucky State Fair

18 Des Moines, IA Iowa State Fair

22 Albuquerque, NM Sandia Outdoor Theater

24 Houston, TX Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion

25 Dallas, TX Gexa Energy Pavilion

27 Pelham, AL Oak Mountain Amphitheater

28 Lafayette, LA Cajun Dome

31 Kansas City, KS LiveStrong Sporting Park


1 St. Paul, MN Minnesota State Fair

15 Mt. Pleasant, MI Soaring Eagle Casino

19 Peoria, IL Peoria Civic Center

21 Cincinnati, OH Riverbend Music Center

22 Cleveland, OH Blossom Music Center

25 Hamilton, ON Copps Coliseum

26 Ottawa, ON Scotiabank Place

28 Bangor, ME Waterfront Park

29 Providence, RI Dunkin Donuts Center


2 Norfolk, VA Constant Convocation Center

3 Greensboro, NC Greensboro Coliseum

5 Mobile, AL Bayfest

6 Atlanta, GA Aaron's Amphitheater At Lakewood

9 Little Rock, AR Verizon Arena

10 Tulsa, OK BOK Center

12 Tampa, FL 1-800-ASK-GARY Amphitheater

13 West Palm Beach, FL Cruzan Amphitheatre

30 New York, NY Barclays Bank Arena


2 Uncasville, CT Mohegan Sun Arena

3 Manchester, NH Verizon Center

5 Montreal, QC Bell Centre

7 Columbus, OH Schottenstein/Nationwide

8 Evansville, IN Ford Center

10 Grand Rapids, MI Van Andel Arena

11 Fort Wayne, IN Allen County War Memorial

13 Moline, IL iWireless Center

14 Sioux City, IA Tyson Center

16 Milwaukee, WI Bradley Center

17 Green Bay, WI Resch Center

19 Winnipeg, MB MTS Centre

24 Grand Praire, AB Crystal Center

27 Edmonton, AB Rexall Place

28 Saskatoon, SK Credit Union Centre

30 Calgary, AB Scotiabank Saddledome


1 Kelowna, BC Prospera Place

3 Vancouver, BC Rogers Arena

4 Victoria, BC Save-On Food Centre

7 Las Vegas, NV Planet Hollywood

Sebastian Bach televises live show Aug. 2

Sebastian Bach - Kicking & Screaming 2012
Always and forever a slave to the grind, Sebastian Bach hasn’t stopped Kicking & Screaming – which also happens to be the title of his raucous, hook-heavy new solo LP – since the halcyon days in Skid Row. And now, Bach is toasting the blazing, gutsy release and its high-flying initial chart success – it did surprisingly well in its first week, landing at #73 on the Billboard Top 200 Album chart – with a special live television extravaganza on AXS TV next month.
Out barnstorming the planet on the “Sebastian Bach: Kicking & Screaming & Touring” tour, Bach will bring his electric circus to Club Nokia in Los Angeles on Thursday, Aug. 2 for a performance that will be broadcast live at 10 p.m. Pacific Time – that’s 1 a.m. Eastern Time – exclusively on AXS TV. Tickets for the show are available at:
Fans can share the experience of what promises to be a wild rock and roll free-for-all on twitter at and Facebook at For more information on AXS TV concerts and events, visit

CD Review: Duran Duran - A Diamond in the Mind - Live 2011

CD Review: Duran Duran – A Diamond in the Mind – Live 2011
Eagle Vision and Eagle Records
All Access Review: A-
Duran Duran - A Diamon in the Mind - Live 2011
It was the ideal marriage. Sculpted cheekbones, glamorous fashions, a cinematic sensibility equaled only by their ability to craft stylish, slickly produced disco-fied synth-pop that had all the sophisticated, intoxicating bite of a dry martini – Duran Duran was MTV’s soul mate, and the network fell hard for these international playboys.
The face of the UK’s 1980s New Romantic movement, Duran Duran’s rakish charm and obvious sex appeal steamed up arty – and sometimes erotic – music video fantasies that MTV was addicted to for years, playing them in a rotation schedule that went way beyond heavy. They needed each other – MTV providing Duran Duran the wide-ranging promotional machinery needed to sell scads of CDs, and Duran Duran’s looks and visual wiles sucking in a bigger audience for a network hungry to expand.
In recent years, however, MTV has hitched its wagon to the exploitation of unwed pregnant teenagers and the purely academic study of those primitive tribes of the “Jersey Shore.” And while the swashbuckling days of “Rio,” where a youthful Simon LeBon and all those Taylor boys were seen cavorting with leggy, swimsuit models aboard sail boats that cost more than the average factory worker makes in a lifetime, may be behind them, an older and wiser Duran Duran, always a vital and compelling force onstage, proves they still have the ability to captivate and thrill concert audiences on A Diamond in the Mind – Live 2011.
Out also on DVD and Blu-ray as visual documents of the experience, the 14-song CD version of A Diamond in the Mind is Duran Duran’s first live release since 1983’s Arena, and it is an exhilarating carnival of sound that feeds a crowd unabashedly singing along in unison when the moment calls for their full-throated, joyous participation, as it does on the flashy, delightfully debonair James Bond-theme “A View to a Kill.” Not that LeBon needs the assistance, his voice still so richly expressive and melodically agile after all these years. LeBon’s dramatic reading of the haunting “Before the Rain,” enveloped in all the mystery and wintery atmosphere of Cold War Russia, is a powerful introduction to what is a vibrant, widescreen performance from a band still bristling against the suggestion that they've always been more concerned with image than substance.
Any lingering doubts as to whether age has diminished their capacity to command a big stage are put to rest when Duran Duran launches into a full-fledged gallop on “Planet Earth,” its syncopated electronic rhythms charging ever forward through delicate little whirls of synthesizer. And when the candy-coated, lusty pop funk of “Notorious,” “Girl Panic” and “The Reflex” – all colorfully toned and percolating brilliantly, nodding ever so reverentially to Duran Duran’s heroes in Chic – come dancing in, and their stomping medley of “Wild Boys” and Frankie Goes to Hollywood’s “Relax” struts and preens about like a New Wave peacock, it feels as if Duran Duran hasn't aged a day. But, they have, and they've matured gracefully. In the quieter moments of the effervescent A Diamond in the Mind, the liquid dreaminess of “Come Undone,” with its undercurrent of rolling rhythms, spills its anguished, panoramic beauty all over MEN Arena in Manchester, where this live outing was recorded, while nostalgic longing resonates throughout the beautifully rendered “Ordinary World.”

Having slipped comfortably into adult-contemporary middle age, Duran Duran may now be hanging with the less youthful VH1 Classic, but they've lost none of their potency. A Diamond in the Mind – Live 2011 brings the down house with a rousing, energetic romp through “Rio” to close the show, and the bouncy grooves of “Blame The Machines” are undeniably infectious. On the other hand, “Hungry Like The Wolf” – which should be a highlight of the show – seems a bit off and sags exhaustedly, and it’s also hard not to notice the absence of Duran Duran favorites like “Girls on Film” or “Save a Prayer.” Nevertheless, with Nick Rhodes’ elegant keyboards assuming pleasing shapes and John Taylor’s rubbery bass serving as the strong connective sinew that ties everything together, Duran Duran appears to have found the fountain of youth. And they still know how to throw a party.
-            Peter Lindblad

Whitechapel's new era of devastation

Deathcore titans return with powerful new LP
By Peter Lindblad
Whitechapel in 2012
Losing drummer Kevin Lane in late 2010 certainly took the starch out of Knoxville, Tennessee deathcore doomsayers Whitechapel. As hard as that pill was to swallow, Ben Savage would experience worse between the release of A New Era of Corruption in the summer of that year and the difficult birthing of the band’s latest self-titled LP, a fiery blast furnace of hostility and rage that burns so hot it threatens to consume anything that dares creep near it.
“My best friend died during that time, and he was a real amazing piano player,” admits Savage, one of three architects of the savage, thickly layered guitar onslaught wrought by Whitechapel on its immense new sonic undertaking, released June 19 by Metal Blade. “That’s why we put piano parts in the songs. He was an amazing piano player and a songwriter. When he sung, it was beautiful. His name was Andrew Bledsoe (the son of veteran Knoxville music writer Wayne Bledsoe) and … yeah, he was a great piano player and we felt his arm around us.”
The melancholy that resides in those purposefully struck keys is palpable. Unchecked violence and vehement invective almost buries them on Whitechapel, a bloody war of brutally heavy riffs, fire-breathing vocals and punishing, seismic rhythms all caught up in a powerful maelstrom of surging emotions and oppressive darkness. And yet there are sinewy vines of strange and beautiful melody found in the ruins of these massive, shape-shifting structures of sound. From the scathing, anti-conformist rant “(Cult)uralist” to the crushing devastation and bleak outlook of “Possibilities of an Impossible Existence,” Whitechapel is a furious condemnation of a society gone horribly awry, as the crazed, chaotic beatings of “Section 8” and “Hate Creation” so viciously illustrate.
Now boasting a lineup of Savage, the growling, roaring lion of a vocalist Phil Bozeman, guitarists Alex Wade and Zach Householder, bassist Gabe Crisp, and drummer Ben Harclerode, Whitechapel, formed in 2006, is primed to stomp its way through the heavy metal community like Godzilla on bath salts. This fall, Whitechapel is touring with Hatebreed. In a recent interview, Savage relayed the story of how Whitechapel survived drug addicted booking agents and anxiety over a change of drummers to record its fourth album in a house abandoned by a couple that apparently fought like cats and dogs. Here’s what Savage had to say:
What do you remember about hearing the new record in its totality for the first time?
BS: I was just really stoked. I guess I look at it in a different way, because I could see all the elements coming together, like how all the riffs kind of just fit into place and how all the ideas came to be. I mean, it was like that one was put together in a month, but we had ideas and parts for like a couple of years. We had riffs from before the last album and stuff, so I could see it all coming together, and I thought it couldn’t have come together in any better way. I try to think about what else we could have done, but I can’t really think of anything major that we could have done differently. So that’s a good sign, I guess.
In sitting down and thinking about recording the new record, what elements of the Whitechapel aesthetic did you want to retain in making this album and what new features – like perhaps the piano intro to “Make It Bleed” or that really affecting quiet guitar outro in “Dead Silence” – did you want to add?
BS: I wanted to be as different as possible, without coming off too tacky I would say. I wanted the songs to be well – I mean, we all did – in a live setting, to be just really powerful. And that’s basically what we tried to do, make it as cool sounding as we could and still be able to pull it off live, but make it cool sounding so that it intrigues people that listen to it for more than just the music, to give them like another perspective – a musician’s perspective, but still have like a nice live feel to it. So we messed around with tempo changes and stuff, like dropping the tempo down. I still wish we could record an album without a click track, because our first two were like that and they sound real blah. We tried to make it as live as possible, basically.
Listening to the new album, you can hear an increased complexity – both sonically and lyrically – to this new record. But, it also has an expansiveness that is quite remarkable. Do you feel like this is your most ambitious record to date?
BS: Yeah, I’d say so. We’ve all been through a lot the past couple of years since the last record, just in our home lives and everything. You try to find inspiration in like the down times – I mean the hard times and everything. It really came together I think because the record is real dark sounding, too. A lot of the riffs were written under not very ideal conditions. Yeah, it’s definitely way more vicious, because for the most part, we didn’t want to overthink it. That was the main thing. The previous record, we tried to – especially the first two albums – fit like 10 riffs into one song. On this record, it’s more like three or four riffs per song, but those riffs go on different tangents. It’s definitely way more dynamic, and it’s definitely like we didn’t just write a riff with the first idea, you know. If we wrote a riff that was cool, we’d just see what else we could do with it and see what other avenues we could take rather than just stick with the first idea that came to mind. Phil did an amazing job, too. Like, he’s just … it’s like we make the beats. We’re like Dr. Dre and he’s Eminem just laying vocals down over it, and it just makes it awesome.
It does seem like he tried to sing a little more on this record instead of just all growls all the time.
BS: I know, I know. It’s good, it’s good. It’s like you can almost sing over the choruses. Whenever we first started listening to the final version it occurred to me to make joke-like songs over the choruses, just like singing them instead of just growling them. We’d sing them. It’s real melodic like that. And also I just want to … like the big thing recently I’ve wanted to be able to do is be able to play our songs on an acoustic guitar. When we write the songs, we try to mess with the riffs as much as possible so they’d sound good on an acoustic, because that’s how you know a song is good if it rocks on an acoustic.
Is there going to be a Whitechapel unplugged album some time?
BS: I’d be down if people didn’t think it was too tacky. I could totally do it. We’ve already done an acoustic version of a song from the last EP, but that’s the only thing. We could do a lot of acoustic renditions on this one.
“Section 8” comes from the EP you guys released last fall, and I love how it grows and evolves into something that just keeps gaining speed, and then, it has slower, brutally heavy finish. Working on that EP, did it at all point the way toward the results of the new full-length?
BS: It did, it did. The EP was definitely a good idea, although I think some people in our band would disagree. But, I think it was a good idea in the fact that we were on tour for so long, and we hadn’t had much time to write anything together since we’d been on tour. It’s hard to get inspired when you’re doing that. So we just basically … we wrote “Section 8” as a band, because like the last album, A New Era of Corruption, that was more like, we toured a lot … we still tour a lot, but we were touring a lot back then, so it was more of like we all kind of wrote our own songs. Everybody still had an opinion on it, but it was more like, we’d already come in with pretty much full songs, whereas this one … with like “Section 8,” when we starting working on “Section 8” we just kind of went back to what we used to do and start with the first riff and work your way till the end. And then everybody throws in ideas, everybody worked together. I think “Section 8” really helped the process for this record writing-wise, like how to go about the writing part.
In what ways has the band changed the most since The Somatic Defilement?
BS: Well, I don’t know. We have a new drummer, so that’s definitely a change. Everybody’s really been like the same, it’s just like we have a different perspective on like the music industry and how we should go about writing our songs. It just comes with experience, but we all haven’t really changed that much. I mean, we have a new drummer who can actually play our stuff perfectly, and we can actually make tempos faster, we can make riffs groove harder … that was the hardest part. Like, finding – especially in a band like ours – a well-oiled machine of a drummer who can play the fast parts perfect and then be able to groove. Usually, it’s one or the other. It’s hard to find a guy who is well-rounded, in the middle sort of, and so we found the new guy … we also call him “new guy,” so I’ll just call him “new guy” from now on in this interview. We got him like a year ago, and when we got him, he just wanted to go fast. He was real fast and we always pushed him to be like … well, he still had groove, so we were just like, “You know, man, just groove harder man, just don’t be afraid of the groove.” And you’re thinking about putting a double-bass part, a straight double-bass, 16 double basses in one part; instead think of what else you can do, like with the high-hat or something, that makes it groove harder other than that. So that was another cool thing that came about.
Did it change the dynamics of the band having him come in?
BS: Definitely … in the studio and live. Like live, it’s tremendous, because that’s where you’re showing off for the people to see. Live, you’ve got to have somebody that’s on it. But, yeah, it definitely changes the dynamic, and because before we found him, we all were just kind of like, “Oh sh*t, are we going to find a guy?” We have a tour coming up in like a month or something. We need to … it was not a good time in the band trying to find a drummer, because Kev had just left, but when [Ben] came around, our spirits just shot up.
What guitar parts are you most proud of on the new record?
BS: I’m real proud of the guitars in “Hate Creation,” because those two riffs … basically, the riffs in that song are like real old-school sounding. It’s like some parts you listen back and you go, “Oh, that’s really cool, like that Tool part in the middle, I’m so glad we did a part like that,” because I used to love Tool when I was a kid. My first metal show was Tool and Meshuggah, and I was really stoked to have that part in the song. And those riffs are like really old, too, so it was cool that we finally got to use them. And I’m proud of “Make it Bleed,” the riffs in that, because it’s pretty straightforward riffing, but they all flow really well. And “I Dementia” … “I Dementia” is real brooding and heavy – yeah, just happy with most of them or all of them.
I guess it feels this way with every album a band makes, but do you feel that this is the album that’s going to put you over the top?
BS: Yeah, I hope so. I hope so, because … well, I don’t know, because every time I look back, everybody was happy with the songs. It was like all of us were happy with the material. So, yeah … I don’t know what better situation there could be.   
You mentioned the collaborative nature of this album, as evidenced by the naming of it. Did that make the writing and recording of this record a more satisfying experience for you, or did it in some ways make the process easier or more difficult?
BS: Um, it’s all three. In the end, it was satisfying, but during the process … f**k man, it’s like everybody’s stuck on a part, and you’re like, “I don’t know what you did there, but it shouldn’t be that.” And I’m like, “Well, can you give me an idea? Just something you don’t ever want to hear (laughs).” Patience is the key and Alex, our guitarist, he has a new house. So, it was really easy just to go over there, drive 10 minutes down to his house and just work and then drive home. It was a really easy process. Alex’s house definitely has a lot more to do with the writing process, because it was a comfortable setting.
Was the house finished when you were working on it?
BS: Yeah, he got it off like this couple. They had an argument and they broke up. There were like holes in the walls throughout the whole house (laughs).
You’re kidding …
BS: No, they had an argument. I guess the wife or the husband just went through punching holes in the walls, and … I don’t know. And then, after that was fixed, it was all set up and then from January to February, we were there pretty much every day working. But, from halfway through January and February, we went to NAMM because we have signature guitars, so that was a real kink in the writing process. I think up to that point we only had two songs done and that was January 15. And we had to go into the studio like Feb. 3, so that was a real kink in the chain. But it gave us time to reflect on the material, and I went through my hard drive while I was there. And I have like a catalog of just riffs that I went through, just listened to them. So, it was all building up to something good.
Most of the band is from Tennessee. What was the environment like and how did it inform your sound?
BS: Well, I mean … the schools are kind of … I don’t know (laughs) … I went to this magnet school, when I was in middle school, and I met some friends and that’s when we started a band called Psychotic Behavior. There wasn’t really like a music scene, or if there was, I was too young to really go out to shows. I was just out there listening to metal in my car … I mean, not my car but at home, you know. After a while, I started going out to shows and it was cool. That made you want to start your own band and do that whole thing. So it was just ambition to do something other than just living here, ‘cause there’s nothing there that really intrigued me. I just wanted to be in a band.
It seems like culturally barren areas really influence people to start bands. I’ve heard Slipknot talking about how it was growing up in Iowa …
BS: Yeah, I don’t know what else you do in Iowa (laughs).
What were the early days like for Whitechapel? Was it a struggle financially?
BS: Yeah, we all had equipment before … we all had like day jobs. I was going to community college and working at a deli. Phil and Alex were working at this screen-printing shop. Phil also worked at this place answering calls for jewelry television and stuff. He also cleaned the interior of cars for Jaguar. Zach worked at a paint shop. I mean, we all had jobs. We’d save up enoughto buy gear off people that we knew in town. We all bought our own equipment. We never really had a sugar daddy (laughs) doing it for us.
What did it mean to you to sign to Metal Blade a year later?
BS: I think that at that point, we signed to Metal Blade and it was definitely just a confidence boost. It was just like, “Wow! We can actually be optimistic with the band.” So, I think that pushed us right on into our first release on Metal Blade, because a lot of energy went into doing that and also a lot of stress. A lot of the songs are really like riff sandwiches all throughout the songs … I’m still happy with it. Oh, just signing to Metal Blade was just a huge confidence booster. It was like, “Wow, we might actually be able to make a career off this and do something cool.” Before that, we were just doing our own stuff with tours and with like shady booking agents.
You got to know the dark side of the business …
BS: Yeah. Aw man, this guy was like a heroin addict. He booked the tour and then he just didn’t care. Halfway through the tour, he just stopped advancing shows … he just stopped halfway through, and I think it was like our second tour ever in 2007. And he just stopped caring halfway through. He wouldn’t show up. There wouldn’t be any promotion. It was like, “Oh, what the hell …” And then after we signed to Metal Blade, you could actually feel people starting to care about you. The management we have now, it’s like … well, people care about you when you’re on a label.
A New Era of Corruption seemed to up the ante so to speak, sounding more brutal and intense. When you look back on that record, how do you feel about it?
Whitechapel has a new LP out
BS: I’m real happy with it. I mean, a lot of the songs were written individually. The songs I wrote I’m more self-conscious about … you know, I’m like, “Sh*t, maybe it would have been better if we’d worked together.” But when we released the record I was proud of it, and I’m still proud of it. I mean, it is what it is. At the time, we thought that was a necessary step. And I’m still proud of the record. It was definitely what we needed at the time, and it did what it did. And I’m proud as hell of the songs. The only thing is I’m not really like a lead guitar player. I like writing riffs, so I’m really self-conscious about my leads. That was probably the biggest part, like the leads on the record could have been a little better … but, whatever.
I wanted to talk to you about some of the tracks on the new record specifically. One of my favorites is “Faces.” The intensity and speed just blows you away, and yet it might be the most straightforward track on the record. What went into making that one?
BS: Oh, there’s a funny story behind that one. Our bass player, Gabe, whenever we’d come up with like a cool riff, we’d e-mail each other. We’d like record it and e-mail it to each other. And then people would reply back: “Oh, that’s cool,” or “Aw, it’s cool you did this.” But sometimes you don’t get replies back. And then you’re like, “Okay, I guess this riff sucks (laughs).” Gabe actually took a liking to the first riff in that song. And we were like at Alex’s house like writing and stuff, and Gabe and I were going to work on the song. We went out back to the back porch and Gabe had like this Kentucky blueberry weed, and we smoked a bowl of it, went inside and finished the song in an hour. It was like, “Bam.” Gabe and I had never written a song before, so it was cool because Gabe just really directed the song, “Yeah, and then there should be a part like this.” And it went on like that, and we’d do that, and then, “Okay, we should bring it back to this,” and the end of the song was done in about an hour. I think Alex and “new guy” went to go get Chinese food, and then by the time they came back, the song was done. And we were just stoked on it. It was a pretty cool moment. I don’t know if we could have caught it at a better time.
Is “The Night Remains” the most melodic track to you?
BS: I’d say so. I mean, earlier on, everybody thought that song would be kind of a dud or whatever, like it’d kind of be just all right. Then, I knew that song could be real special; it just needed effects added to it. So we really focused on … like in the song, if you don’t listen to the effects, it’s just real like straightforward, like chugging … just real straightforward. But, with the effects added to it and the layers and the atmosphere adds a new vibe. I still think we named the song perfectly, “The Night Remains,” because it kind of has a nighttime, Halloween type of feel about it.
“Hate Creation” is the first single, and the breakdowns and changes in tempo are so unpredictable. I quite like the dual guitar parts as well. Why did that track seem the perfect one to release first?
BS: Probably because it was different, but it wasn’t so different that people would be like, “Oh wow! I’m just not going to care about this band anymore.” It was different enough that it was like Tool, you know. It was like everything wasn’t like awkward at all or … it was just like an anthemic song. I don’t know. It just felt right. I don’t know, it’s heavy and basically, it’s just classic Whitechapel. 
What are you most looking forward to in touring this summer?
BS: Yep. Um, looking forward to seeing High On Fire, Slipknot, Slayer, Motorhead … all those cool bands. I don’t know … just looking forward to playing all the new songs.
Have you played the new songs live and if you have, what’s been the reaction?
BS: The only one we’ve played live is “Section 8,” and the reaction has been great for that. I want to start playing some of the slower songs live, like “I Dementia” and the closing track on that record ‘cause it’s going to add a different contrast to the songs we have. It’s going to have like a slower, groovy thing to the live show that’s going to be real cool.