Tennessee’s Whitechapel have become a prominent feature in the death metal community in the last few years. Four albums in, and their status has changed drastically, for the best, since the release of their debut, The Somatic Defilement. Originally released via Candlelight Records in 2007, the album’s 2013 re-release through Metal Blade helped Whitechapel introduce the record to a new set of eardrums, pleasing longtime fans with a re-mastered, re-mixed version of their debut.
What’s notable about the re-release is the sound quality. The clarity and production allow for a greater appreciation of the original performances, notably on the guitars, whose three players were easily lost on the original debut’s muddiness. The improvement in the final production quality is dually noted by vocalist Phil Bozeman’s original performance versus this updated version. His growth as a vocalist since their debut is impressive, yet the quality on this version done by the band’s recent producer Mark Lewis questions whether or not his tracks were re-recorded or if he was truly underappreciated (and grossly overlooked) with the original mix. (The latter may be true.)
The album, whose introduction features audio samples from a Jeffrey Dahmer interview, is a test in aggressiveness as well as technicality. Immediate, the album does not give way to its sound, nor to its aggression. It is highlighted by tracks such as “Vicer Exciser” and “Ear to Ear”, the former of which features the signature double bass assaulting breakdowns infused with the on and off blast beats. The latter of the two is an exercise in how to utilize three guitar players, something Whitechapel does well. Though the track falls into the redundant pattern of breakdown and blasts, you’re left with the insatiable urge to repeat the listens.
Unfortunately, while the recording quality is greatly improved, the 2013 version of The Somatic Defilement demonstrates how young the band was and how much more room for improvement they needed. Understanding where the band would go next with their 2008 release, as well as the two follow ups since, Whitechapel has proven themselves to be more than the predictable and trapped band that existed within the notes of this release. A measure of patience and maturity has really allowed the band to become one that would grow with popularity—and prove their stay power with future releases.
The Somatic Defilement is not a terrible record, nor should those that have faithfully cherished their latter work overlook it. This is a must own for die-hard fans. Newcomers who are genuinely interested in this band’s catalog should not overlook this record—hell, forget that the 2007 version even exists and give this a listen.