Whitechapel kicked off last weekend with a sold out show at New York’s Gramercy Theatre. The show also featured a killer support lineup of Archspire, Entheos, and Signs of the Swarm. This is Whitechapel’s first headlining tour in four years and it’s particularly unmissable if you’re a fan of their 2019 album, “The Valley”, as they are performing the album front to back. “The Valley” was my intro to the band and I’ve been trying to see them live ever since, so I was stoked for for this show for a multitude of reasons, the stacked undercard especially so.
Entheos was up first. I was first introduced to Entheos by way of shooting their performance at Saint Vitus for Kerrang! a few years back. I remembered the band’s set as being 40 minutes of pure energy, and as it turned out my recollection was correct; Entheos’ set at Gramercy was absolutely electrifying.
The band’s setlist primarily consisted of tracks from their third album, “Time Will Take Us All” that was released last month. The crowd had clearly done their homework as they treated the new songs as old favorites, cheering, singing, and moshing along with familiarity and excitement. A personal favorite song from the new album as well as Entheos’ set is “In Purgatory” – frontwoman Chaney Crabb’s vocals on this track are nasty in the best way, and it was performed live to perfection.
Signs of the Swam took the stage next and kept the brutality flowing with a set that gave fans a peak at what is on the horizon for the deathcore quartet (a deathcore-tet, if you will). The band previewed a few new songs, including “Amongst The Low & Empty” which was released the week prior.
Signs of the Swarm put on a truly metal performance. The guttural noises of David Simonich’s vocals that literally shook the floor, the breakdowns and the reverb on the snare echoing between them – all epic. The pit was in full swing quite literally as a circle pit ensued and was spun up again almost immediately whenever it died down. It would seemingly be difficult to keep this kind of momentum going after Signs of the Swarm finished their set, but somehow Archspire managed to do just that.
Canadian death metalers Archspire’s set was a force to be reckoned with. Kicking off with “Remote Tumour Seeker“, the band tore through their songs with ruthless aggression and technical prowess.
A major highlight of Archspire’s set came in an unexpected form: a game of Twister. In between songs, frontman Oli Peters hollowed out the pit and selected two fans to battle before tossing a Twister mat to them. Peters handled spinner duties, shouting out directions as the arrow landed on them. After a few rounds he announced the result of his next spin by flipping the spinner over to reveal the words “Wall of Death”. Immediately counting in the next song, the walls of the pit collided and chaos ensued as the Twister mat flew into the air, somehow remaining intact.
Archspire capped their set with “Drone Corpse Aviator” from their 2021 album, “Bleed The Future“, but not before hyping the headlining act to the crowd, “mispronouncing” Whitechapel as “White Castle” and tossing old sliders into the crowd. It was hilarious.
The time had come for White Castle, I mean Whitechapel, and the crowd was ready. I’m a big fan of the “play the album all the way through” gimmick. Sure it takes away the guessing game of what song will be played next, but you instead get to experience the journey of an album live and in real time. You get to watch the band deliver their art not through a piecemeal approach but in a cohesive and complete performance, as it was meant to be heard.
As the ethereal first notes of “When a Demon Defies a Witch” rang out, the crowd roared in excitement; they knew what was coming next. A few moments later the song exploded and the pit followed suit. The ups and downs and ebbs and flows of “The Valley” were mesmerizing to witness in person. It was a ride that I’d taken so many times in the solitude of my headphones, but never shared with a sold out crowd. To do so was otherworldly.
Whitechapel returned to the stage for an encore after completing “The Valley” and treated fans to a few additional songs, including “I Will Find You” from their most recent album, “Kin“. Perhaps a play through of that album will happen on the next tour? We could only be so lucky.
Everyone has an off night. Things don’t go your way, sometimes to a degree so frustrating you’d swear the world was trolling you. This was one of those nights for me.
It started with little things, like realizing I’d forgotten to reformat my cards and wondering if I’d risk anything by wiping them, forgetting to swap out my battery or to clean up my bag from the last show. No one wants to start their work day with a cluttered desk; this was the photography equivalent. Annoying, but manageable.
A few moments before Entheos was to go on, I turned on my camera to take a few test shots and it stopped working. I had no backup camera so this was particularly stress-inducing. Thankfully, a quick battery remove/insert resolved the issue, but the realization of how quickly I could be screwed if my gear were to fail left me feeling quite vulnerable.
Though these seemingly trivial-in-hindsight issues were all resolved rather quickly, I still found myself in a bit of a funk. I could feel it while I was shooting Entheos, and it’s hard to explain exactly how I felt outside of it being a sudden and severe lack of confidence in myself. Not so much in my abilities as a photographer in general, but in my abilities to get it done that night. I wasn’t sure if I had it in me.
I was getting usable shots but they just didn’t feel good to me. I was in one of those mindsets where I could see only the mistakes I was making or the shots I was missing. As the night progressed I found my way back mentally, and by the time Whitechapel hit the stage I was ready and excited for them. But I’d seen first hand the importance of having the right mindset, and how even the tiniest of inconveniences can snowball into something more frustrating and less rational.
Much of this is common sense, but even if so it bears repeating. For folks such as yours truly who are in a constant battle with imposter syndrome, it’s easy to feel like you’re constantly one bad shoot away from the imposter syndrome being “right”. The truth is that off nights are inevitable, be it how you’re feeling or what you’re doing, and that no single rough show or set invalidates your work or talent. As is said in Cameron Crowe’s 2001 film, “Vanilla Sky”, “every passing minute is another chance to turn it all around.”