The progressive-metal vet puts his unique stamp on the long-running deathcore titan’s newest release.
This past March 29, the Knoxville, Tennessee–based metal band Whitechapel released The Valley on Metal Blade records. The album—the group’s seventh since 2007—features the multi-instrumentalist, producer, and drummer Navene Koperweis behind the skins. Throughout The Valley’s dynamic swings, Koperweis displays his signature blazing double bass chops, fat single-stroke tom-laden fills, and blistering blast beats, all the while powering the group’s darker direction with a deep pocket and wide-open studio tones.
Koperweis tells MD that a few months after his main group, the progressive metal outfit Entheos, opened for Whitechapel on a 2018 tour, guitarist Ben Savage asked him whether he’d be interested in playing on their next album. “I gave Ben an immediate yes,” Koperweis says, “and after recording a few demos, I got the gig. I listened to the demo versions of the songs and made myself familiar with the material. But ultimately, I didn’t want to have my parts too committed to muscle memory, as I knew that [producer] Mark Lewis and the band would like to have input on the fly in the studio.”
The album’s opener, “When a Demon Defiles a Witch,” features a somber guitar intro that’s broken by a tom-fill barrage from Koperweis. The drummer then blasts over 16th and sextuplet double bass figures while switching ride hands at whim. Koperweis’s playing here foreshadows his performance on the rest of the album’s ten tracks, as the drummer’s speed, groove, and finesse shine throughout. To keep up his chops, Koperweis says he sheds his hands and feet every couple of months. “I practice timed sessions at a speed that’s just above what I’m comfortable with,” he explains. “Come to think of it, any speed becomes uncomfortable if you do it for long enough. I use a metronome app called MetroTimer. It’s good for practicing double bass—you can set it for time blocks at any given speed. I’ll usually do a few five-minute blocks around 180–220 bpm. I really think the best thing for developing speed is time under tension. You have to give yourself that stress to get better at it. It’s the same as any physical activity— there are no shortcuts. Want to play faster? Play fast.”
Koperweis’s distinctly huge and open drum tone sings throughout The Valley, a rarity in a genre where you’re more apt to hear controlled kit sounds or samples. As examples, check out the tasty, open march groove Koperweis plays around the 2:20 mark of the first track, or the machine-gun fill he plays on the opening to “We Are One.” Koperweis says that he thinks his tone was an important part of the vision for the album, and that it was a big factor in the band’s decision to bring him in. “I like that live, acoustic sound, and that’s baked into my style,” he says. “We spent about two days in the studio getting the drums and mics to sound right. Mark is super picky about that stuff, whereas I’m a little impatient with it all. But we all just wanted a lot of room mic and for it to slam. Goal achieved, in my opinion.”
Navene Koperweis plays Tama drums and Meinl cymbals, and he uses Evans drumheads, Promark sticks, Gator cases, and Direct Sound headphones.
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