Whitechapel - The Valley Review [Metal Blade Records]
Throughout their illustrious and lengthy career, Whitechapel has garnered quite a large fan base. This time around with the heavily anticipated album, The Valley, Whitechapel goes a little deeper into more relatable things. Our contributor from the UK, James Bailey, gives us a heads up on what to expect from The Valley.
Since their debut in 2006, Whitechapel have established themselves as an ever-evolving titan in the extreme metal scene. Whilst the band has evolved, their last two albums feeling the slight strain of pressure to please their growing fanbase, the deathcore roots have remained central to the band’s sound. The Valley, Whitechapel’s upcoming seventh album, is their most ambitious yet. The new album sees the Knoxville, Tennessee group attempt to combine clean singing with their traditional guttural vocals, in a move destined to divide fans.
Based on the personal experiences of frontman Phil Bozeman, this album is sonically as grand and heavy as the topics covered. The opening track, “When A Demon Defiles A Witch” (video above) sets the tone for the album. A desperate song, telling the story of the mental health issues of Phil’s mother, which include Dissociative Identity Disorder. The song alternates between brutal, raw Deathcore and more pensive clean-singing sections with atmospheric guitars. Whilst no other song on the album combines the two styles in quite this way, the tone for the album is set. A rollercoaster of crushing brutality interspersed with quieter moments of reflection.
“Forgiveness Is Weakness” could fit perfectly on any Whitechapel release, and is an intense assault of brutality that will reassure older fans that Whitechapel still know how to break skulls. The hatred and pain expressed in this track bleed into the next, “Brimstone”; a grooving, stomping beast, fantasizing about inflicting pain on those who cause you torment. Nearly halfway into this 10-song album, the tone takes a turn.
“Hickory Creek” (video below), one of the album’s singles, drops the growls for nearly five minutes of almost entirely clean vocals. Whilst the guitars have lost their complexity and aggression, and the growls have disappeared, the real ‘heaviness’ of the album is exposed: the lyrics. This song encapsulates the struggles of letting go and moving forwards, and features a gorgeous blues-infused guitar solo. Critics will dismiss this song as a more commercial approach to ballads, and the song has been likened to ‘mainstream’ metal artists Five Finger Death Punch, Demon Hunter and Stone Sour, yet I urge listeners to stop telling themselves what heavy should sound like. This song is as heavy as anything on the album; listen to the words. The respite does not last, as the next three crushing tracks, “Black Bear”, “We Are One” and “The Other Side”, will leave you breathless. Pure, crunching power. Bozeman is still angry, and this time it’s personal.
“Third Depth” is where Whitechapel’s growth really shows, as the song seamlessly combines growls and clean vocals. The album closes with two more classically Whitechapel songs, “Lovelace” and “Doom Woods”. The melodic outro of “Doom Woods” encapsulates the narrative of this album. A juxtaposition of aggression and sorrow.
The Valley is by no means perfect, but shows just how Whitechapel are growing as a group, leaving the restrictions of genre behind and creating the most exciting music of their career so far.