Review: “The Valley” by Whitechapel

Knoxville Tennessee’s Whitechapel, a Deathcore band held in high regard have returned with their seventh studio album and something of a style shift. They’ve fused some more traditional Metal elements to their previously skull crushing sound. The “Based on true events” label is a reference to the stories told in the lyrics being about Phil Bozeman’s upbringing in Hardin Valley Tennessee. An abusive stepfather and a mother with a split personality disorder who overdosed before she passed away is the core source of the material, lyrically based upon his mothers journals. Strong stuff indeed. There is a layered element in the lyrics whereby the perspective switches between Phil Bozeman as an adult now, as a child then and between his mothers multiple personalities.

“When A Demon Defiles A Witch” wastes no time introducing a sense of haunting and eerie atmospheric with melody that has been hither to unheard of from Whitechapel. There is a sense of longing and pain in the clean vocals though they still produce the goods on the unclean side with Phil Bozeman showing some incredible range. It’s a brave choice as an opening song and sets the tone of a Stanley Kubrick film. “Forgiveness is Weakness” continues the heavier elements of the opening track with breakdowns a plenty joining a menacing unclean vocal that has plenty of spite and venom replacing that haunting clean overtone. There are some Lamb of God inspired riffs in the bridge which are a fine driver for the lyrics. “Brimstone” decimates the floor with a gutteral roar while Navene Koperweis of Animals as Leaders and Entheos fame who delivers a pummelling kit performance, loaded with footwork and powerhouse fills. A dark and punishing tale, if this album is indeed based on true events as the band claim then this is one of the heavier ones.

Taking the melodic elements from the albums opening song and fleshing them out into a full song “Hickory Creek” has a sense of Slipknot’s Corey Taylor in the melodic clean vocals that Phil Bozeman shows off. The guitar work blends some more traditional Metal riffage with some haunting acoustic work that is a departure from their core sound in a good way. There is no doubt that this one will gain the most bashing from the more purist elements of the bands fan base but it works really well. The album comes across as a film soundtrack in its stylings and for each moment of haunting melody there is a skull crushing riff. That comes in the form of “Black Bear”, a track that steps up from an atmospheric start into a far more traditional Deathcore sound. The guitars lay a thick groove that borders on DJent in places with swirling movements that are overlaid by a couple of lead parts which no long time Whitechapel fan is going to be unhappy with. Blast beats galore flow through the brutal “We Are One”, essentially a Black Metal tinged Deathcore punisher that features mor breakdowns than you can shake a stick at. Bozeman’s unrelenting unclean brutality vocally is broken for a moment of screaming before the chest beating of the title finishes things in style. There is a classy sludgy breakdown that really lifts things up.

“The Other Side” is a tale of surviving hell that features a face melting solo as the Deathcore onslaught makes way for some Norwegian Death Metal inspired riffage, a bit of At The Gates perhaps. “Third Depth” sees Phil Bozeman take on a clean vocal akin to Tool‘s Maynard James Keenan in places while mixing up the sound to create something with a daring introspection that bursts into those savage uncleans as the music crawls alongside. The title is a reference to the basement of the house where Bozeman grew up on, a place of escape and introspection. It’s a powerful and vulnerable track despite the powerhouse Death Metal core. The music has been so well crafted to fit the mood, it beggars belief. “Lovelace” is a real pummelling affair, again having a standout kit performance. There is a Randy Blythe-esq tone to some of the mid ranged unclean vocals with an echo effect used to great affect. It wouldn’t surprise if this cut had indeed come from Lamb of God, such is the quality of the production and musicianship. The closing song “Doom Woods” has some more Tool elements in it which give an epic quality while the guitars offer some dark atmospherics. The cohesion between the songs is held by the lyrics but also by the way the music has been crafted to create a singular album that fits together with impressive quality. It’s a masterpiece of modern Metal [8.5/10]

“The Valley” by Whitechapel is out now via Metal Blade.

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