Album Review: Whitechapel Reach the Peak of the Mountain with The Valley
Another year, another Whitechapel album where they spell my name wrong in the credits. Oh well.
Whitechapel’s last two albums, Our Endless War and Mark of the Blade, were a little divisive amongst fans because the band’s sound shifted from deathcore to something more groove-oriented that utilized (gasp!) clean vocals to boot. The bad news about the band’s seventh full-length, The Valley, is that fans holding their breath for another This is Exile are going to pass out. The good news is that for those of us not stuck in 2008, Whitechapel have totally nailed it this go-round, perfecting the style with which they have been experimenting with and tweaking for the past five years.
The Valley is not the slow groove-fest some fans may fear it to be, with plenty of speed and vitriol to go around. Album opener “When a Demon Defiles a Witch” wastes no time hammering your brains out of your ears with blast beats and breakneck aggression, “Brimstone” has an absolutely nasty opening guttural succeeded by the kind of chugs that would make a frat house proud, and “Forgiveness is Weakness” and “Lovelace” find the band utilizing more tremolo picking than they ever have in the past, to expert effect.
But once again, it’s frontman Phil Bozeman who steals the show. For one thing, The Valley features what is, bar none, the frontman’s finest performance to date. He makes use of gutturals, distressed/melodic screaming, clean singing, and of course, the trademark lows for which he is known. But the biggest surprise is that he has also worked in plenty of his This is Exile-style high screams again after letting them take a backseat on the last few outings.
For another thing, The Valley focuses on the traumas of Bozeman’s youth in Hardin Valley, TN (the words “Based on true events” adorn the top of the album artwork), and you can definitely feel the weight of authenticity in the vocalist’s performance and lyrics (he goes more in-depth about his upbringing in a recent series of YouTube videos, which I highly recommend you watch before listening to The Valley). This is especially apparent on tracks like “Hickory Creek.” Consisting almost entirely of — yup! — clean vocals, “Hickory Creek” escapes the “LOOK WE’RE A HEAVY BAND THAT WROTE A SOFT SONG!” gimmick precisely because Bozeman is drawing from first-hand experience. It’s probably the riskiest song Whitechapel have written to date, and it’s one of The Valley‘s highlights.
The final word? The Valley is going to knock your fucking socks off. Throw all of your expectations for a Whitechapel album out the proverbial window; The Valley is on a completely different level. Be excited. Be very, very excited.
Whitechapel’s The Valley drops March 29, via Metal Blade. You can listen to “When a Demon Defiles A Witch” here and pre-order the album here. Listen to our podcast interview with Whitechapel guitarist Zach Householder here.