Whitechapel
The Valley

For a while, Whitechapel were the true darlings of deathcore’s peak, with 2008s This Is Exile being the genre’s arguable apex along  with All Shall Perish‘s The Price of Existence. However, since then, the band hasn’t quite been on the same level; a ‘dumbing down’ of the lyrics, a simplification of the music into a more groove based sound and even some clean vocals that culminated in 2016s Mark of the Blade, an album so bland, I didn’t even review it, and many fans felt the same.

Well, here we are 2 years later and vocalist Phil Bozeman has reached back into his rather troubled past to come up with The Valley, a conceptual piece based on Bozeman’s childhood growing up in Hardin Valley, Tennessee. And the 11 cathartic tracks of drug abuse, neglect and death has culminated in an album that’s sees Whitechapel deliver the most introspective album of their career that manages to meld the divisive elements of the past few album into a far more developed, mature and in depth album that isn’t really deathcore anymore, but just a damn good extreme metal album.

Opener “When A Demon Defiles a Witch”, sets the tone right off the get go with acoustics, a ferocious blast beat and a clean vocal break all in the first few minutes, letting you know that this album won’t sate hardcore breakdown only loving fans, but is delivering something far more personal. What helps is that due to the subject matter, Bozeman’s clean vocals, which never seemed in place before, fit here as you can feel hes really pulling from somewhere deep. That said, he still has some of the most impressive deep, inhaled bellow in the genre when he does let loose.

The split between introspective varied tracks and more pure deathcore lope and blast is pretty well managed as the more balanced tracks clash with more direct, burly thunderous numbers like “Forgiveness Is Weakness”, deadly, lurching”Brimstone”, “Black Bear” and “We Are One”, which contains a nice breakdown that imbues “This is Exile” and “Lovelace” However, tracks like the opener, “Third Depth” (where Bozeman really shines with some Maynard ish clean vocals), outstanding emotional ballad “Hickory Creek” (kudos to the actress that plays Bozeman’s  tortured mother in both above videos, she’s brilliant) and the final number, almost 6 minute closer “Doom Woods”. The latter of which is, as the title hints at, is a brooding doomy number that ends the tale with emotional and musical heft.

Its sucks that Bozeman had to dig into his past to reignite Whitechapel, and relive some traumatic times, but it has resulted in Whitechapel’s best album in years, and primarily, if this cathartic release can allow others that have gone through or are going through the same shit, to battle through and overcome or come to terms with it, then the larger impact of The Valley is immeasurable.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by E. Thomas
May 6th, 2019

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