Whitechapel – ‘The Valley’

By Dave Stewart

Whitechapel are a true force of nature within metal. They’re considered to have been one of the pioneers of deathcore when the genre was at it’s highest point. Phil Bozeman is widely regarded as one of the best metal vocalists to ever wrap his hands around a microphone. They have a relentless and punishing back catalogue, and their lack of desire to take their foot off the gas continues to attract fans to their signature brand of carnage.

The last few Whitechapel records have been stepping away from deathcore, leaning towards a more straight up metal sound, a slight shift in direction that has garnered critical acclaim across the board, with their last two records charting on the Billboard 200. Armed to the teeth with earth-shattering riffs and enormous walls of sound, their brand new offering ‘The Valley’ is sure to do the same; a dark, brooding and stunning display from one of the genres best.

This record treads the line between haunting and breathtaking, carefully combining both elements to create a collection of hard hitting metal. Opening track ‘When A Demon Defiles A Witch’ is a perfect example of this, marrying black metal undertones and demonic riffs with stripped back clean guitars and soft clean vocals with absolute precision. ‘Hickory Creek’ is a step in a new direction too, with Bozeman exclusively using his voice for singing rather than screaming. His deep and sultry tones melt over the music below them like butter, glistening along with every single giant chord and pounding drum. Even riff heavy belters like ‘Third Depth’ are crammed with diversity, chugging along at perfect head banging pace whilst jumping from calm to chaos, keeping you on your toes throughout.

There’s plenty of filth and devastating heaviness here too, which both new and old fans of the band will lap up. ‘Lovelace’ is heavy enough to be on Lucifer’s Spotify playlist, the main riff of which will cause your face to scrunch up in simultaneous disgust and approval. The sound that rises from Bozeman’s gut at the beginning of ‘Brimstone’ will send a chill down your spine, as will every thunderous snare hit and palm muted chord. ‘Forgiveness Is Weakness’ is like a bulldozer ploughing through the riffs at perfect circle pitting tempo, leaving nothing but destruction behind it.

When you reach the end of the record you’ll know you’ve just listened to a Whitechapel record, but it’ll feel different. You won’t just be taken aback by how heavy it was or how dark the imagery was, you’ll be stunned, possibly even moved. And that’s the true accomplishment here – Whitechapel have evolved into something far greater than they were before.

The heavy parts are everything you’d expect to hear from these guys, but the softer side of ‘The Valley’ is what truly makes it stand out. The Whitechapel of yesteryear is deeply woven into it’s fabric, but this by far their most musically diverse and mature record to date. It’s a concoction of all the best things about the metal, all delicately mixed together to create a powerful punch. This is undoubtedly a brutal and heavy record, with elements of pure evil seeping out of every pore. But this is more than just a heavy record – it’s a journey.

The balance between light and dark and the story telling on show throughout demands that it be listened to in full, beginning to end. ‘The Valley’ paints an incredibly detailed vivid landscape, and then violently drags you through it as you attempt to take it all in. An uncomfortable and unnerving journey it may be but, like all good stories, you’ll want to hear it again.

DAVE STEWART

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