Album Review / White Chapel - The Valley
BY BRANDON TURNER
The five piece metal band, Whitechapel, have released their seventh studio album with The Valley. Whitechapel continue making waves in their 10 years together.
In the beginning the band pioneered the “deathcore” genre with a handful of other bands. As their popularity grew so did the dynamics of the music. From ultra violent lyrics and fast paced instrumentals on their earlier records to a very personal concept record that is The Valley, a title that represents the region where the band was formed, Knoxville, TN. Of course as the band experimented with clean vocals and distortionless guitars certain dissension grows among certain fans. Whitechapel decided to double down on their creative freedoms, and why wouldn’t they, and have produced one of this year’s standout records.
The inspiration for The Valley came from lead vocalist Phil Bozeman’s childhood. So much so the album art includes “Based on True Events”. The record is a open door to the trauma he experienced and witnessed. Even the title of the opening track, “When a Demon defiles a Witch”, is pretty creepy knowing that there is a true story behind it. The roots of that story come from a journal by Bozeman’s mother. In this journal there were detailed encounters with a demon she was seeing in and around her home. So right out of the gate the subject matter is as heavy as the music. The album’s opener serves as the tone setter for the record. The album kicks off with signature Whitechapel, Bozeman’s 100 mile an hour guttural vocals with the rest of the band keeping the pace. The song is fragmented and stops on a dime and breaks down into a clean, melodic, and beautiful bridge where Bozeman shows off his clean vocals. There are some similarities between his voice and Maynard James Keenan from Tool but Bozeman’s voice is still his voice and doesn’t sound as if he is imitating anyone. The track fires back up with solos from the band’s trio of guitar players, Ben Savage, Zach Householder, and Alex Wade. We can’t forget the contributions of bassist Gabe Crisp, whose bass melodies are the undercurrent to the mood of the record. ‘Forgiveness is Weakness’ and ‘Brimstone’ are two strong tracks that come next, but the standout track of the album is ‘Hickory Creek’. It’s almost hard to believe this is Whitechapel but it’s also so refreshing. For this track the entire band takes a step back from being the heavy, scary, deathcore metal band and puts that energy into layered melodies and emotions. The chorus is capable of being stuck in your head all day. I imagine this should bring many new fans into the fold. As the band builds to the bridge of the song they bring back the heavy and dueling lead guitars. Hopefully there are more songs like ‘Hickory Creek’ in the future for Whitechapel.
The back half of the album is filled with plenty of thunderous riffs and striking rhythms. ‘Lovelace’ is another track that demands your attention. A very heavy track that reminds you what you love about Whitechapel.”The Other Side’ and ‘Third Depth’ are a couple of notable tracks on the back end. With 10 tracks this album is a pretty quick listen, you can find your favorites but it’s not a tedious listen from front to back. It’s also an album that grows on you with each listen, with a new layer to discover each time. Whitechapel have proven over their career that they aren’t made to fit into the deathcore mold. The Valley has some exceptional heavy hitters, but when the band adds more duality with more melodies and harmonies you get music that has a lot more significance and is more enjoyable to listen to.