Whitechapel - The Valley - (8.5/10)
Published on July 15, 2019
Well, I guess nobody was seeing that coming. After two underwhelming and uninspired releases, Whitechapel pop out in 2019 with what is possibly their best work yet, proving wrong the ones who thought they were going to fade into the realms of generic songwriting like many other similar acts. These deathcore giants prove to be still at the top of their game, claiming back the crown of kings of a genre that has showed an interesting progression in the past few years.
“The Valley” is a concept album concerning vocalist Phil Bozeman’s tormented childhood, and it exhibits a new, more experimental side of the band, which is the natural progression of the sound they experimented with in “Mark of the Blade”, resulting in the Tennessee’s metalheads’ most deep and emotional offer ever. The band’s sound evolution was accompanied by an artistic maturation as well, and this is clearly evident when it comes both to the songwriting and the lyrical aspect of the CD, which are definitely the best these guys have ever penned.
With this release, Whitechapel were able to stay true to the roots of their sound, while also innovating it: indeed, while all the trademark elements of their earlier releases are still there (deep fry screams, tremolo picking, blast beats, breakdowns), the band made of variety its greatest strength, providing here and there interesting clean arpeggios that enhance the atmosphere of the record, and generally leaning towards a more groovy/atmospheric guitar and drum work. That is not to say fast bangers or heavy, chuggy tracks aren’t present, just think to album opener “When a Demon Defiles a Witch”, or to lead single “Brimstone”: simply, there’s more variety than ever before to be found, in tracks like the groovy “Black Bear”, the atmospheric “Doom Woods” or the melancholic “Hickory Creek”, the moving (and completely clean-sung!) album’s ballad.
And here we come to the second and probably most striking aspect of the album: the clean vocals. This is the first album where Phil Bozeman makes extensive use of clean singing, but fear not, as he delivers one of the best performances of his entire career. His cleans sound emotional, confident, and not whiny or cheesy even in the least, thus perfectly matching and complementing the mood of the songs where they’re used, and of the album as a whole. The story narrated throughout the fourty minutes of duration of the CD is definitely sad and involves Phil directly, and the fact that he decided to use means of expressivity new to his style only enhances the whole musical product and the cohesion to the concept behind it.
The only flaw I can think of is that some songs of the second half of the album (for example, “Lovelace”), while still being good songs, are not as spectacular as the material found in the first half, but that’s not a big lack if we consider the overall quality of the CD. Last but not at least, a brief mention goes to the excellent production, with the guitars being blessed by a thick guitar tone that absolutely pumps up the heaviest sections of the record, and a fantastic drumkit setup.
All in all, this is definitely the best offering by Whitechapel, probably even topping the already excellent “This Is Exile”. Highly recommended to old and new fans of the group alike, or to metalheads eager to appreciate a modern and fantastically conceived concept album, making up for one of the best and most interesting releases of 2019 so far.