This job of mine can be tedious and nerve wracking sometimes, but fuck oh fuck does it pay off with reviews like this one. It’s been an arguable but typically unanimous opinion that Knoxville, TN powerhouse Whitechapel stand staunchly at the top of the deathcore food chain (that’s my opinion, and I’ll fucking fight you for it). If you somehow disagree with this fight-worthy statement, then I dare you to sit through their upcoming masterpiece: Whitechapel – The Valley, a piece so utterly earth-shattering that by my scorecard it nearly attained a ranking only literal aliens who claim they’re from Sweden have scored. That’s right kids, Alex Jones might have been right about the aliens, they just go by the name Meshuggah, and THAT’S how fucking spectacular Whitechapel’s album is – alien level. (Insert Joe Rogan podcast appearance here.)
This is truly and honestly one of the most sinister and crushing pieces of art I’ve ever had the pleasure of listening to. Even as a long time Whitechapel fan, I’m bearing witness to a new level of maturity and psychological disembowelment found on this record on so many different levels. Both lyrically and atmospherically, this release was birthed in a much darker place than previous efforts. It carries the disclaimer “Based on true events” and delves into the experiences of singer Phil Bozeman as a child, including his front row interpretations of his mother’s mental instability, specifically citing lyrical inspiration from a journal she kept. If that doesn’t already paint a pretty picture for you, then allow opening track “When a Demon Defiles a Witch” to do the job. Singular reverberated clean notes swell into crushing punches that give birth to the classic brand of Whitechapel groove so fast it feels slow. Muscle forward through this one track to find that the act has mastered its efforts to diversify. Foreshadowing, indeed.
As a practice of habit, speaking of the recording quality and mastering efforts is a must for me, but as can be the case for acts of this caliber, there’s nothing to talk about here. This record delivers every bell and whistle one of this genre could dream of, and more. With the compositional evolution of adding ambient and ominous sections accompanied by gorgeous clean vocal components (albeit very akin to that of the famed Maynard James Keenan) as debuted in previous record Mark of the Blade, The Valley takes a shape that innately moves the soul in ways the band had yet to reach. Yet it still reminds you with the remaining sections that crushing your fucking soul, is at the top of the priority list.
It’s always a moment of controversy amongst fans and pundits alike when a band this level of heaviness takes the leap of faith known as clean singing. But without any question whatsoever (even if you want to falsely claim that he’s overly influenced by the Tool singer), the songs on this record and their quality speak volumes about the capabilities of this act, and subsequently, what similar bands in this very boxed-in genre can accomplish.
In layman’s terms, songs like “Hickory Creek” as the group’s first real atypical “ballad” lay waste to the idea that deathcore bands can only do one thing. Songs like “Black Bear” and “We Are One” remind diehards like myself that Whitechapel still stands at the top of the aforementioned food chain. All of this is said without even telling you that drumming virtuoso Navene Koperweis (formerly of Animals As Leaders) sits behind the kit from start to finish.
This record lives in a different universe from previous efforts and will undoubtedly hit the ground running upon its release March 29th. Just strap the fuck in and enjoy it as much as I have.
Written by Jason Greenberg
*edited by Kate Erickson