Since their inception in 2007, Whitechapel have embraced darkness unlike many other bands have been able to do, and their forthcoming seventh studio release, The Valley, is no different. Let’s set the record straight for a second, though. There aren’t many, “happy,” things about their music to start with, but when you start to dig deeper than the music and the lyrics, and begin to strike a personal connection with the stories they tell, you begin to feel like you’re one with the grim tales that they narrate in their music. For frontman Phil Bozeman, this is as personal of an album as ever, giving you an inside look at events that he went through as a child growing up in Knoxville, Tennessee, with a new perspective on life and how his childhood traumas have molded him into the human being he is now. From his putrid relationship with his step father, to diving deep into analyzing his mother’s multiple personality syndromes, it is nothing short of a lyrical masterpiece that exceeds any and all expectations from a modern Deathcore band in today’s music scene. The Valley, based on true events by Whitechapel, is an overwhelming, emotional, and cut-throat look into the darkest side of a person’s mind.
The album begins with the opening track, When A Demon Defiles A Witch, a song that Bozeman wrote about his mother’s personal demon. A gruesome tale that properly sets the mood for the unrelenting and over the top musical onslaught that you will face when listening to this album. To make things perfectly clear, this song has nothing to do with his stepfather, but it is about a demon by the name of, “Mycar,” that used to haunt her in their home. Bozeman’s mother had journals that she kept writings in of all the things that she experienced with this being, and these journals actually contained lines and phrases that Bozeman would use as lyrics for the track in certain places, (“Burn the bed, burn everything, it’s a lie anyway.”) the original writings of the journal concur that she referred to herself as a witch, and talk about how the demon would sexually assault her in her bed.
The album moves on with songs such as Hickory Creek, which is actually the first ever Whitechapel song to feature exclusively clean vocals. This track in particular actually came out to be my favorite track off the record, not because of the sound of the song itself, but because of the AFFECT that this song has both literally and metaphorically. The main thing I took away from this song in particular is how seemingly effortless it was for this band to make a track so different, yet still powerful. Guitarist Alex Wade notes that even though this track is dark and heavy unlike the other one, Phil’s singing still never felt forced or unnatural during the recordings. The ominous guitar work of the intro lays down the theme for this particular story, accompanied by the ever so gentle yet prevalent vocal performance on top of the music. The chorus perfectly flows hand in hand with the rest of the music, taking the exceptional clean vocal work and pushing it over the top to deliver an emotional and convincing presence for your ears to enjoy. You might just shed a tear during that pre-chorus as well. “For what it’s worth, you’re still beautiful.”
The Valley, the title of the album, actually directly corresponds to Hardin Valley, west of Knoxville, Tennessee where Bozeman grew up. It sets a perfectly direct backdrop for the vocalist to have a clear approach to know directly what he wants to speak about on this record, and show that no matter what hardships he has faced, he’s not afraid to confront them with open eyes and make peace with everything through the power of music. The MUSIC of this record itself, is something that we could write an entirely different article on if we really wanted to. The deep and diverse listening experience is unlike anything that they have released before. Guitarist Alex Wade admits directly that due to internal issues during the Mark of The Blade sessions, that their previous album wasn’t their proudest work, but everything took a complete 180 in the duration of this record’s creation. As for Bozeman and Wade, along with bandmates Zach Householder, Gabe Crisp, and Ben Savage, everyone was clearly in a better place mentally for the writing and recording of this album. As I stated before, no band has embraced change and evolution quite like these dudes have. I’d also like to point out how the drums are sounding bigger and better than ever, with duties this time around being handled by Navene Koperweis, formerly Animals As Leaders and The Faceless, and currently playing for Entheos. It’s the perfect blend of speed/technicality but also the GROOVE that Whitechapel have always had in their music, and the chemistry is very much there across all of the tracks on the album. This album is their most cohesive and whole-sounding record to date, and there’s no shortage of animosity and aggression throughout the whole thing. Every album they drop is a huge stepping stone in the right direction for their music, and there’s no doubt this band will continue to shock the world. If you haven’t listened to Whitechapel, start now, because this is a group that will pave the way for many artists to come in the next ten years, just like the previous ten of their career.
The Valley, based on true events by Whitechapel, is set to release on March 29th under Metal Blade Records. Do yourself a favor and have a listen.