Every few years, an album drops in every genre that is a full on game changer. One that the effects and influence is felt indefinitely. Sometimes it isn’t always the most successful record by that particular band or artist, but often it is. It’s usually one that droughts in newcomers and crosses boundaries. Not only does it have a musical influence, but a cultural one too. It is where all the stars align and at that time, it feels just like what is needed right then. There are huge records released all the time and they can catapult a band into a bigger arena, but few have that lightning in a bottle aura around them that is bigger than just the music. Still not sure what I mean? Ok, let’s keep it metal and discuss a few that have done what I have described. Behemoth’s The Satanist, Machine Head’s The Blackening, and Leviathan from Mastodon all stand as three I can think of in the last 15 years.
Let us welcome a newcomer to this prestigious club; Whitechapel and their seventh record, The Valley. I am someone who always had a real resistance to liking anything that fell under the “Deathcore” label. Most of it in the scene’s infancy was unbelievably shit. Even a lot of the fans from beginning will now admit without any coaxing that it was pretty terrible. For these reasons, it is best you do your own research and reading. Whitechapel, in fairness, never really were guilty of most of the sins whilst always still being proud of the scene that they helped build. Perhaps the reason why is because they innovated, and never replicated.
There are already a dozen interviews out in the ether that explain the inspiration for this record’s lyrical content: his mother, a schizophrenic, drug addict, and alcoholic who passed at only 45 years of age, and an abusive step-father who, the vocalist said, enabled his mother’s problems. Phil Bozeman has done an incredible job, and that it is hard to believe that the music was written before the words because it all works so well together. There is darkness, misery, despair, anger, regret, and pain.
I don’t want to single out any particular moment of this incredible body of work, but it has to be said that the use of clean vocals in three of the ten tracks are a welcome addition to the band’s sound. It is something that had only briefly appeared on one track of the previous album, Mark of the Blade. Bozeman’s clean vocals are more than a match for his devastating highs and guttural lows. He is one of the best in Metal today for versatility and talent. ‘Hickory Creek’ is a prime example.
The Valley is finally the record where Whitechapel do what Parkway Drive have managed to do in the last few years, which is to become known as simply “a Metal band”, without any unnaturally sounding left turns. Make no mistake, Whitechapel are still really fucking heavy and now have managed to make the mood as brutal as the music. The Valley is ten tracks and 40 minutes of the most engaging, arresting, unnerving, emotive, and passionate music you will spend time on this year. I guarantee that. So make a drink, get the headphones on, and spend some time in The Valley.