Whitechapel – The Valley
Metal Blade Records
Release Date: 29/03/2019
Running Time: 40:29
Review by ‘Dark Juan’
Greetings and salutations, my hordes of evil, nefariousness and downright mischief! I am Dark Juan, hopefully you have deflowered virgins of all faiths according to my word and you will all worship at my anointed feet because I have a massive and overweening sense of my own self-importance. In other news, there are no snacks in the house besides crisps and considering I work in the factory that makes them I’m sick of the fucking sight of potato based snacks and therefore I am consumed with righteous rage and furious anger because all I fucking want is cake. There is no cake in the house. WHAT MOTHERFUCKING KIND OF HOUSEHOLD DO I LIVE IN WHEN THERE IS NO AVAILABLE CAKE?
Pardon my outburst, please. It is probably because I am listening to one of the angriest records I think I have ever heard, being Whitechapel’s “The Valley”. This music is visceral, vein bulging fury of the kind that is seen shortly before it has launched itself teeth first at its hated enemy and buried said dentistry in the carotid artery and is busily masticating its way through flesh, tendon and muscle. To say this record is angry is to say that Lewis Hamilton can drive very, very fast and is also boring as fuck as an interviewee. However, Whitechapel are not boring as fuck. Far from it..!
“The Valley” is written from the perspective of vocalist Phil Bozeman looking back at his childhood and the struggles his mother suffered with mental health and other issues. This immediately gives the record a personal, intimate feeling, whereas some metal by its very nature is almost… aloof from the listener. Arch Enemy are a good case to cite to prove that theory – technically super competent, entertaining, but somehow cold and distant. Whitechapel are the wide eyed, staring, drooling madman screaming incoherently at you an inch away from your face, blasting you with spittle and bad breath. You cannot hide from Whitechapel and this album lays feelings and dreams skinned, bare and raw. It is NOT a comfortable listen for me because I suffer from certain difficulties with my mental health and there are certain parallels with my own childhood (hard to believe, I know, what with my jocularity and everything) and this record is the musical equivalent of setting a razor to my vein and slashing the fuck away. I’m literally looking into the soul of a damaged man who has decided to come out fighting everyone and everything forever. Phil’s voice is the sound of a man who has spent most of his life staring into an inky black abyss containing…. something. Something that has tested his sanity, and it’s hanging by a thread and he’s carrying a loaded shotgun. And he’s just caught you shagging his 17 year old daughter…
There are a couple of occasions where Phil sings in a clean style on the record – ‘Hickory Creek’ being the notable example of this. It lends the Whitechapel sound a valuable extra dimension beyond the sheer, uncompromising, crushing rage they normally display. Phil’s vulnerable, wounded side comes out and although not the most accomplished singer in the world, the pathos and raw emotion in his voice makes the whole song… complicated. You don’t want to say you like something that someone is clearly bleeding their soul out on, but I like it. You know what I mean. However, Phil normally employs a method of vocalisation that is akin to flicking the love spuds of a large predatory animal until it is enraged and staying there to be mortally savaged with tooth and claw. It is primal roaring of the highest order, and again, much like Nathanael Underwood of Damim’s vocals, entirely clean in diction rather than an incomprehensible hurricane approximation of words. I can hear what he’s singing about and this is a very good thing indeed.
So, as intimate as you can get then! No mean feat for a band whose sheer brutality normally means they stand apart from the mainstream, and from the affections of some metal fans. Every song on this record is excellent for different reasons. My brain is now liquid. It has been absolutely beaten to a pulp. There’s nothing like music with emotion and soul, and “The Valley” is the epitome of it.
The guitar work of Ben “Perfectly Named” Savage, Zach “Not Quite As Perfectly Named As Ben” Householder and Alex “My Name Is Not Relevant To This Joke” Wade is magnificent, downtuned, semi-djent ultraviolence of considerable class, and the drumming of Ben Harclerode the sound of a man determined to kill everyone in a four mile radius with the power of percussion. The bass is a solid rumble that shakes organs loose and causes internal bleeding. There’s some standout songs in what is an utterly magnificent record – the previously mentioned ‘Hickory Creek’, ‘Third Depth’ (almost Tool-esque in parts!) and the huge and rabid beast that is ‘Forgiveness Is Weakness’. This is one of the most dense listening experiences I have ever heard, running OHHMS’ last record a close second. Extraordinary. Truly a one of a kind album!
Yet again, another metal band proves the naysayers wrong. Metal has never been in such rude health as it is now, and the amount of superb records acquiring my attention has never been higher.
Brothers and Sisters of the One True Faith, buy this record. Buy it now. I command you.
The Patented Dark Juan Blood Splat Rating System awards “The Valley” by Whitechapel 9/10 for an emotional journey (for me personally, at least) that’s ended up covered in blood and viscera. An incredible record of power, depth, complexity and raw fucking emotion!
01. When A Demon Defiles A Witch
02. Forgiveness Is Weakness
04. Hickory Creek
05. Black Bear
06. We Are One
07. The Other Side
08. Third Depth
10. Doom Woods
11. Sea Of Trees
Phil Bozeman – Vocals
Ben Savage – Guitar
Zach Householder – Guitar
Alex Wade – Guitar
Ben Harclerode – Drums
Gabe Crisp – Bass
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