TITLE: THE VALLEY
LABEL: METAL BLADE RECORDS
WORDS: JO COSGROVE
The metal genre thrives on the villainous undertones of the artists’ lives: secret shames and guilty consciences, and the lowest feelings a human being can possibly experience. These emotions are what fuel the art behind the sound, and can double as therapy for the person who put their innermost vulnerability into their music. Using this medium can aid in relieving their minds, or relieving others’ who is suffering in similar ways.
This is how Whitechapel vocalist Phil Bozeman handled his own struggles; he and the band put this into the creation of their latest record, ‘The Valley’.
The record’s opening track, the outstanding ‘When a Demon Defiles a Witch’, gives an accurate taste of what the band were about to feed their metal-head majority. The deathcore sound that brought Whitechapel to where they stand in the industry at this very moment stays as strong and as passionate as albums passed, yet switch up their structure to calm the tempo at moments, and Bozeman turns his unclean roars into soothing, melodic vocals. The listener gets a hint at this twist as the track begins calmly, softly, unusually quiet until the drums come in and the trio of guitars get to work.
“shaking up standards and expectations”
The greatest aural pleasure in this song is the side-by-side blend of Bozeman’s clean and unclean vocal styles, working in tune, adding to the evilly spiritual tone the album works to achieve aesthetically at least. From an artistic standpoint, ‘When a Demon Defiles a Witch’ is one of the more interesting and attention-grabbing tracks on the album – and it’s just the beginning of the listening journey.
The first song the band released from ‘The Valley’ is the powerful track ‘Brimstone’. The opening lyric is one that will catch the ear and the mind: “Sleep with one eye open.” The tune stays heavy throughout, unlike ‘When a Demon Defiles a Witch’; but they share a similarity when it comes to the bridge and there is a slight change. All growls and roars are distorted, manipulated, and there is an attempt to fit it in with not fitting in. The group wanted to keep to shaking up standards and expectations, and as much as this is looking to be a success with the record altogether, not every track should be pushed and pulled to make this statement. However, Whitechapel did manage to pull this off with one specific track.
The eye of the storm of ‘The Valley’ is the classic rock-influenced metal track ‘Hickory Creek’. A ballad – of sorts – between anthems, it is a track that may be ideal with easing a listener into this very style of music; as well as bringing Whitechapel to their attention. A perfect tune to show off the talented musicians that make it all possible; especially the three guitarists. Alex Wade, Ben Savage and Zach Householder are honing the harmony within the group with their skills throughout the album’s entirety, but ‘Hickory Creek’ demands the listener to pay attention and appreciate the unity of strings.
“Bozeman’s efforts and talents cannot be downplayed”
There should not always be a focus on the frontperson of a band, of course. It takes many minds to create effectively, most to all music fans know this well. However, Bozeman’s efforts and talents cannot be downplayed when discussing ‘The Valley’. The band confirmed that the album is “[the] release from his past” and this was his way to “get it out and speak about it”, so there’s no doubt there is a part of his heart, his soul and his mind captured within the notes and between the keys.
Overall, for those who are a fan of deathcore, there are give-and-take moments throughout the album in a playthrough; if it’s to their taste, there’s no worry about disliking the new content. For those who may not be a fan of such genres and might be put off by some elements included, there is appreciation in the thoughtful and therapeutic aspect of it. Perhaps for those who feels isolated and living through trauma, and they need a relatable voice in their mind. For metal fans and vulnerable minds, welcome to ‘The Valley’.