Following on from Our Endless War and Mark of the Blade, Whitechapel are back with another thundering album of deathcore, modern metal, and pit-rousing brutal anthems. So how have they got on this time?
Very, very well, it seems.
Whitechapel appear to be coming into their own more than ever with The Valley. At first glance the album doesn’t seem too much of a departure from previous releases, but then you start to notice a few different things; the greater emotional range of the songs; focused, tighter songwriting; more nuanced performances; and much expanded vocals. Even ‘standard’ Whitechapel bruisers like Brimstone seem somehow more heightened in their delivery.
The band’s vocalist’s performance is probably one of the biggest changes on display here, at least on occasion. His performance now not only features wider clean vocals, (Hickory Creek is almost entirely clean sung), but has a depth of delivery and emotive edge to it that was missing on previous work. It’s clear this is a very personal album for him, and also for the rest of the band. This comes across strongly. Of course, apart from all of this, his roaring growls are still used to great effect, as you would want.
The record still has a base of deathcore/metalcore, but these new songs explore different, newer pastures too, with increased levels of emotion and feeling on display. This makes for songs that, in general, have a much more diverse toolbox to use across the songs. Album opener When a Demon Defiles a Witch is a great example of the new Whitechapel – over five minutes the band take in everything from blasting death metal to soft, progressive-edged Tool-esque introspection.
Other songs have a variety of positives to recommend them. We are One finds Whitechapel sounding more mechanistically brutal than they have done in some time. Third Depth sounds like a curiously effective mix of Stone Sour, Opeth, and Thy Art Is Murder. Lovelace is a standard Whitechapel mid-paced brawler that throws a bit of a Gojira influence into the mix in places, and sounds all the better for it. One of my favourite tracks here is the album closer Doom Woods, which is a slow, atmospheric builder, with emotive heaviness, deep charismatic growls, and engaging melody.
Simplistically, you can get an idea of what this sounds like by imagining the 2019 incarnation of Whitechapel as classic Whitechapel mixed with elements of the aforementioned bands, (as well as some other influences). I feel this description does the band a disservice, however, as The Valley is not only much better than this may imply, but also much more coherent. It sounds like a natural progression for the band too, as the core elements of their style have remained untouched; they’ve now simply been enhanced with additional elements.
Overall The Valley is a very thorough and comprehensive metal album. The band’s wider sonic palette is well-delivered and has resulted in a very strong collection of songs. Not only does The Valley feel like a well-rounded journey, but the easily-digested duration, (a concise 41 minutes), encourages repeat spins quite effortlessly.
Essential listening for anyone that likes a taste of modern heavy music.