Bands rarely write their best album seven albums in, but Whitechapel have made a point to be different. By not repeating themselves, the Tennessee deathcore act continually offer up surprises with each new release; of course, not all surprises are created equal. That said, The Valley really does feel like a new era (of corruption?) for the band, one that finds them spreading their wings to the fullest while embracing the past and future to wonderful results. Sure, the group were on the forefront of the deathcore movement early on – This Is Exile is one of the best albums of that style – but each album after offered a different and expanded take on what came before – with djent and nu-metal being the most notable stylistic flourishes. The Valley leans most heavily on the notion that a completed song is the best course of action for a band to take – as no matter the shape-shifting formula an individual tune takes, the group’s fifth record contains Whitechapel’s best and most cohesive songs to date.
Maybe that’s why The Valley feels so successful – it doesn’t forget what worked for Whitechapel in the past, but it doesn’t feel beholden to the past. Songs like “Lovelace” and “Forgiveness is Weakness” are some of the band’s heaviest tunes to date, but there’s an added nuance that elevates them beyond simple knuckle-dragging affairs. Meanwhile, the band’s Meshuggah-influenced era is represented in a lovely one-two punch – “We Are One” and “The Other Side” are truly excellent pit-starters. Even the band’s lesser-appreciated era is well-represented. “Brimstone” and “Black Bear” recall the more simplistic nu-metal/deathcore combo; yet, these songs succeed on their innate care and complexity. Sure, they are efficient bangers at heart, but there’s more than enough to keep listeners engaged amongst the brutality.
I’ve got this far and not mentioned the impressive range vocalist Phil Bozeman employs here. His singing is wonderful on the record – to the point that the Maynard James Keenan feature doesn’t sound remarkably different from Bozeman’s airy vocals. The Valley is a record that showcases the wide range Whitechapel is capable of – atmospheric metal plays nicely with groove-based deathcore, and it’s Bozeman’s vocals that help keep the whole thing in a cohesive state. The whole band works magic on this record, but it’s incredible how engaging and catchy it is. Whitechapel’s comfort with exploring the outskirts of their limits results in a truly wonderful record.