Change is something that is never easy in life. Nor is bearing one’s heart about the past. Yet veteran metal outfit Whitechapel and its front man Phil Bozeman have done both of those things on the group’s latest album, The Valley. Released March 29 through Metal Blade Records, the 10-song, 40 minute album’s musical arrangements show great change and growth from the band in terms of its sound. The often painful recollections of Bozeman’s past, voiced in the song’s lyrical content, couples with those powerful arrangements to make The Valley a strong new offering from the Tennessee-based band. The album’s latest single ‘Hickory Creek’ is just one of the songs that serves to support the noted statements. ‘Doom Woods,’ the closer on the album’s standard edition release, is another example of the growth and power in this new album. It will be discussed a little later. ‘Black Bear,’ which comes just past the record’s midway point, is one more example of the growth and power that is evident in the album’s presentation. It will also be discussed later. When it is considered along with the other songs noted here and the seven other songs not directly noted here, the album in whole proves to be some of Whitechapel’s best work to date if not its best work to date.
Whitechapel’s seventh full-length studio recording The Valley is some of the veteran Tennessee-based deathcore band’s best work to date if not its best work to date. That is because of the growth exhibited in the album’s musical arrangements and the power in its lyrical content. The album’s latest single ‘Hickory Creek’ is just one of the songs featured in the album that serves to support the noted statements. The song’s arrangement is perhaps the album’s single best example of that noted musical growth. The melancholy vibe created by the guitars, Bozeman’s vocal delivery, the bass and drums echoes influences of Tool and Slipknot. As the song reaches its peak and Bozeman presents his brief scream moment, that sound couples with the guitars for a sound that lends itself to comparisons to Dry Kill Logic. That joining of so many other elements was a clear risk for the band, and a risk that paid off. It makes this song one of the album’s strongest compositions. As impressive as the song’s arrangement is, it is just one part of what makes the song stand out. The song’s lyrical content strengthens the foundation formed by the arrangement.
As has been noted previously by others, ‘Hickory Creek’ allegedly has a link to Bozeman’s relationship with his mother. What is interesting is that it is difficult to know if this song is delivered from the vantage point of Bozeman as a kid, an adult looking back on himself as a kid or from that of his mother. That actually makes the song’s lyrical side that much more interesting. Bozeman sings in the song’s lead verse, “It’s so hard to let go/You can hear me but I’m invisible/But if you dig out your eyes/Maybe pain will subside/the worst that could happen is you never see me again/But the worst is yet to come, my friend.” This is a painful statement. On the one hand, one could imagine this is Bozeman’s mother, but at the same time, it could be a young Phil talking to his adult self as adult Phil looks back on his past. That would seem to be the more likely scenario. It is made even more likely as he sings in the song’s chorus, “This path I walk is comforting/But now I’m left to sing this song alone/I’m fading faster now.” He sings in the song’s second verse, “I left so long ago/You never noticed I was gone/Now that you don’t have eyes/Maybe now you’ll realize/Within your own head/You’re creating these lies/For what it’s worth/You’re still beautiful/but beauty lies within the eyes.” Here in this second verse, is someone who seems to be looking back on the past, again, and talking to that someone from the past, wishing some kind of connection could have been made so many years ago. It is such a painfully powerful story, and when it is joined with the song’s musical arrangement, becomes that much more powerful. The two elements combine to show clearly why this song stands out as one of The Valley’s strongest entries, and by connection, as just one example of why The Valley is among Whitechapel’s best work yet. It is just one of the album’s most notable entries. ‘Doom Woods’ shows just as much as ‘Hickory Creek’ why The Valley is such a notable new offering from Whitechapel.
‘Doom Woods’ stands out, as with ‘Hickory Creek,’ in part because of its musical arrangement. Unlike so many of the songs featured in this album and the band’s past records, this song is not one of those all-too-familiar blast beat deathcore works. Rather, it is more of a melodic death metal composition. Yet even taking a more melodic sound this time out, there is still a certain heaviness that draws listeners in with ease. In other words, it is a truly accessible composition despite (and because) it isn’t just another hyper speed deathcore work. It maintains the heaviness of the band’s past and current sound, but in a different fashion, making it that much more notable. While the song’s arrangement is clearly an important part of its whole, it is just one part of what makes the song stand out. The song’s lyrical content serves to make it stand out, too.
Once again, the song’s lyrical content seems to focus on Bozeman’s childhood, but in a different fashion. This time, the song seems to focus on the emotional trauma that Bozeman endured in yet another, but seemingly just as painful experience. He sings in the song’s chorus, “They say don’t walk to the darker side/But where the light shines, the devil is alive/I’ve seen hell through a child’s eyes/And I know in time, the devil I will find/The devil I will find.” This is a rather clear-cut statement. This is Bozeman seemingly looking back, explaining that he has been through…well…hell, adding that thing that so many people call “the light” or the good side, is actually where evil resides. He goes on to sing in the song’s second verse, “In time I will escape/But in this place, my soul remains encased/The leaves have swallowed the sun/My heart has reached absolute zero/I have no one left/Even my shadow has died on me/She’s gone and I want to disappear, disappear.” That “she” is likely Bozeman’s mother, on whom he focuses quite a bit in this album. There is even a mention in the song’s third verse, of a young Bozeman being taken “from his mother’s hands,” with the song’s subject telling Bozeman’s mother, “Don’t you cry for him now…turn this young boy to a man/Now his destiny’s found.” It is another of the record’s most powerful stories that invokes so much emotion. That is just as much the case when these hard-hitting lyrics are joined with the song’s musical arrangement. The two elements together make ‘Doom Woods’ stand out in its own right in the best way possible. It also is not the last of the album’s most notable entries. “Black Bear’ is one more of the works that shows the growth and depth of the band’s overall content in this album.
Whereas ‘Doom Woods’ and ‘Hickory Creek’ are so powerful because of the subtleties in their arrangements, ‘Black Bear’ stands out because it is not so subtle. Rather, this song is a rather intense work. It starts off some meditative (for lack of better wording) but wastes little time in picking up and launching into a full-on grind/deathcore hybrid arrangement. The heavy, crunching down-tuned guitars and bass couple with Bozeman’s trademark guttural cookie monster growl to create a sound that will impress even the most hardcore metal head. That is because it hits listeners like that proverbial ton of bricks and refuses to let up right to the song’s end. That arrangement is familiar stylistically, but also shows its own certain amount of growth from the band. To that end, it is yet another example of the growth from the band this time out. It is just one of the song’s most important elements. Its lyrical content adds even more strength to its presentation.
Bozeman noted in a recent interview that while not entirely biographical, this song’s lyrical content is loosely based on the impact of his stepfather on his mother. He does not come right out and say what happened, but allegedly, the impact was notably negative. That impact is voiced powerfully through Bozeman’s lyrics here, as he sings, “He has come for the blood of my only son/I can sense his heartbeat slowly fade/The sound of my voice is his way to me/I buried my tongue with my family’s bones.” He goes on to sing in the song’s second verse, “Sleep my son/Feel my embrace/Please don’t forget my love/As the bullet goes through his brain/I wake up to live it again and again/As I lay me down to sleep/I pray the Lord to put me six feet deep.” This comes across as a woman who is going through so much emotional pain. It comes across as inferring this is someone who did something heinous, but out of love for her own child, and the guilt of what she had done made her wish for her own death. Again, Bozeman stressed the story here is only loosely based on the situation with his mother and stepfather. Even with that in mind, the song still invokes so much emotion in yet another way. The power of that emotion is something that will stick with listeners just as much as the emotion expressed in the other songs noted here and throughout the rest of the album. When it is considered along with the mix of anger and sadness expressed in the song’s musical arrangement, it makes the song in whole that much more powerful and obvious as one of the album’s most notable entries. When that whole is considered along with the other songs noted here and the rest of the album’s works, the whole displays The Valley as Whitechapel at or near its peak.
Whitechapel’s seventh full-length studio recording The Valley is one of the band’s best works to date if not its best work yet. That is because of the obvious time and thought put into the creation of each song, both musically and lyrically. From start to finish, there is not one bad moment. The emotion invoked by the album’s musical arrangements shows a wonderful coordination between both elements in each song. That is just as evident in the songs noted here as in those note directly addressed. Simply put, that time and thought exhibited in each work makes every song its own high point. The end result is a record that puts Whitechapel at its peak if not very close to its peak. The Valley is available now. More information on the album is available online now along with all of the band’s latest news, tour dates and more at:
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