REVIEW: WHITECHAPEL – “The Valley”
‘The Valley’ marks Whitechapel’s return to an ever-changing metal scene that is heavily invested in the dynamics of production and composition. So what can we expect from a band that was almost a household name in the scene? A lot actually. The new album is a sort of in-between heavier trends in contemporary metal and slower ambient sections that have gained substantial prominence in metal. Of course, one can’t expect anything overly brutal or guttural despite the screams, chuggy riffs and blast beats. So, what we have on our hands is an exceptionally fine album for easy listening metal.
“When A Demon Defiles A Witch” opens the album on a hard-hitting mood but it would be a mistake made too quick if you were to expect the same mood throughout the album right away. I have to admit, this song did set pretty high expectations. Okay, so we’ve started off pretty well and I am stoked for rest of the album. “Forgiveness Is Weakness” is a song as hardcore and edgy as the title is. Its time to up the horns for we have some tasty riffs, loud screams, deep bass and heavy drums. The subtle lead sections add a myriad of colours to the heavy music and I like this motif so far in the album. “Brimstone” gets things heavier and going. The intro screams would be an epic display in a live setting. One thing obvious about the album so far is that it sets high expectations for a massive live sound for the band. Even if you didn’t particularly part of this album so far, you could be sure that the songs off the record performed live would be fantastic.
“Hickory Creek” caught me a little off guard. What happened to all the heavy and hardcore vibes so far? Enter a mix of clean music, a little noise and a ton of groove. The clean singing on this song is easily the finest on the album. While the instrumental sections are fine in itself, the singing takes the cake on this one. It fits so well and good. Things come back to get a little heavier with “Black Bear”. Good tier groovy metal with poise and elegance. It’s a great song to jump and headbang to. Like I mentioned earlier, songs off this album would make for an insane live show. This song is really about capturing some of that live energy. The album is back with its fast pacing with “We Are One”. It’s a good way to get the album’s mood on a fast track again. The instrumental sections manage to squeeze in some groovy sections in between the fast sections before transitioning into a screeching solo and some blasts- a cliche but who cares when it fits well? It is so satisfying when musical cliches in metal fit so well. “The Other Side” is alright. By itself, it’s a fine song but in the album’s context and feel so far, it is a slight miss. But that just might be me.
“Third Depth” is a return to a slower and mellow feel to the album. This song really is a quick but insufficient brief of the whole album. The groove sections and the mild heavy sections are catchy but it really misses the oomph factor that the album had so far. “Lovelace” too follows suit in regard to the album’s mood at this point. This song has some interesting elements that keep the song a little distinct from most of the album. Hats off to the fun drum work on this song and the album so far! “Doom Woods” marks the close of the album with more groove and some typical hardcore build ups in the music that adds an air of suspense that works well to end an album. The unexpected breaks in this song redeem the album from a few marginally tedious sections that haunted the record previously. This song progresses well and ends the album on a good note and feeling.
‘The Valley’ is a well made easy listening metal record. It is stereotypically metal and has nothing to do with the frills of experimental writing or fusion work. Its hard hitting and makes for quite a banger! The quality of production of the album is wonderful. The album sounds big and details in the sounds and finer sections of the music are not lost to the distortion, blasts, screams or fast sections. Its a very well balanced production. The album does, however, have a few misses here and there. As the album progresses well after a good start, some songs seem a little out of place as the record plays itself out. It isn’t a crazy idea to make extreme transitions in an album from really heavy songs to having warm and mellow songs and bands to pull it off with mastery. The case here being is a feeling of something missing in these transitions that could have potentially weaved the record together flawlessly. These songs otherwise work well without an album context. It’s wonderful to know that Whitechapel are back and are keeping up with some of the newer trends in metal while maintaining some of their own artistic repertoires.