Album Review: Whitechapel – Live in the Valley

Album Review: Whitechapel - Live in the Valley
Reviewed by Dan Barnes

Returning to their Knoxville, Tennessee, home for a now annual Christmas Benefit show, Deathcore royalty, Whitechapel, decided the time was right for the event to the captured for posterity. So, for its seventh iteration, on 22 December 2022, the tape recorders were moved into The Mill & Mine venue and the band did their thing.

Coming at the end of the touring cycle for Kin and acting as something of a firebreak while the band prepared for album number nine, the setlist for this special show concentrates on the past two records – encores notwithstanding.

The record beings with the chanting of the band’s name before dropping into When a Demon Defiles a Witch, the first of the first half of the set’s visit to The Valley album from 2019. Blending raw aggression with the gentle, goes to show that Whitechapel are comfortable firing all the arrows in their creative quiver.

Forgiveness is Weak demands a circle pit to form, even if you’re listening to this on your own. Brimstone is slower but no less monstrous for its lower tempo; Hickory Creek, about a road in the vicinity and known to the bulk of the crowd, shows a more vulnerable side to the band. Black Bear and Doom Woods are meat and drink to a band like Whitechapel and their renditions on this night are spot on.

Making a small jump forward to 2021 and the Kin record, the band start the second half of the set with the country-flavoured introduction of I Will Find You, before surrendering to those whirlwind guitars and huge blasts. The Kin part of the show somehow feels looser than The Valley songs, more jammed out and less structured. A Bloodsoaked Symphony and Anticure are both more measured than some of the band’s more well-known songs but are all the better for the introduction of other elements; there’s even a Deftones vibe going on somewhere, particularly on Anticure, though I’ll possible cop some flak for that comment.

Album Review: Whitechapel - Live in the Valley

As if to acknowledge this, vocalist Phil Bozeman introduces Lost Boy as “a fast one” and calls for a circle pit. In comparison, it rips and snorts like a rampaging bull, with the set-proper winding down as a pained Orphan brings the Kin section to a close.

This is a band who’ve been doing this for a long-time and that the five members of Whitechapel have been together for the past seventeen years is evident in the tightness of the music. Even as far back as Our Endless War – a decade old this year – it was obvious they had outgrown their Deathcore origins and were looking to incorporate other facets to their sound. In much the same way that Parkway Drive shed their Metalcore skin, then Whitechapel have been moving away from their Deathcore past.

You don’t think they were going to leave without playing some of their classics, did you? It was Christmas and all, so no Grinch behaviour was to be tolerated, and This Is Exile is blasted “for my old school guys”. From the minimum safe distance of about four-thousand miles and thirteen months in the past, there is still the possibility of injury from the sheer intensity and unregulated breakdowns of this one. It’s almost as though you can smell the condensation pouring down the walls like ectoplasmic ooze.

The one encore of The Saw is the Law pushed everything up to eleven, with Phil calling for absolute obedience from the audience. Punching drums and punishingly springy bass lays the platform for guitarists Ben and Alex to let loose a little of that sonic insanity.

Live in The Valley is one of those live records that make you feel as though you’re in amongst it, helped by the joyous performance by one of the genre’s premier bands. Hopefully the new record will be out by the summer and their appointment with the Catton Park faithful in August; regardless, Whitechapel will carry the energy of this show with them onto the Ronnie James Dio stage and have Malevolence and Architects pondering how to follow them.

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