Pummeling, deafening and strangely inviting, ‘Live in the Valley’ from Whitechapel is a fantastic example of how extreme heavy music can sound just as good as a studio recording. Mixed and mastered by Whitechapel’s very own Zach Householder (guitar), this 13-track live album will definitely keep die-hard fans happy and, perhaps, provide a juicy starting dish for new coreheads.

A set made up mainly of tracks from albums 7 and 8 respectively – ‘The Valley’ (2019) and ‘Kin’ (2021) – this live album was recorded in the Deathcore group’s hometown of Knoxville, Tennessee.

I used to listen to Whitechapel a lot back in the day. Vans and skinny jeans, skating around the neighbourhood trying to avoid the local kiddas, records like ‘Somatic Defilement’ (2007) and ‘This Is Exile’ (2008) hold a special place in my heart. As do the early albums from Job For A Cowboy and Suicide Silence. Their incessant, violent and at times demonic sounds, whisked my gothic ass away to a world of saw blades and blood (funnily enough this wasn’t a million miles away from the vibe of Wavertree and Toxteth but still). Genres like Deathcore and Grindcore are clearly an acquired taste but helped ME through annoying years nonetheless.

I’m not so much a fan of the cleaner elements that have come into the newer stuff but Whitechapel still offer a heaviness I can enjoy. Track 1 “When a Demon Defiles a Witch” kicks us right off with a favourite from their 2019 effort. Sounds grotesque. I imagine being defiled isn’t a nice experience but at least the song slaps. The drums don’t miss a beat, the wave of sound washes over the ears and skull with a perfectly timed urgency. It’s not rushed, but it’s certainly keen to get the listener engaged from the start. Of course, the crowd were immediately on board, even before the first note. Chants of “White-Cha-Pel” ring around the place as if the fanbase of some sweaty gothic soccer team were cheering on their star players. Whitechapel FC! Fuck off Bring Me In The Dyson, the football season has just begun! (ched stuff but sometimes you gotta flow baby).

There’s no letting up as “Forgiveness Is Weakness”, “Brimstone” and “Black Bear” keep us entertained. Phil Bozeman’s vocals are guttural and harsh, giving these live renditions a real energetic feel. The guitars don’t half help either. “Black Bear” in particular has lots of Djenty droppings to skank the arl noggin to. We’re not gonna talk about “Hickory Creek” though, it sounds like Tool, and let’s leave it at that.

The set doesn’t really let up to be honest. The musicianship is on point and like I’ve alluded to earlier, there isn’t a bum note. Not that I’ve noticed anyway but am not an expert. All I know is renditions of “A Bloodsoaked Symphony” and “Doom Woods” really hit the spot. The clean vocal moments do take me out of it a little though, but that comes down to taste. Like I said, I’m a massive fan of the earlier records which didn’t have as much time for sentiment or more “emotional” shards. I like screaming in this genre. Obviously, artists grow and sounds develop. I’m not throwing shade at the Chapel lads but for me, that late 2000s sound is peak.

It’s no surprise then my favourite track on ‘Live in the Valley’ is “This Is Exile”. Taken from their fantastic second album, this live version starts with Bozeman declaring: “This an old one for ya, alright? All my old school guys”. I must be one of those geezers as this one resonated with me the most. This is followed by “The Saw Is The Law”, which is equally punishing.

This live album is a really good listen. Every song here is as enjoyable as the original. I’ve really been enjoying live albums at the moment. I usually struggle with them as I find myself feeling a bit of the FOMO or, as if something is missing. Obviously, you can’t beat actually being there but when it sounds just as loud and bold as stellar heavy metal records should – something Whitechapel have plenty of – then it’s not a bad replacement. I highly recommend this album if you wanna hear something explosive and wild in the heavy metal/core genre.

8/10, would defile a witch again.

Whitechapel: Live in the Valley – Out 26th January 2024 (Metal Blade)

– Lost Boy | Live from the Valley (youtube.com)


Liverpool born music writer with passion for punk and Everton FC