Heavy Breakdown: Whitechapel – The Valley (2019)

What’s going on Butcher Crew?! It’s ya girl, your Master Butcher, The Saw and I have a new blog segment here in the Butcher Shop! It’s called the “Heavy Breakdown” where we breakdown the deeper meaning of albums. Whether that be by analyzing lyrical content or by researching the album by reading/listening to interviews about the record. 

I wanted to start with Whitechapel’s “The Valley” because of the amazing story-telling that is displayed by Bozeman’s lyrical content. 

I enjoy albums that convey certain emotions, imagery, and stories within their lyrics and sound. I love it when the lyrics and the instruments of a song paint a picture in my head of what the band is attempting to make the listener hear or feel. I believe that this allows the listener to connect with the music and with the band on a deeper level. It helps the listener relate to the music and it could give them a sense that they are not alone – someone understands what they’re going through. 

This is one of the reasons why I enjoyed “The Valley” so much. I love the story that is being told throughout the album. It gives an insight to Phil Bozeman’s (vocalist) childhood trauma and his emotions towards it. This shows that not only is the music beneficial to the listener, but also to the creator. It must be a freeing and therapeutic feeling to share your raw emotions in a way that is special to you. 

The album cover and the title “The Valley” is a reference to the part of Hardin Valley where Bozeman grew up. 

With this album, Bozeman has gotten more personal with his lyrics. In the beginning of Whitechapel’s discography, their albums, lyrically, were more fantasy-based. In an interview with “Kerrang!”Ben Savage (guitarist) further explained this transition by discussing that

 “… Phil has gotten much more personal… it was his idea to talk about his childhood experiences. Talking about stuff like this on past records like “Mark Of The Blade” made him more confident.”

The trauma for Bozeman is portrayed throughout the entirety of the album, but this depiction is horrifying and very real to Bozeman. He was not comfortable recounting his past until the band began working on “The Valley.” 

The first song off of “The Valley” is “When a Demon Defiles a Witch” and it sets a scary and dark theme that the album will follow until the end. There is also a music video for the song and it straight up looks like a horror movie. By looking at the lyrics and the music video, one would assume that this song is a supernatural fantasy. In the “Kerrang!” interview, Savage stated that the story behind the track is true. Savaged further explained the backstory of the song by saying: 

“…Phil’s mom would see a demon outside or by her fireside, and she knew that if she saw it there, then it would be by her bedside that night… she would write these journals which were pretty cryptic – her handwriting would change every now and again. The song title actually came from one of the journals. It talks about the Devil raping a witch…” 

Bozeman had a journal that his mother wrote and it contains some disturbing content. He used some of the words she wrote directly into the lyrics. This is one of many examples that display the dark content within the album. The eerie and personal lyrical content enables Bozeman and the listener to dive into the whole story. 

Bozeman told Consequence” in an interview that his mother was “Schizophrenic, a drug addict, and an alcoholic, while is stepfather was abusive to him and enabled his mother’s problems.” In a podcast with “MetalSucks” in 2014, Bozeman talks about both of his parents dying at a young age. On Bozeman’s YouTube channel, he made a video talking about the death of his parents. He lost his biological dad at the age of 10 and his mom at the age of 15. His dad died of a rare disease called scleroderma. His dad collapsed on the last step of the stairs and went into cardiac arrest. His mom was addicted to crack cocaine and had an overdose. 

In a video interview with Impericon,” Bozeman explains the meaning behind the song “Black Bear.” He states that the song is a figure of speech, but it is based on the idea of his stepfather coming into him and his mom’s life. He further explains that his stepfather was a predator and the reason for his mother passing away (they were both drug addicts). He continues on by saying that “Black Bear” is about a predator preying on a mother and her child. In the lyrics “he has come for the blood of my only son,” Bozeman is taking the viewpoint of his mother and is talking about himself. 

Exclaim!” conducted an interview with Bozeman to speak about “The Valley” when it was first released. He wanted to offer a “more complete picture of his life.” He discusses his issues with religion, abuse, and neglect with raw emotions and full transparency. 

The album takes on different points of view throughout: Bozeman as a child, as an. Adult reflecting on his childhood and his mother. Bozeman further explained that “after reading through it [the journal] thoroughly I just thought, ‘this is great content for a record’ … It was just good material that needed to be heard.” Bozeman has always had this journal, but didn’t use material from it until he was comfortable enough to share his story. 

Alex Wade (guitarist) stated in an interview with “Loudwire that they attempted to paint a better picture of Bozeman’s childhood in “The Valley.” Wade also feels that their music is a release from Bozeman’s past and hopes that if anyone listening has similar experiences, it will be a release for them as well. 

If you thought that the album art for “The Valley” looks like a ‘80s horror thrasher, then you would be correct! Savage came up with the idea to treat the album cover like it was promotional material for an old-school horror movie. This is because the dark concepts and themes in the album is parallel to a horror movie script. Even the music videos for the songs on the album are similar to horror movie clips. 

I think the concept of a horror movie album cover is genius! The album is like a horror movie because of the dark story-telling throughout. By making this eerie album cover, It enhances the notion that this album is based off of true events and even shows that “The Valley” could even be made into a book or an actual horror movie! 

Overall, this album is amazing and if you want to know my additional thoughts on “The Valley,” check out my album review!

What albums do you want to see a breakdown of next? 

Stay Metal,