CROSSING OVER: Wovenhand return with fire-breathing rock on great ‘Refractory Obdurate’

WovenhandThere are those artists that, for whatever reason, stick with you through time and make an indelible impression upon your psyche and your heart. I’ve been lucky enough to come across quite a few of those in my days of listening to music, from Quorthon to Jason Molina to Neko Case to Iron Maiden to Cobalt. They’re my frequent go-to musicians, and I imagine they always will be.

Singer-songwriter David Eugene Edwards has been that way for a lot of people and, full admission, I got into his work later in his run, so I’m still trying to figure out which parts of his catalog resonate the most with me. There was a no-doubt factor the first time I heard his music under the Wovenhand moniker, and also with what he’s done with 16 Horsepower, and he has a voice and a means of expression you’re not going to forget any time soon unless your heart doesn’t work properly. You can make comparisons to artists such as Nick Cave, Molina, Mark Lanegan, Mount Eerie, Murder By Death, and the Black Heart Procession, even if it’s just philosophically, and there’s no way you can walk away from his records not knowing how much of his heart and soul he puts into the music. That, to me, is part of the appeal.

Wovenhand coverEdwards is back with a new Wovenhand record that’s being released by Deathwish Inc. in the States (Glitterhouse Records will handle Europe), a label known more for their hardcore and metal acts such as Deafheaven, Oathbreaker, Code Orange Kids, Ceremony, and more. But it’s clear they have an open mind for what they release, and Edwards’ music fits with their ethos and punk rock way of doing things, and releasing the excellent new “Refractory Obdurate” should be a benefit to both parties. This record is the follow-up release to 2012’s “The Laughing Stalk,” and joining him on this album are longtime percussionist Ordy Garrison, as well as Chuck French and Neil Keener, of grimy punk/metal crushers Planes Mistaken for Stars. Together, the band conjures power in the right spots, eerie hush elsewhere, and it all complements Edwards’ booming voice and dark storytelling that revels both in pain and glory.

It should be pointed out, of course, that since this is a Crossing Over piece, you should realize the Wovenhand record is not a metal release. But it’s dark and eerie at times, which could please those who like ill intent weaved into their music, and they do rock pretty hard here and there. If you’re a fan of a band like Horseback, you could find a lot to enjoy on this album.

The record opens with “Corsicana Clip,” a track rich with cool melodies, echo-laden vocals that give the whole thing a haunting feel, compelling darkness, and lines such as, “Who gave you a heart such as this?” that add a bit of menace. “Masonic Youth” has guitars that ring out and sting your ears, great vocals that are full of passion, and just when you think the band has settled into a tempo, they let loose with power and volume, drenching the thing with awesome noise. “The Refractory” opens with woodsy mandolin that leads into a dark storm that moves ever so slowly. The bulk of the song is murky and thick, though a wiry guitar line cuts through and acts as lightning, injecting power and electricity into everything. “Good Shepherd” is fiery and glorious with spirited guitar work, a noisy punk treatment, and moments that remind of 1990s college rock, when being earnest still was a virtue. “Salome” brings the clouds again, and dark ones, as Edwards calls, “Let the curse fall on me,” as the track, musically, feels like the end times are near. The melodies are infectious, and they really settle into your head.

“King David” is a dark storyteller, with more mandolin and piano setting the mood, and when Edwards observes, “You are a jealous one,” amid all of the rich echoes, you can feel the bloodletting emanating from his soul. “Field of Hedon” has thick strings, beds of feedback, and a glorious eruption of power, with charged-up guitars, heavy wailing, and a feeling that some evil spirits are being burned off with the power of this music. “Obdurate Obscura” has a folk feel at the start, with soulful percussion, more echo-drenched vocals, and strings that cut a path. The song is dusty and feels like it’s inspired by the Wild West, making it perfect movie fodder for a bloody film about revenge and redemption. It’s an arresting piece, one of the most effective on the record. “Hiss” follows, and it blasts open with a righteous burst of rock, with Edwards testifying as only he can, with the band backing him with chugging sounds and blistering chaos. Noise spits, the bands keeps their march moving forward with torches ablaze, and Edwards keeps your attention easily with his furious wails that grab you by the face and refuse to let go until the journey has come to an end. This is the loudest, harshest track on the record. Closer “El-Bow” is mesmerizing and warped, with Edwards’ voice swirling through the air, the percussion giving a spiritual feel, and the strings giving an ancient ambiance to the song. The aura builds over its 2:42 running time, and it’s a particularly gripping way to finish off a record filled with drama and unbridled emotion.

Each Wovenhand record is its own beast, and “Refractory Obdurate” is no exception. It had me from listen one, and each subsequent visit I uncover new layers of this great album. Edwards sound as passionate, inspired, and fiery as he ever has, and these are songs hopefully will end up in even more people’s ears due to Deathwish putting out this record. You don’t have to be a disciple of any particular musical genre to like this record either. You just have to admire heartfelt and honest artwork, and it’ll resonate with you for sure.

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