REVIEW: WOVENWAR – “Honor Is Dead”
“It is not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change”.
– Charles Darwin
It is hard to imagine the collective impact of the brobdinangian concussion that Nick Hipa (guitars), Phil Sgrosso (guitarist), Josh Gilbert (bassist) and Jordan Mancino (drummer) would have experienced in the summer of 2013, when their band mate and As I Lay Dying vocalist Tim Lambesis was arrested in Oceanside, California for attempting to hire a hitman to murder his estranged wife. The insurmountable sense of dejection that would have been swirling in their heads when they figured that the future of their band, one that was at the forefront of the modern metal movement, was heading to the doldrums is quite hard to fathom. Unfazed by the fact that they lost the face of their band, the four of them recruited Oh, Sleeper vocalist and guitarist Shane Blay and formed Wovenwar. Wovenwar released their debut album ‘Wovenwar’ in August 2014 to widespread critical acclaim and the album managed to reach No. 36 on the US Billboard charts. The band will release the follow up to their self titled debut on October 21st, entitled ‘Honor is Dead’.
“Confession” is the first track of the album and has an electronica intro which then progresses into a metalcore riff, although not a very heavy one. Clean vocals are mostly used in this track with minimal screaming, a trend which continues throughout the album. However the mid-section of this song gets heavier albeit for a short while. “Confession” is followed by “Censorship” which starts with your quintessential metalcore section with a fast heavy riff supplemented by spurts of fast double bass drumming. This heaviness underlines the melancholic nature of the song and I even detected a tad bit of avant garde in the song. My suspicions of the presence of avantgarde in the album were given much more gravitas after I heard the title track which had the genre written all over it. The title track is followed by “Lines in the Sand” which is much heavier in comparison, but still has an avantgardish prog side to it. The song contains the first solo of the album which is quite bleak in comparison to what the guitarists, in particular Nick Hipa, do.
“World on Fire” is my least favorite track on the album mostly because of the intro which is too emo (for lack of a better word) for my ears. The mid section of the song gets heavy for a short while, but other than that the track is quite lackluster. “World on Fire” is followed by “Compass”, a track that is completely different from the rest of the album. It is on this track and the track entitled “Silhoutte” were the band exhibits its flirtations with its alternative rock/ avant-garde/ electronica side to the fullest. Both these tracks are completely different from each other even though they have a similar texture with “Silhouette” being a bit more enthralling to my ears. “Stones Thrown” brings the texture back to its alternative metal origins and the album gets heavier with “Cascade” which is a song which has got a bit of the virility that the involved musicians were previously associated with. A similar style is essayed in “Bloodletter”, but the album closes with “130” which, even with its primarily clean vocals, is quintessential As I Lay Dying material with its complex drum patterns and exotic rifferama.
This album is, for the lack of a better word, strange. Given the fact that the instrumental core of Wovenwar is the same as that of As I Lay Dying, I expected the band to adopt a style that essayed a crunch similar to what As I Lay Dying used. Whilst their debut album exuded the same machismo, albeit with less screaming and more clean vocals, that their previous band helped engender, this album has the band spread its wings and experiment with its progressive nutty side. They use a more melodic style with a lot of alternative rock and avant garde and even a tad bit of electronica on this record. With the exception of “Onward” and “130”, Jordan Mancino uses a more simple style of drumming as opposed to using gnarly blast beats or double bass at ungodly speeds. Nick Hipa does not stick to the conventional method of soloing i.e. blistering finger-fucking action on the fretboard, an approach that he used in As I Lay Dying’s cover of Judas Priest’s “Electric Eye” or in “Death To Rights’ off their previous album. His solos on the record are more simple, but more innovative and the most obvious example of this is in the track “Stones Thrown” where he uses a very staccato-ish approach in his solo.
I should appreciate the band for their sheer balls to take chances and experiment with their sound instead of sticking to the same genre defining blueprint which they helped create a decade ago. This album is an effort by the band to paint a lot of alternative rock and progressive music such as Nine Inch Nails and Tool on the As I Lay Dying canvas. I feel that the band has got more potential and that they did not go the whole nine yards with the change in their sound over fears of losing their core fan base, a decision which I strongly support given the whole Tim Lambesis kerfuffle