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WOVENWAR Wovenwar

By Peter Atkinson, Contributor
Monday, September 15, 2014 @ 6:59 PM


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WOVENWAR
Wovenwar

Metal Blade Records





By now you’re probably painfully familiar with the sordid, stranger-than-fiction saga of AS I LAY DYING (AILD) founder/frontman Tim Lambesis, since it was Interweb fodder for the many months it played itself out in lurid detail last year. In February, Lambesis was sentenced to six years in prison for attempting to hire a hitman to kill his estranged wife to seemingly put an end to that part of the drama.

But what of his bandmates? With their frontman first under house arrest, and then behind bars, the remaining AILD members - guitarists Nick Hipa and Phil Sgrosso, bassist Josh Gilbert and drummer Jordan Mancino - were left with several options: split up, put the band on hold until Lambesis served his sentence and pick things up from there – a move Lambesis essentially sabotaged while his case was still in the courts with a series of divisive blog posts – keep going as AILD with a new singer, or regroup with a new singer and a new name. They ended up taking the latter option – probably the most career savvy and least likely litigious choice – hooking up with OH, SLEEPER singer/guitarist Shaun Blay to move forward as WOVENWAR.

They haven’t exactly left the past completely behind, musically speaking. WOVENWAR’s recently issued self-titled debut album comes off sounding like AILD-lite, with much more emphasis on melody and anthemics and far less on ‘core histrionics. But it’s certainly no radical departure.

Where AILD mixed ARCH ENEMY/AT THE GATES-style melodic death metal dynamics with thundering breakdowns and Lambesis' ‘roid ragey “bad cop” vocals, WOVENWAR strips away much of the harsher sonic elements. The end result is something that is more traditionally metal minded, with occasional hints of power metal when the band is feeling especially frisky.

The biggest change is in the vocals. Blay is a true “singer,” as opposed to a screamer or shouter, and his voice here is predominantly clean, especially so when he harmonizes with Gilbert, who handled most of AILD's “good cop” vocals. This makes for some huge, rousing choruses that, combined with Blay’s often earnest delivery, rarely sounds threatening or imposing – something AILD managed to do despite the supposedly “Christian” undertones of its music.

And the songs overall seem less inclined to aggression and muscle and focus more on anthemics, with loads of hooks built upon a hard rock foundation and the aforementioned grand choruses. A track like “Moving Up”, with its ample “woah, oh, oh” vocalizing might even be described as a bit wimpy.

Ironically, the largely acoustic “Father/Son”, also punctuated by “woah, oh, ohs” when the heavy part kicks in two-thirds the way through, is one of the album's more pointed tracks, with its “sons of our father's sins” lyrics seemingly directed toward Lambesis. The uplugged opening and electrified choruses to “Prophets” sound eeriely ALIVE IN CHAINSy.

Still, there is certainly plenty of propulsive riffing here from the tandem of Hipa and Sgrosso, and Mancino's often martial pace moves things along nicely, especially on “Death To Rights”, “Profane”, the aptly titled “Tempest” or “Matter Of Time”, the album's “'coriest” track. Hipa and Sgrosso’s soaring guitar interplay also retains a certain “Swedishness” that provide for some of the album’s more memorable moments, as on “The Mason” or “Sight Of Shore”.

Yet the rougher edges on Wovenwar often are tempered by the sleek, tidy production/mix of one-time BLACK FLAG/DESCENDENTS drummer Bill Stevenson and Colin (CARCASS, NAPALM DEATH) Richardson, who also handled the last AILD album Awakened with rather more menacing results. Here, everything seems to have been turned down a notch or two and kept neat and clean. So while the album is quite heavy, it doesn't have quite the impact it could have - had it been given a brasher presentation.

If anything, WOVENWAR seem a bit tentative out of the box, which is perhaps understandable given the circumstances that brought about the band's creation. The debut has the feel of a band aching to break free, but not wanting to stomp over anybody in the process. A bit too eager to please, in other words. Perhaps next time, abandon with reign.

3.0 Out Of 5.0

Pick up a copy of Wovenwar in the KNAC.COM More Store right HERE.


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