"some music was meant to stay underground..."

70000 Tons of Metal - The World's Biggest Heavy Metal Cruise

Wovenwar - "Wovenwar" (CD)

Wovenwar - "Wovenwar" CD cover image

"Wovenwar" track listing:

1. Foreword
2. All Rise
3. Death To Rights
4. Tempest
5. The Mason
6. Moving Up
7. Sight Of Shore
8. Father / Son
9. Profane
10. Archers
11. Ruined Ends
12. Identity
13. Matter Of Time
14. Prophets
15. Onward

Reviewed by on July 24, 2014

"This debut self-titled release is a hybrid of hard rock and metalcore that's actually quite benign in parts, although not as limp as some of the Internet commentators would have you believe."

It's a winding, twisting tale that leads to the debut album from Wovenwar, involving the members of a Christian band that achieved commercial success gaining a personal relationship with reality but still pretending at a religious element for the Christian crowd. Only one of the more prominent examples in recent memory, this certainly isn't the first time people have been stuck in a religiously-motivated position they don't want to be in, from pastor-turned-atheist Dan Barker to the members of the Clergy Project. Tack on the implosion of As I Lay Dying as the band's steroid-addicted front man tried to have his wife murdered and then ran back to the arms of Christendom in jail (surprise, surprise) and you've got a recipe for an explosion of metal that should be apocalyptic in its channeling of pent up rage and frustration.

Only that's not the route Wovenwar goes at all. Consisting of most of As I Lay Dying and fellow former Christian metal band alumni Shane Blay (Oh, Sleeper), the project instead tones everything down quite a bit from what might be expected. This debut self-titled release is a hybrid of hard rock and metalcore that's actually quite benign in parts, although not as limp as some of the Internet commentators would have you believe.

To be fair to the naysayers, the combination of clean vocals (which are featured on the vast majority of the album) and been-there, done-that guitar riffs on tracks like “Tempest” definitely bring the phrase “mallcore” to mind. The album has a harder metalcore edge, but without actually being offensive to the mainstream crowd. Overall the song writing is solid, but not amazing, with catchy hooks and a decent mixture of more heavy guitar work with mostly melody-focused song structures.

Going for broke with this debut release, “Wovenwar” boasts 15 tracks (although the first and last are minute-and-a-half intros/outros, so really there's 13 songs), which may be excessive considering there's not that much experimentation or progression here. Songs like “Death To Rights” feel way over done, as there's only a couple of dozen melodic hardcore bands that have played with that particular sound this week, but others have stronger appeal.

“The Mason” for instance is more on the thrashy/metalcore edge, with the energy metal fans crave. “Prophets,” on the other hand, opens with acoustic strumming and starts as a rock ballad, but then switches gears and admirably mixes up the soft with the hard. “Archers” even features a bit of screaming, and then the heavier “Profane” changes things up with infectiously fun gang shouts. Eighth track “Father/Son” is an interesting little number that stands out from the rest with its melancholy direction. Finally, “Matter of Time” acknowledges the elephant in the room and directly tackles the insincerity issue some fans have had with how the band decided to continue playing explicitly pro-Christian music festivals after the members of As I Lay Dying had left their religious beliefs behind.

So here's the skinny: if you dig melodic metalcore with clean singing, either of the band member's previous projects, or any of the rock bands with a slight metal edge, then there's some appeal here, and some of the tracks are catchy enough that even grim metal extremists will get caught up in the fun. Unfortunately quite a bit of the output is surprisingly benign considering where the band is coming from, though. There doesn't seem to be much outpouring of emotion (No rage? After all these guys have been through lately?) or heart in it, and “Wovenwar” is very much on the radio-friendly side of music.

Highs: A few of the tracks hit the right balance between heavy and soft, and tracks like "Matter of Time" don't shy away from the tough topics.

Lows: The album frequently showcases why "mallcore" is a derogative term, and the radio-friendly feel won't work for many metal heads.

Bottom line: Trying to play both the heavy side and the radio-friendly side, Wovenwar's debut is a mixed bag that's more benign an inoffensive than would be expected considering what these guys have gone through recently.

Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls
2.5 out of 5 skulls

Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)