The Reverse PathIn the nearly three years since I found Wovenhand, I've found myself listening to it more than any other artist. If it's not my favorite band, it's at least my favorite active band. Consider the Birds is one of the five albums that changed my life, if you'll excuse the slight hyperbole. So, take this with a grain of salt if you must. But I've been recommending them repeatedly since then, and I've gotten nothing but positive feedback from anyone who's listened.
So, with that introduction out of the way, let's consider Refractory Obdurate, the band's seventh studio full-length. The Laughing Stalk (2012) found the band adding heaviness to their unmistakable blend of folk and country. I had always sensed an affinity to metal from David Eugene Edwards' music, but that is where it really came through. The incredible "Corsicana Clip" and "The Refractory" are excellent examples of a the Laughing Stalk sound continuing. But if anything, Refractory Obdurate represents an even larger shift for the band.
For one thing, the metal aspect of their sound is even stronger. (Did I mention Sanford Parker produced it?) Take "Hiss." There's a prominent rhythm part practically lifted from Black Sabbath's "Children of the Grave," and I couldn't be happier about it.
I observe that Opeth went away from metal, and declared "God is dead." Wovenhand has gone closer to metal, pointing out that Opeth spoke three days too soon.
Beyond that, I'm not even sure you can still call this a folk album. It's ventured far into post-punk. The mandolin is strangely quiet on upbeat, rockin' punk songs like "Good Shepherd" and "Field of Hedon." With few exceptions (e.g., "King David," "Salome") this Wovenhand is much less moody drone, much more rock 'n' roll.
In a first for me, I've actually reviewed the lyrics before writing the review. As I expected, it's a slightly arcane, extremely metal interpretation of Christianity. To those who still doubt my "Jesus is metal" theory, woe unto them. Though I'm not sure, the theme could be drawn from the first few chapters of Ezekiel. Quite appropriate to our time.
Edwards is still at the height of his creative abilities. This is a more dynamic, adventurous album than its predecessor. It's not as unrelentingly dark, but I don't believe its power is diminished for it.
The Verdict: 5 out of 5 stars