Wovenwar has returned with Honor Is Dead, an album that’s a significant step forward for the metal supergroup comprised of members from Oh, Sleeper and the former As I Lay Dying. As most modern metalheads are undoubtedly aware, Wovenwar was born of calamity. When metalcore cornerstones As I Lay Dying saw their frontman, Tim Lambesis, jailed for solicitation of murder in 2013, the remaining members — Jordan Mancino, Nick Hipa, Josh Gilbert and Phil Sgrosso — essentially started over, forming Wovenwar with Oh, Sleeper singer Shane Blay. Both a screamer and a singer, Blay added a new melodic dimension to something As I Lay Dying never truly inhabited. Shortly before the band would release Honor is Dead, guitarist Sgrosso, after contributing fully to the writing and recording of the album, voluntarily left the band, issuing a statement:
“I have found myself more interested in pursuing other musical endeavors right now than devoting myself to the band. Regarding the new album, I was fully involved with the writing and recording process … (and) I am proud to have this album as part of my discography and thankful to have had this time to push myself and explore new musical territory.”
Wovenwar’s debut album smartly strayed from avenues too close to either of the two predecessor bands, bypassing the visceral air of As I Lay Dying or the slumberous power of Oh, Sleeper. Instead, the band opts for a midway point of heavy-but-catchy metal anthems. The second time around, the seasoned vets are ready to reabsorb the impact of their own influence, unafraid to reclaim the idiosyncrasies of a genre they helped nurture with decades of past albums and previous work.
It mostly works. Dissonant, swaggering metalcore jams like “Stones Thrown” rock with an urgency and utility that shows Wovenwar are at the top of their game, veterans, their material and delivery equal to that of any of their peers. However, middle-of-the-road slow burners (such as “Silhouette”) mostly fall flat; the band’s ability to pen a veritable soft rock ballad is a respectable effort but not a play to their strengths. The album’s lyrics also veer from mammoth to middling. When Blay implores, “Are you not entertained?” on the chug-fest “Censorship,” the riotous call feels true and refreshing, but the “lost at sea” set-up and “churning/burning” rhyme that start “Compass” seem half-baked.
The band’s sound and message is best served hot, firing on all cylinders and blasting with their unique combination of aggressively catchy metal. Capitalizing on their surprisingly melodic 2014 self-titled debut, Honor expands the outfit’s sonic soundscape with an evolved surge of aggression — the riffs are heavier, the vocals angrier — and Wovenwar are just as ever intent on proving their music is much more than the sum of its parts.