Title: Refractory Obdurate
Label: Deathwish Inc.
Release Date: 4/25/2014
Reviewer: Ian Harvey
01. Corsicana Clip
02. Masonic Youth
03. The Refractory
04. Good Shepherd
06. King David
07. Field of Hedon
08. Obdurate Obscura
In almost every generation of music there exists a anomaly in the perceived system. An artist or band that becomes legendary and influential and yet remains simultaneously unknown to many. Screaming Trees and Meat Puppets set the standard for great song writing during the grunge era, Sunny Day Real Estate is responsible for what most people know as true Emo, and At The Drive-In along with The Refused really did shape the form of punk and underground rock that we are still experiencing today. In the moment, it is hard to identify the bands that are having this effect on the music culture, making it hard to name names without hindsight to provide clarity. After almost 10 years of releasing music unlike any other, Wovehand can be safely named in that group; and fortunately for for us, their most visible album to date is easily one of their finest. Refractory Obdurate is a masterwork.
Wovenhand is primarily the artistic endeavor of Davide Eugene Edwards, formally of 16 Horsepower. What began as a side project for Edwards, Wovenhand has grown into an almost indescribable musical onslaught pulling from neo-folk, industrial, tribal dance music, country, metal, doom, and hymns. At many times Edwards himself has described the sound as “heavy folk” or “industrial country”. Their music is a turbulent sea of sound and voices, and a calm ocean of strings and melody. Wovenhand are a force, a artistic project with no boundaries or restrictions; just the always churning mind of David Eugene Edwards and the collection of talented musicians he gathers around him.
Refractory Obdurate fully displays every strength Edwards and crew have to give, and from the beginning of the first track you understand you are in for a experience. One of the things that Wovenhand does so well is create heavy music without being abrasive, and soft music without being mellow. “Corsicana Clip”, “Good Shepard”, and “Hiss” all give a weight to Refectory Obdurate and these tracks are were you will hear the magic of Wovehand’s sound. Deep atmosphere, heavy guitars, driving rhythms, and Edwards unique vocal delivery. The first single off of Refractory Obdurate, “Hiss”, is one of the best examples:
Other spots on the album, such as “The Refectory”, showcases Wovenhand’s ability to combine their hard nature with true folk elements. Mandolins, acoustic instruments, and even orchestral strings have played a large part of the band’s sound over the course of their career, but on such a heavy record these more delicate touches give the tracks a lot of balance. The band is able to utilize instruments like these and push the songs to actually sound “darker”, adding an other-worldly element to what would have already been interesting songs. That is Wovenhand’s true talent, repurposing what you think you know about folk and rock to create something new. Refractory Obdurate is a complete collection of this sort of musical celebration, more of a experience rather than a record.
Lyrically, Wovenhand stays true to self with deep and apocalyptic words chanted/sung over the the slow moving train that is the music. I really wish I could give you an example of the lyrics to follow along with a song so you could get a clear picture of this, but the fact of the matter is that I can’t. The lyrics taken from the booklet of the CD do not really match up with the ones sung on the recording; the basic out line is there, but much of the words have been changed and rearranged in the actual song. King David for example, uses the words written only as a lyrical skeleton for what the song became:
This makes since if you have ever seen Wovenhand perform or understand how Edwards works. He is a very in-the-moment singer, allowing the lyrics to flow and change as the moment hits him. I have seen him perform on several occasions, and almost every time the words he sings are not the ones I recognize from the recordings. I get the impression that Wovenhand is his worship, and the songs are his prayers, and every opportunity to sing is a new opportunity to evolve the idea of the song to fit where he is at that exact moment spiritually. Please don’t read that though and feel you can dismiss the words, because trying to understand what the songs are trying to communicate is one of the most interesting elements of Wovenhand, and will keep you coming back over and over.
Overall:I will acknowledge honestly that Refractory Obdurate is a hard album to get into. There is nothing casual or easy about Wovenhand’s music. Here is what I will say: if you truly want to listen to a band that creates a unique and powerful auditory experience, then you need to become familiar with Wovenahnd. If you want to hear Wovenahnd’s best overall record, then you need to listen to Refractory Obdurate. Simple as that.
RIYL: Isis, 16 Horsepower, Johnny Cash, Screaming Trees