Tim Lambesis’ plot to murder his ex-wife was (thankfully) an abject failure. He only succeeded in destroying a great band. The legacy of As I Lay Dying, the band once known as the Gods of Metalcore, had been defiled by the actions of one man, and as such the remaining (and wholly innocent) members wisely chose to distance themselves from all that as much as possible. The problem, however, was where to go next. As I Lay Dying’s 2012 Awakened album was a stagnant metalcore dirge that offered nothing new. It was about as captivating as a dead bee on a windowsill, and everyone knew it.
The answer was the leave the As I Lay Dying sound behind and do something different, but familiar. Wovenwar is the most perfect direction that Messrs Mancino, Hipa, Sgrosso and Gilbert could have headed in. Gone are the copious breakdowns, guttural growls and ear-splitting shrieks. In their place is a beautifully melodic style of metal, while the acquisition of Shane Blay (of Oh, Sleeper fame) was a masterstroke. Blay has a wonderful vocal tone and his impact is profound. He’s also a brilliant songwriter and unmatched guitarist in his own right (check out ‘Son of the Morning’ and ‘I Will Welcome the Reaping’ by Oh, Sleeper to get an idea of his ability).
In short, Wovenwar is brilliant. Easily an album of the year contender, the only record that might give it a run for its money is Killer Be Killed. Lead single ‘Rise’ is a good choice for a single, but so many other songs could have been chosen instead. I actually can’t pick a best song, because they all have such wonderful individual traits and virtues. ‘Death to Rights’, ‘Sight of Shore’, ‘Matter of Time’, ‘Profane’ and ‘The Mason’ would be any other band’s opuses, but on Wovenwar, every single track is jostling for attention. Perhaps the most distinctive songs are ‘Archers’ and ‘Prophets’, purely because ‘Prophets’ kicks things off with a soft, acoustic guitar before crashing down on you, while ‘Archers’ features Blay’s partner in crime at Oh, Sleeper, Micah Kinard on guest vocals.
I really struggled with this review because it’s just too good for words. The songs all flow like the Nile, the mix is sublime, the musicianship is unparalleled and Blay’s infectious vocals bring the whole thing together like cake and wine at a family reunion. Perhaps the only problem is the lack of vocal input from Josh Gilbert. Gilbert was the go-to man in As I Lay Dying for those choruses, but has been relegated to a shadow of that due to Blay. The only song in which Gilbert actually performs is ‘Matter of Time’, the thirteenth song of a fifteen-track album. I was really hoping to hear the two men weave their vocals in and out like two snakes in a knife fight. Seemed obvious, given the band’s name is about the battles and trials that weave their way though their respective personal lives, but c’est la vie.
However, that’s one very, very small complaint. The reality is that Wovenwar is one of the best metal albums released in years, if not decades. Forget about As I Lay Dying. Those days are over. Wovenwar are here to stay.