Typically groups that are identified as “alternative country” or “American folk” have no business being featured alongside bands such as Converge or Cult Leader. That didn’t stop Jacob Bannon from taking special interest in prolific musician David Eugene Edwards‘ project Wovenhand and signing them to hardcore-oriented label Deathwish, Inc. A surprising move, but one that makes sense once acquainted to Wovenhand‘s discography; over the years, Edwards and his revolving band of musicians have been hinting at and shifting towards a more rock-oriented sound, and the metamorphosis is finally fully realized. Refractory Obdurate is dark and psychedelic in nature, matching the kaleidoscopic patchwork cover art by evoking images of an impromptu fireside music session electrified and turned up to eleven.
Refractory Obdurate plays as if it was written to be the soundtrack to the Rapture, creating a dark and ghostly aura. Edwards’ gospel-infused lyrics are matched in near non-sequitur fashion against hazy post-rock and doom-adjacent folk. Edwards’ rambling and wailing feel right at home, yet they are seemingly tied to the music on a loose tether, often coming across more like slam poetry than traditionally sung melodies. More often than not, acoustic instruments are used an accessory where walls of noisy distorted guitars and powerful drumming reign supreme, taking things even further than the group’s last effort, 2012’s The Laughing Stalk, which was at the time lauded as Edwards’ heaviest work. Refractory Obdurate multiplies upon the formula exponentially.
Shades of punk, sludge, country, and shoegaze meld in twisted ethereal mystique that hasn’t really been seen before. Wovenhand have successfully carved themselves a niche so particular and peculiar that new sounds are created across the songs within Refractory Obdurate that very well may never be seen again outside of the Wovenhand discography. ‘The Refractory‘ for instance is a chilling track that pairs a brooding folk acoustic progression with massive doom atmosphere and lush keyboards. The following track ‘Good Shepherd’ changes gears dramatically, opting for uptempo post-punk with airy new wave melodies and palm muted guitar chugs. Elsewhere, ‘Obdurate Obscura‘ strips down for slow-burning globally minded folk, and closer ‘El-Bow‘ sounds oddly industrial in its use of sharp percussion and gravelly whirring drones.
All of this culminates in a fashion that is clearly forward-thinking and perhaps even avant garde on paper, but is executed so naturally and honestly that nothing feels out of the ordinary. Once any initial shock and novelty of Refractory Obdurate wears off, this unique album resonates with the heart and soul on a level that is almost spiritual. Yes, Refractory Obdurate is a record with overt Christian subject matter, but this is an experience that transcends religion. And being the best-produced Wovenhand record thus far, it sounds as marvelous as it feels.
While Wovenhand come from a genre outside of the typical listening patterns of those interested in metal and adjacent movements, Refractory Obdurate is an album that will serve as a potent sleeper crossover hit, beckoning the open minded into the world of Gothic Americana. After Refractory Obdurate, hymns and acoustic guitars will no longer have to conjure nauseous thoughts of amateur bluegrass ensembles; instead, they’re being used to enrich an already flourishing school of thought with a palette of many moods and textures. Not only is Refractory Obdurate one of Wovenhand’s best records to date, it’ll also put quite a dent into our year’s most spun albums.
Wovenhand – Refractory Obdurate gets…