Sound — 8
As one of the most popular bands of the American melodic metalcore scene in the last decade, As I Lay Dying made headlines when frontman Tim Lambesis was arrested and convicted for trying to hire a hitman to kill his ex-wife, consequently grinding the band to a halt. Though the rest of the band is, by contract, still a part of AILD and technically on hiatus while Lambesis is in prison, they sought to continue making music while also distancing themselves from Lambesis (can anyone really blame them?). Linking up with Shane Blay, guitarist/vocalist of the similarly-minded metalcore band Oh, Sleeper, they formed Wovenwar with the intention of moving into a less aggressive metal style that their previous band.
Releasing their debut self-titled album a couple years ago, Wovenwar's first foot put forward in a more commercial-friendly metal style still boasted the instrumental finesse that AILD was known for, and showed Blay tending almost exclusively to a clean vocal style, though the album did suffer from an underlying sense of homogeneity in its composition. But in their follow-up album, "Honor Is Dead," Wovenwar start to reach back towards the metalcore past of the members' previous bands. Along with the speedy onslaught of "130" and the full-fledged breakdowns in the eponymous song, the riff-filled "Lines in the Sand" and "World on Fire," Blay utilizes more harsh vocals, giving the melodic metal cuts of "Cascade" and "Bloodletter" more bite to them, and counterweighting the stadium-size production value of "Confession" with some visceral vocal power.
While those upfront elements boast a heavier nature, "Honor Is Dead" doesn't one-up its predecessor in terms of overall guitar performance. The riffs in "Confession," "Lines in the Sand" and "Cascade" stand out well, but lead guitarist Nick Hipa doesn't throw down as many grandstanding guitar solos like in the band's first album. But what they don't meet in terms of veracity, they make up for in ingenuity. The killswitch technique Hipa uses in the guitar solo of "Stones Thrown" nods to Tom Morello's inventive playing style, the multiple measurement changes in "Censorship" easily makes it the brainiest song Wovenwar have written, and the AWOLNATION-esque industrial ballads of "Compass" and "Silhouette" do a good job shifting the album into a lower gear while still maintaining a simmering energy.
Lyrics — 7
Wielding more social commentary this time around, Blay's lyrics in "Honor Is Dead" aim to shine a light on numerous issues and angsts within society. He tackles alcoholism in "Confession" and the stifling artistic expectations of the masses in "Censorship," but more than anything, Blay focuses his attention on a society that's become divided and disarrayed. Easily inspired by the growing dissonance in a historically polarizing election year in the USA, Blay rails against the self-fulfilling and mindless cycle of violence both internationally ("Does anyone know why we're fighting? / Does anyone know the other side?" in the anti-jingoist "Lines in the Sand") and within the country ("Tell me / One reason worth this hate / One reason worth this endless violence" in "130"), and with his condemning of the voiceless majority whose apathy continues to let this disharmony gestate ("Senselessness is now a virtue to live by / Fools we are, drawing from a well run dry" in "World on Fire"), Blay duly wants to inspire those to rise up and close those growing rifts ("Further and further they divide us, they conquer / Wake up and stand up, we're in this together").
Overall Impression — 8
Though the formation of Wovenwar was a saving grace for the vast amount of AILD fans who wanted the band to keep making their adept metal in spite of their tricky predicament, Wovenwar's initial intention of a cleaner and commercial-friendly metal style wasn't going to win over all those AILD listeners. With "Honor Is Dead," however, Wovenwar lace in more of the heavy qualities that the band members have proven to work well with, and with some smarter songwriting displayed, as well as an improved answer to showcasing their gentler gear, "Honor Is Dead" is a well-rounded follow-up that wields strengths of old and new.