Sound — 8
The band members of Wovenwar have greatly gone out of their way to prove that this is not As I Lay Dying by any means and they weren't bluffing. This is a whole new animal. Unlike before in AILD, where everything was aggressive and loud with an "in your face" type of attitude, the overall vibe of the album is very melodic and at times atmospheric and progressive. This doesn't mean all the heaviness from before has disappeared completely, it's been, more or less, scale back some and changed into a different form.
Guitar powerhouse duo Nick Hipa and Phil Sgrosso have taken great advantage over their change in sound and it shows in their song writing. They had hit a creative wall in As I Lay Dying due to genre limitations and the band's one dimensional sound but now they can expand musically and express themselves more freely and it is very refreshing. The riffs and solos are catchy and expertly written with a great variety of musical ideas and dynamics being expressed and showcased. There's even more piano work. Jordan Mancino's drumming is blazingly fast as always. The man is a human drum machine. Mancino has had more time to think through his drum patterns for the album and they fit very well into the songs. Josh Gilbert is getting more and more room to shine in his role as bass player. Every album these guys put out the bass appears more and more prominent on the mix. He has excellent bass lines on this album and really shines in the songs "Tempest" and "Mason."
The production work is excellent and tight. The old AILD crew hired Bill Stevenson once again to handle production duties. If you liked what he did on AILD's "Awakened," you'll love the sound on this album. You can hear everything with clarity and the bass tone is excellent. The toms sound bigger this time around, and the drum reverb sometimes gives off a spacey feeling like on the song "Father/Son."
Lyrics — 9
This is the main attraction for this album, the singing. Shane Blay delivers great vocal phrasings that are very catchy with harmonies being well thought out. Some of the chorus lines are addicting to listen to. Highlights include "All Rise," "Tempest," "Mason," and "Ruined Ends." Josh and Shane make an awesome vocal duo and the collaboration between the two really shows how they complement each other's voices. This album is pretty much all clean vocals except only being a few instances of actual screaming that serve as a type of climax. Overall the vocals are excellent sounding and Shane's falsettos are superb.
Josh Gilbert unfortunately got short-handed doing vocals. Besides singing some harmony fills, he only fully appears on the last two songs of the album, "Matter of Time" and "Prophets." Once you do get to hear his voice you'll most likely be wishing for more.
The lyrical content is somewhat vague. However it gives hints that relate to the struggle the As I Lay Dying members faced when Tim Lambesis was arrested and sent to prison. It's nice to see the lyrics move beyond Christian themes and into other topics to keep from getting stale. Shane Blay's lyrics from Oh, Sleeper were getting repetitive with it's preachiness. With Wovenwar, Shane probably used this as an opportunity to move on and work on other lyrical subjects.
Overall Impression — 9
Wovenwar's debut album is a more accessible, radio friendly form of metal and it's not a bad thing at all. Radio friendliness rarely works for bands and musicians who are known for their aggressive styles but in this case it is surprisingly a breath of fresh air. Each band member has finally gotten the chance to be expressive outside their usual boundaries and it paid off because they don't have to focus on writing within a specific genre and instead they can now focus and experiment with new textures, sounds, and songwriting ideas.
With Wovenwar, a slightly progressive sound has been born and it is a drastic change compared to As I Lay Dying and Oh, Sleeper. You can tell right off the bat from the first track that Wovenwar is something totally different than before. Some of the lyrics, riffs and solos are catchy as hell like anthems of stadium rock and metal. Genre-wise the album fits somewhere in between hard-rock and heavy metal. The best songs on the album that really stood out are "All Rise," "Death to Rights," "Tempest," "Mason," "Father/Son," "Profane," "Ruined Ends," and "Prophets."
If you like metal without the screaming, go pick up this album. If you're really into As I Lay Dying or just straight up into hard-core and other aggressive styles, it might be a mixed bag for you. If you're expecting a continuation of AILD you'll be sorely disappointed. You'll either love the new musical style or hate it. People will complain that the band members have gone soft but with the one-dimensional sound they've had to work with for years this evolution was going to happen eventually.