Wovenwar returns with an entertaining if safe sophomore effort. The group hasn't yet found its groove, but it's getting there—one radio-ready growl at a time.
Melodic, radio-ready rock awaits listeners on this second offering from Wovenwar, the unit formed from chunks of As I Lay Dying and Oh, Sleeper. If Boston and Foreigner were the corporate rock of Grandad’s era, then Wovenwar may be one of the leaders in the same trade during this current epoch. That’s not a slam: There’s plenty to love from those bands, and their aversion to risk made sure that they were (and are) at the forefront of virtually every music lover’s mental lobe. So, the lack of panic or real excitement in Wovenwar's grooves is neither surprising nor wholly disappointing.
There are still some admirable riffs and production touches to be found, even if you can almost visualize the digital recording software edits when you close your eyes and try to drift into the music. “Censorship” seems as though it could have been cobbled together from four or five different corners of the heavy rock world, the same way that there’s little real variation between the CSI and Law & Order franchises. Even the opening “Confession” seems a little too close to Oh, Sleeper territory to warrant the track’s appearance here.
The record does get exciting, though, when the lads take a small dose of Pretty Hate Machine-era Nine Inch Nails and pair it with monster guitar riffs and a mighty waft of 2004-style angst, arriving at the kind of song Tool would write if it were more concerned with radio hits and, well, winning the hearts and minds of more suburban teens. “Lines in the Sand”, meanwhile, imagines the heavenly harmonies of vintage Kansas as written for some Warped Tour mainstay. Meanwhile, “World on Fire” might just as well be a carbon copy of those two tracks cut and pasted together with fervor.
It can be difficult to distinguish one song from another by the middle of the record, though a return to more imaginative territory in “Compass” ultimately saves the day, steering the band back onto a course that is still safe but a little more challenging than the snore und drang of its immediate predecessors. If there were more material in that manner (see also “Silhouette”) and fewer by-the-numbers rage rockets, this would be a much more memorable record.
Honor Is Dead ultimately receives a reluctant pass for its ability to give an audience authentically made warmed over rage and corporate-inspired emotions. If the material doesn’t always stand out from what the men involved in making this music have done in the past, it’s probably by design. That said, when it does, when it reaches deep and pulls out something approaching nuance, we feel the need to stand up and celebrate. Those glimpses come often enough that one cannot possibly write Wovenwar off entirely. Not just yet. Four, maybe five albums into its career we’ll probably see some true colors. In the meantime, we’ll keep watching while everyone marches the party line.