Where? Dome, London
When? 18th October 2016
David Eugene Edwards has never been one to rest on his laurels. For two and a half decades, starting with 16 Horsepower in the early ’90s, his loyal following have been gifted with countless shifts in form and style. And here we are, awaiting the towering wall of noise that Wovenhand have arrived at after 15 years of increasingly electrified gothic Americana. Before the floodgates open, LA songstress, Emma Ruth Rundle, soothes troubled hearts with her ethereal croon and softly overdriven acoustic guitar. Time served in Marriages and Red Sparowes allowed her to command a saintly reverence for songs that whispered their pain with Lynchian coolness.
The first thing you notice when Wovenhand saunter on stage is that a noticeably svelte Edwards, sporting a cream Stetson, has no stool to sit on. One can only surmise that this is because 1) he has dispensed with the previously higher number of instruments he used to deploy, 2) stage-left guitarist, Chuck French (also of punk rock titans, Planes Mistaken For Stars, alongside bassist Neil Keener), exudes so much smouldering attitude he might steal attention away from a sedentary Edwards, and 3) this type of rock’n’roll just ain’t for sittin’. Anyway, trivial matters. What we are dealing with here is the sound of a band – driven by Edwards’ unshakeable vision – who have chosen to unleash a snarling rock monster to feast upon the folk-roots, Christian iconography and native American spiritual stylings that have been at the core of all Wovenhand’s output. The result is something akin to The Cult or The Gun Club steeped in post-hardcore chutzpah, with a solemn nod to old-timey sensibilities.
As expected, the band focus on songs from the last two albums, ‘Refractory Obdurate’ and the recently released ‘Star Treatment’, but manage to recast a few older gems with effortless panache. And Edwards still allows for his beloved banjola (banjo/mandola hybrid) to make a few very welcome appearances, especially on the exquisite ‘Corsicana Clip’. Very few words are spoken, very few animated moves, no fanfare whatsoever, but the band’s collective raw power and Edward’s atypical idiosyncrasies more than compensate. They return for an encore of new album opener, the thrilling stompathon ‘Come Brave’, a song that exemplifies the skin-shedding wonder of Wovenhand 2.0 – where disappointing the puritans and redefining faith-rock is all part of the unique game-plan. Praise be!