The day after the release of their seventh album The Threshingfloor, Woven Hand make an overdue return to Europe, with just one UK date.
The crowd, assembled early for tonight’s support band Crippled Black Phoenix, have travelled from all over the country for the rare outing, and speak volumes about the Colorado band. A mismatched rabble of cowboy hats, leather jackets, eyeliner and studded belts, their fans are as muddled as they are.
Led by former 16 Horsepower front man David Eugene Edwards, the tracks debuted tonight see the band revealing their darkest side. A confused mix of religious imagery set to an unsettling, creeping soundtrack, it’s hardly their most accessible work, but it’s by far their most intriguing.
Throughout their nine year career the band has been known for fusing folk with a dirty rock noise – folk noir, if you will. But much of that has been buried, replaced with a more industrial sound. Edwards spends the entire show on a stool at the side of the stage, keeping the banter to a minimum but marking his presence at the start of each song with a fantastically eerie, distorted intro. He switches mic to growl his way through the rest of the song, but the effect is laid in stone, the atmosphere set – like the calm before the storm, he warns of something darker on the way.
Greater dissection of the band’s lyrics reveals a Christian theme that has inevitably divided opinion on the band, but it’s not something they’ve shied away from – the imagery surrounding the new album’s title being a key example of their defiance. But they’re far from being a Christian rock band, and their experimental nature makes them more than just a vessel for Edwards’ lyrics. Sometimes fearful, often full of optimism, they hang just right and bring to mind the hopeful gloom of Nick Cave.
There are a few new tracks that recall 16 Horsepower‘s country influences, along with nods towards a traditional, earthy sound and even a Middle Eastern feel. This vastness of instrumentation is always the most startling thing about Woven Hand – they’re never going to be a guitar and drums sort of band.
At times they’re bass heavy, and with the audience crammed towards the stage, there is a surprising lack of movement – like Edwards himself, the audience remains still, in silence, absorbing it all. But there’s only so much to take in, and after the first 30 minutes or so, the set begins to drag and there’s little in the way of light relief. Before the end of the show the adjoining bar is doing a swift business, suggesting a few of the stragglers at the back were not quite as in awe as the devotees at the front. But for a lesson in how to explore genres, blur boundaries and create atmosphere, few could argue that Woven Hand are at the top of their game.