David Eugene Edwards formed Wovenhand back when his previous band, 16 Horsepower, was beginning to falter. For the last decade and a half he’s been bending Americana to his every whim, and that whim apparently comes from quite a dark and cavernous place.
Those expecting a Southern twang, the pluck of a banjo and a cowboy-booted hoedown are, initially, going to be somewhat disappointed when encountering Wovenhand. This is a band that favours a sound that could best be described as enormous. Wovenhand’s roots are in Americana certainly, but with the addition of elements of goth and stadium rock, theirs is a desert-sized howl in the wilderness.
Take opening track Come Brave for example; its thundering drums and multi-layered guitars combine to create an almost spiritual vista for Edwards to inhabit. Right at the centre of the cacophonous noise his band makes, Edwards howls at God, the moon, and pretty much anything else he might encounter. His voice doesn’t fit the Americana mould at all, instead channeling the likes of Ian McCulloch, Ian Astbury and, at times, the Lizard King himself, Jim Morrison.
Much like Morrison, Edwards is clearly influenced by the spiritual power of music, and as Star Treatment progresses, he begins to take on the role of evangelical preacher. Whilst Edwards himself is a devout Christian, the album is not an overt prayer of thanks to the Lord, but instead marvels at the wonder of the heavens and the earth. Who made them rarely comes into it. That said, the cavernous blues of Swaying Reeds does take the form of a hymn, albeit a hymn delivered whilst on peyote and underpinned by a loose and sinister blues crawl. Ride the snake by all means, but consult your bibles, because snakes are not to be trusted (particularly when capable of speech and in possession of fruit).
Crook And Flail’s repetitive guitar lick and tribal drum patterns is beguiling and hypnotic. It’s the kind of thing you might expect to find on latter day Swans albums. Here Edwards dances beneath the sun, whilst submitting to the healing power of a shepherd. OK, so there’s some obvious Christian references on the album, but still, it’s easy to miss the finer details and appreciate the song as an ancient pagan ritual.
It’s not all full on bombastic spiritualism though, and The Quiver starts in subdued form with its gentle guitar lines and Edwards’ David Bowie-esque croon questioning his very being and contemplating shuffling off this mortal coil. It is, he sings, “a song of ascent” and at the point, the song explodes into life, becoming a scree of envigorated drums a soaring guitar solos with Edwards focused at in the eye of the storm. It’s an absolutely breathless and staggering shift through the gears.
Golden Blossom is a far calmer affair, and the closest the album gets to folk. It’s another impassioned performance from Edwards, and as he bathes in the light of the sun/god (you choose) the song unfurls beautifully and radiates a sense of well-being. There may well be a lot of shadowy corners on Star Treatment, but this is not one of them and its positivity is undeniable and quite glorious. In a similar vein is the slow burn psychedelic thrum of Five By Five which has tints of The Sisters Of Mercy‘s gothic grandeur.
Whilst Star Treatment might funnel a lot of influences into its carefully woven songs, it is still a fiercely idiosyncratic work. To hear it is to fall under its spell, and the roar of Edwards’ triumph deserves to be heard far and wide.