David Eugene Edwards has never been an easy fit for many record labels. Through the 1990s, with the brooding folk-rock act 16 Horsepower, and with the stoic solo reflections of Wovenhand over the last decade, he’s bounced among various American imprints—from the majors in the mid-’90s to weirdo outpost Alternative Tentacles, from the once-edgy and now-erstwhile Jetset to the Christian encampment Sounds Familyre. The movement stems, at least in part, from Edwards’ deliberate genre aggregation.
Some artists revel in the joy and peace of the glory of the Lord, and then there are folks like David Eugene Edwards. Edwards' music with his group Wovenhand is powerful, fascinating stuff, and his frequent citation of stories from the Bible make it clear the man's beliefs are sincere and solidly founded, but a couple spins of 2014's Refractory Obdurate make it clear he's a bigger fan of Jonathan Edwards' "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God" than "What a Friend We Have in Jesus. " Refractory Obdurate is an album full of blood and drama, even more musically than lyrically, and between the thundering percussion, the distorted and echoing vocals, the dynamic sway between the electric guitars and acoustic instruments, and the ominous minor-key melodies, Edwards leaves little room to doubt that he's not here to bring us comfort, but to confront us with the will of God.
I don’t believe in God, but I have complete faith in Wovenhand lead singer and songwriter David Eugene Edwards. Which is alarming, because Refractory Obdurate sounds a clamorous warning that something is nigh. Rather than a direct message, Edwards offers only a shatter of brimstone pieces; but take my word, we’re talking some cataclysmic shit. Those disciples who’ve followed Edwards through the decades — beginning with 16 Horsepower’s deep holler roar and evolving into Wovenhand’s eastward-facing digressions — may have sensed a stirring in the portent of “Truth” from 2010’s The Threshingfloor: “Will my time pass so slowly/ On the day that I fear?” That fearful day is at hand.
David Edwards' music has imposed on a lot of my peers strongly. I've respected his work with Wovenhand in the past and found 16 Horsepower to be a bit ahead of their time (which I hope translates as the compliment I meant it to be). There's a lot of backstory to his musical path but for all the filler that backstory makes, one thing's apparent - Refractory Obdurate is an anthology of years of musical experience and a fearless venture that mashes up many genres and sounds.
Wovenhand Refractory Obdurate (Deathwish Inc.) Whether with former powerhouse 16 Horsepower or the succeeding Wovenhand, David Eugene Edwards hews closely to Pentecostal folk goth. That's what makes the seventh Wovenhand LP such a refreshing departure: Refractory Obdurate is the unabashed electric rock LP the Colorado fourpiece has hinted at in its last two releases. "Field of Hedon," "Masonic Youth," and "Good Shepherd" blast into anthemic magnificence, like a rougher, earthier U2 more concerned with sin than salvation.