When San Diego metalcore outfit Wovenwar recorded their self-titled debut for Metal Blade in 2014, they hadn't even played a show with vocalist Shane Blay. His clean singing and lyrics proved a solid addition in the studio. After nearly two years on the road, Honor Is Dead arrived. Produced by the band and recorded in studios in three different cities, it is the last offering from the quintet incarnation of Wovenwar. Guitarist Phil Sgrosso -- who was involved in every aspect of this creation -- left the band just before release. Blay adds guitar playing to his singing and will be Nick Hipa's new foil on the road as the band remains a foursome.
Honor Is Dead is (mostly) more aggressive than its predecessor; it's a jagged meld of nu-metal, metalcore, indie-oriented emo, and hard rock. As evidenced by the track "Confession," the excellent first single and opening track, Blay was given free rein to scream as well as sing. The electronic treatments pasted onto Jordan Mancino's thudding tom-toms and kick drum introduce a layered vocal chant followed by a metalcore riff. The melodic refrain balances the churn and shriek in the verses. "Censorship" follows with Josh Gilbert's bassline underscoring Sgrosso and Hipa, whose guitars engage in knotty, detuned metalcore riffery. Blay's screaming is front and center; only his refrain comes off clean. Were it not for its alluring bridge, "Lines in the Sand" is a collision of atonal guitar and bass vamps and hard-grooving drums. The twinning of "Stones Thrown" with its unhinged vocals, inventive production, and monstrous guitars, and the hookier follower "Cascade" are an excellent one-two punch. That said, they don't prepare you for the messy indie of "Silhouette," complete with hip-hop drums. Things wrap up with the screamo-tinged squall of "Bloodletter" and the chug and wallop of "130." Most of the songwriting on Honor Is Dead is excellent, it offers imagination, cleverness, and confidence. There are still some missteps -- the sheer drudgery of "World on Fire" and iffy indie prog of "Compass" -- but they at least offer restless experimentation. Honor Is Dead wards off the sophomore slump trappings with a creative progression as solid as its predecessor.