Christ, this is one weighty album. It’s not just the low tempos and crushing weight of the bass, but the sinewy chords and anguished drone of the vocals on the opening salvoes of ‘Come Brave’ and ‘Swaying Reed’ that call to mind mid-80s Swans in its early stages. The latter is a seething, writhing beast of a track. It’s all about the tension, the build. It’s a dark, churning morass of sound which swells, Tense, taut and gristly, the post-punk thrust of ‘The Hired Hand’ comes as light relief in comparison.
Sonically denser than its precursor, Wovenhand’s ninth album in 14 years combines gothic drama and punishing apocalypticism with mesmerically textured atmosphere. The piano-led pomp of ‘Crystal Palace’ succeeds by virtue of its epic qualities: the insistent drum, the cascading guitars washing against rolling piano call to mind The Sisters of Mercy circa First and Last and Always. It takes a rare degree of arrogance and confidence to pull off something as monumentally grand as this, and David Eugene Edwards and his cohorts have got it nailed. Edwards’ tempestuous, desperate baritone is a clear focal point, adding an emphasis and emotional tone to the brooding instrumental compositions. I feel no shame in admitting I’m a huge fan of this kind of thing, at least when done well, and Wovenhand show themselves to be absolute masters here, to the extent that I find myself sitting, agape, head back and in a sort of prone position in my seat and the music surges over me. Yes, this is huge, immense and intense in equal measure.
The tribal drumming and soaring theatricality of ‘Crook and Flail’ and throbbing intensity of ‘The Quiver’ sustain the tone of grandeur, and also call to mind Danse Society in their early years. The guitars are by turns fractal and screeding, with traces of feedback and the occasional 12-string strum If ‘All Your Waves’ seems to lean rather on ‘Flood II’ from The Sisters of Mercy’s 1987 classic ‘Floodland’, it at least does so dextrously and with aplomb.
It’s not all bleak: Golden Blossom’ calls to mind the uplifting folk stylings of Swans during their ‘Love of Life’ and White Light’ early 90s phase.
The layering, the textures, the drama… these are the things that make ‘Star Treatment’ a darkly powerful album.
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