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On the third Wovenhand album, 16 Horsepower frontman David Eugene Edwards doesn't do anything particularly new. Yet the disc manages to sound surprisingly fresh anyway, because Edwards takes the characteristics that have long echoed through his work -- specifically, his love for biblical language and forceful roots music -- and amplifies them to an almost obsessive degree. The result is a recording that's as intense as anything he's committed to plastic.

Edwards's brand of Christianity is harsh and unforgiving. In the deceptively gentle "Chest of Drawers," for instance, he warns visitors to God's house that those reluctant to bow will have their knees broken. Of course, he's plenty willing to prostrate himself before his Lord, but he seems uncertain of his worthiness, given the flaws he shares with the rest of humanity. The tension generated by his impossible quest for perfection turns songs such as "To Make a Ring" -- replete with a droning melody, martial rhythms and Edwards's haunted yowling -- into spiritual wrestling matches of epic proportions.

Overflowing with praise and pain, Consider the Birds distills Edwards's music down to its essence. Amen to that.