... when I see photos of this same type/genre done well, I get a visceral response to them that I can't exactly explain.
I thought you were asking about that specific photo rather than photos with that kind of subject.
I'm trying to nail down what it is that makes subjects like weathered wood (and rusting metal) attractive in the first place
Well, attractive or attractive as a subject for photography?
As a subject for photography they have -- texture, colour, regular shapes, irregular shapes -- and the huge benefit that they stay put and change little over the years, so we can keep returning to play our photographic game.
It's the rich reddish-browns of weathered wood I find attractive-- so the B&Ws (this one of yours and those by AA) leave me cold ;-)