1. The Harvest
3. Morning Star
4. Dead Man
5. In Your Wake
7. Step Out to the Water
10. Through the Night
11. Man of Sorrows
Let’s address the 800 pound gorilla in the room right now. As you can see, I have awarded Captors a perfect score by my standards. This album has it all in my opinion: a unique sound that I believe will withstand the test of time, a musical maturity that usually takes a very long time to build, and passionate, even worshipful, lyrics. While I can not speak for what the rest of the year has to offer in the vein of heavy music, I can say that in my opinion Wolves at the Gate have unleashed the best heavy record of the year.
I decided that probably the best way to convey my feelings about how good this record is was to split the review up into three sections, one for each of the things that stood out to me – Sound, Musicianship, and Lyrics.
Sound – I have never encountered a band that sounds quite like Wolves at the Gate. This talented group of musicians is able to mix screams and singing about exactly 50/50. While comparisons can be drawn to other tag teaming vocalists such as the late Underoath with Gillespie and Chamberlain, Wolves at the Gate provides a more complicated song structure that allows the singing of Cobucci to be found anywhere in the song rather than Gillespie, who was often limited to choruses or bridges for his singing to shine through.
The raw passion conveyed through sound alone is something that floored me. Cobucci sings with one of the most powerful voices I have heard in quite some time, never registering anything near whiny, but rather a smooth, throaty croon (Think Matt McDonald of The Classic Crime). On the other hand, the screaming vocals, while not anything that will make your jaw drop from any technique or range will surely catch the listener off guard with the urgency and frantic howling of Nick Detty. “Step Out to the Water” is one of the best songs to showcase the dueling vocals as I think both singers are at their highest on this track. Cobucci shines during the chorus as his voice almost reaches the point of breaking as he adds extra roughness to his voice which segues perfectly into Detty’s ferocious yelping. If you compare the more singing oriented “Safeguards” to possibly the hardest on the album, “Amnesty” you can see how Wolves at the Gate has the ability to hit harder or slow things down if need be.
Wolves at the Gate also is extremely hard to pigeonhole into any sort of genre. The use of vocals are largely responsible for this, but the guys playing instruments should not be left out of the equation as their skill of multiple genres contributes to a unique sound. Whether the album opener, “The Harvest” with it’s ability to change from one of Wolves at the Gate’s hardest songs one moment to a slow, mellow jam or the fantastic “In Your Wake” which features an ambient intro accompanied by intricate guitar work on the chorus.
Musicianship – Although I touched on this a little in the last paragraph I think they are a talented enough band to have a whole paragraph dedicated to their proficiency of their instruments. Songs like “Slaves” caught me off guard completely. When I first heard the acoustic guitar, I thought it sounded cool, but figured it was just going to be an acoustic segue into the next song. I was wrong however, as the band then transitions into one of the most powerful songs on the album that will have the listener pumping their fists before ending with an acoustic outro. “Dead Man” features incredible drumming from Ben Millhouse as he and the rest of the band switch from breakdowns and heavy riffs into the soaring rock chorus and progressive bridge without flaw. “Amnesty” finds the band playing with a harder edge, sounding like a band that that wouldn’t be out of place on tour with August Burns Red or Oh, Sleeper with discords, breakdowns, and aggressive riffing. On the flip side, “Safeguards” is a song predominately with clean vocals that would make any Thrice fan giddy with plenty of pretty sounding chords and picked out notes along with intricate drumming. “Man of Sorrows” takes things a step further with tons of reverb soaked guitar leads and goose bump inducing gang vocals.
Lyrics – Not too often do I expect to find lyrics that move me in a spiritual and thought provoking way. But I was indeed moved by the lyrics on Captors. From the questioning of “Have our hands worked the fields for Your glory?/Or have our tongues spoken of Your story?/Have our feet seen the pain in the labor?/Or have we wandered off and wavered?” found in “The Harvest” I was caught off guard to say the least. Needless to say that when “Awaken” rolled around with lyrics of “Awake my soul/ Give me eyes to see the King exalted/ Deserving and worthy/ Awake my soul/ Give me strength to speak among the nations proclaiming Your glory”, I knew I was in for something special.
I think it would be impossible to do this section without mentioning the fantastic lyrics found in “Dead Man”. The music video peaked my interest in what they were saying, seeing as the video was a story of redemption. The lyrics are about nothing less, proclaiming, “Deliver me!/ Wake me up from this damning sleep/I’m surrendering!/Pull me out from this wickedness/ In this thieving heart of stone I realized all these sins I could not atone” and the beautiful “So far apart and a debt to fulfill/ This purchase bought on redemption’s hill/ An ailing disease I couldn’t cure/
Oh this grace! How rich and pure!”
The song however that intrigued me the most lyrically was “Slaves”. This song takes unique imagery to make great lyrics, an art I feel has almost become lost to more straightforward lyrics. “Slaves” is sung from the perspective of a physical slave plotting escape and eventually running into the woods, afraid of pursuit of their master.
Overall: All in all, reviews are opinions. I am not right for thinking this album is perfect, because I am sure to some people, this album will not speak to them the same way it did to me. For me though, Captors (ITALIC) is a fantastic debut for Wolves at the Gate combining thoughtful lyrics, interesting music, and a sound unlike anything else I have heard. Keep an eye out for these guys as I believe they can only improve from here.
RIYL: Oh, Sleeper, To Speak of Wolves, Akissforjersey