Album Review :
Wolves at the Gate - VxV

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Band: Wolves at the Gate
Album: VxV
Label: Solid State Records
Release: 6.10.14
Reviewer: Brody B
Tracklisting:

  1. VxV
  2. Wake Up
  3. Dust to Dust
  4. Return
  5. Relief
  6. The Bird and the Snake
  7. Rest
  8. East to West
  9. Wild Heart
  10. The Convicted
  11. Majesty in Misery
  12. The Father’s Bargain

To anyone who has frequented this site for the past two years, my love for Wolves at the Gate has been no secret. I gave their debut album, “Captors” a raving 5 star review and have since seen the band numerous times live. The downside to being so enamored with a premier album from a young band are the inevitable feelings that will come when the sophomore album is announced years later.

The aforementioned feelings often include an unmatched excitement. Just the thought of a band that I fell in love with upon first listen bringing something new to the table is a mouthwatering thought. But along with those feelings of jubilation, whispers of doubt often tend to creep in. Thoughts of, “Can they really do it again?” and “What if it’s no good?” are inevitably in the back of even the most die hard fan’s mind.

These feelings were indeed warring within me over the past few months. Even the release of single Dust to Dust did nothing to calm my nerves. Even after receiving the album and giving it a spin, I was left feeling unsure. Could this album top “Captors” and go down as one of my favorite metalcore albums? The answer is not an easy one, but after double digit listens, I am ready to say YES.

“VxV” does not find Wolves at the Gate delving too much into new territory from where they left off on their debut, yet it finds the group reaching deep inside and channeling a more mature and focused variation of the sound we all know and love. “VxV” is heavy and honest. It will move you both physically and emotionally.

After a brief intro track, Wolves at the Gate flex their newfound muscles, bombarding the listener with one of the heaviest tracks released in recent history. While the song still features excellent clean vocals from Stephen Cobucci, he delivers them with a bit of an edge which creates a nice back and forth with front man, Nick Detty.

Lead single Dust to Dust keeps the energy going. Chunky riffs with intermingled leads flood the speakers, while new drummer Dylan Baxter adds his tight and technical drumming into the fray. Where the track truly shines though is the lyrical aspect. Speaking on how fruitless the things of this world are, Cobucci belts out in one of the best choruses on the album, “Oh how lost I would be if my faith unwound (And I lost the Lord) Oh how empty my soul would ever be found (If I gained the world) / The joy in knowing my Great King / The joy in knowing I’m blood bought by The King / My truest treasure is I’ll know my King!”.

Return was the first track where I really noticed the lack of a second guitar player. This is in no way a bad thing, as bassist Ben Summers steps up to the plate to provide a solid foundation of groove while Cobucci plays some impressive leads. The verses seem to have an air about them that truly gives all the instruments room to breathe; something that’s really refreshing. The dexterity of this track is also mind boggling as the members are able to transcend any genres, bouncing back and forth between crushingly heavy and melody driven.

The fifth track on the album, Relief, was the first track to really grab my attention when listening through the first time. Starting out with spoken word, hand claps, and heavy tom beats, I was instantly hooked. “All who are burdened and seeking respect / All who are hopeless (wretched and desperate) / All who are worn out and feeling oppressed (Come in and find your rest!)” are the opening lines of this phenomenal track. Much like it’s predecessor, Return, this track is all over the map musically.

Drawing heavily on Thrice influence, The Bird and The Snake is the oddball of the album. Much like Slaves off “Captors”, the song is largely Cobucci handling the vocals while Detty fills in the gaps. Starting out slowly with piano the song feels a bit like it will be a ballad, especially with Cobucci weaving a story of two creatures conversing amongst each other, however the song soon picks up and gains a driving, bass heavy groove.

Rest begins with hand claps and heavy bass as the driving force. Shortly after the track breaks out of it’s laid back shell and becomes one of the best riffing songs on the album. Ben Summers shows that “VxV” is not the average metalcore release with minimal bass, but instead commands the listeners attention with his distorted thumping.

Much like The Bird and The Snake, East to West begins feeling like it could be a ballad. Cobucci does a spoken word bit over top of mellow piano before rocketing into some of the most technical guitar on the album. This track really showcases the contrast between both vocalists as they work in tandem to create a compelling sound. Lyrically the song focuses on Psalm 103:12, “…as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us”.

Wild Heart acts as a counterpart to The Bird and The Snake. While the later of those tracks focuses more on Cobucci’s crooning, Wild Heart finds Detty taking the lead with ferocious screams. The rest of the band follows suit, playing very riff heavy tunes. Dylan Baxter has a standout performance on this thrashy jam as he lays down a smattering of complex double bass beats and fills.

The Convicted and Majesty in Misery both fit perfectly with each other and serve to up the ante for the finale of the album. Both tracks find a happy medium between a drivingly heavy force and a winding down tone, so as to keep things interesting while also setting the stage for the epic closer, The Father’s Bargain.

The Father’s Bargain is one of the most powerful songs I have been blessed enough to hear. The track dances the line between ballad and driving closer as it continually changes tempos between raucous riffing and experimental string plucking. Lyrically the closer deals with the subject matter of how Jesus died on the cross for us. While an elementary topic to any Christian, WATG delves into the fact that Jesus knew how much it would cost Him to save us, yet He still died to be our guarantee for eternal life if we will only accept it. The combination of powerful lyrics and intricate musicianship is a reckoning force.

Overall: Against all odds and all my petty concerns, Wolves at the Gate has done it again. Building off a solid foundation that was “Captors”, the band has upped the ante on “VxV”. While not reinventing the wheel of what they have previously done, their sophomore album finds them more focused and spiritual than ever.

RIYL: Thrice | The Overseer | Akissforjersey

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