Christian metalcore is in a weird place right now. It is hard to classify the state of the subgenre. Back in its heyday, maybe 5-10 years ago, everybody and their mother was in a “Christ-core” band. Was it gimmicky? Absolutely. Half of the bands that walked around with the Christian label on their foreheads only labeled themselves as such for the attention and the positive image. After weeding through the hypocrites, you were left with relatively few solid Christ-following bands that stuck to their message both on and off the stage. Being in such a band today is no easy task, as For Today has shown us time after time again. Those who continue to follow biblical principles and beliefs are not welcomed as warmly as they would have been just five years ago. Under these circumstances, only deeply devoted believers are able to continue professing their faith to the metalcore community.
All of this is to say that Wolves At The Gate is one of those few bands that seems to be unfazed by the recent persecution of Christian musicians. With their sophomore release, VxV, they chose to broadcast their message more blatantly than ever before. Some tracks even come off as a little preachy, such as the introduction – which features a preacher of some sort rambling on about God, hope, salvation, and the like. This kind of thing has been done a thousand times among Christian bands, but it’s an easy trope to overlook considering the musical finesse that follows.
The clear-cut star of VxV is singer/guitarist Stephen Cobucci. His vocals on the band’s debut album Captors were near impeccable and molded seamlessly with the rest of the ensemble, yet he somehow managed to further improve since 2012. The vigorous choruses of “Relief” boast Cobucci’s raspy clean vocals with unparalleled precision and authority. Another noteworthy performance of his comes just two tracks later with more impressive dynamics flowing through the passages of “The Bird and the Snake.” This song also effectively showcases Nick Detty’s unbridled screams, which have developed noticeably as well since Captors.
One particular aspect of this band’s music that makes them stand out is that the guitar work is interesting more often than not. It can go by unnoticed if you let it, but pay closer attention and you’ll realize that the guitarists apply themselves much more than the average metalcore band. Although there are a few moments, such as the intro to “East to West,” where the guitar leads jump in steal the spotlight effortlessly. There might be a few too many hard rock riffs scattered about, but I’d take a riff over a breakdown just about any day. You won’t find a single breakdown on this whole record, and I applaud them for resisting the temptation.
The juxtaposition of the guitars and vocals are often reminiscent of bands like Underoath and Thrice, yet never come too close to mimicking either. However, there are times when songs seem to be mimicking each other on VxV. Variety is no issue on this album, but there are a few tracks that don’t really offer anything too captivating and can come off as little more than filler. Thankfully, these tracks are few and far between and hardly affect the album’s momentum.
Wolves At The Gate are one of the few heavy Christian bands that consistently produce high quality music and have no trouble adapting to their ever-changing music environment. There is just enough progression on this record to prevent itself from becoming a Captors Pt. 2, yet never strays from the unqiue sound that the band has established as their own. VxV is for fans of heavy music all across the board – Christian or not.