Coming quickly off of last year's stellar Reprise EP, Wolves at the Gate attempts to truly cement their place in the post-hardcore scene with their third LP, Types & Shadows. As a reviewer, it's only been over the last few years that I've developed a true appreciation for the genre through artists such as Everything in Slow Motion and For Today. While it is oftentimes easy for casual listeners to overlook the lyrical depth of such artists, Wolves at the Gate's latest release serves to challenge all listeners with clear vocals and a profound, Gospel-centric message. Arguably softer than their prior studio albums, the accessibility of Types & Shadows will hopefully act as an entry point for new listeners. It wasn't until last year's EP that I began to carefully listen to the band's discography and discovered just how much I'd missed out.
The album opens with "Asleep," a track consisting of a healthy mix of both screamed and clean vocals. The powerful lyrics depict a conversation between God and a believer struggling with doubt and brokenness: "I hear Your song: / "for you My blood was spilled / in you I see no guilt" / Wash me now, my God, or I will die." While following the conversation can prove a bit difficult, its lyrics effectively help map out the themes of the album, including redemption, doubt, and the contrast between darkness and light. The next piece, "Flickering Flame," again emphasizes these themes: "Stay with me, flickering flame; I know Your name / every night I'll watch and wait as my candle's burning out / every night I'm filled with doubt, I will cry to You and shout."
"War in the Time of Peace" falls decidedly into the hard rock genre, reminiscent of My Epic's independent projects, while "Anthema" is a bit of a throwback to the band's earlier years. Unfortunately, neither track is exceptionally memorable, especially the latter. Interestingly enough, "Fountain" is one of the best tracks on the album. If its lyrics seem familiar, it's because they were directly pulled from the hymn "There is a Fountain Filled with Blood," written by William Cowper circa 1771. The darker take on the melody serves to shed light on the bleaker aspects of Christ's sacrifice and the cost of our redemption. "Fountain" closes and seamlessly flows into "Weary Ground," and not just melodically. The necessity of redemption is examined in this piece through the lines, "We're waiting for a better day, with shadows gone, old things passed away / listen close and hear us say: we're cursed and we're dying."
"Lowly" is a melancholic and unusually honest piece which takes an unfiltered look at the human condition, offering a raw plea to God: "Captured alive in this sinful estate … I do the things that I hate / tear down this structure 'til nothing is left, God deliver me from this body of death / Oh wretched man, wretched man that I am / lowly man, who can save such a wretch that I am, who can save such man?" In hindsight, this track probably should have been the album closer. For fans of the 2012's Captors, the tenth track, "Convalesce," should be a welcome addition to the album, fitting in well with the band's style from that era. "Chasing the Wind" is an interesting piece; it seems to have the texture of an acoustic song that was adapted to hard rock. Regardless, the song is one of the best on the album, and the confluence of the lyrical and melodic content makes this a track to remember: "Yet how could this be, I've been such a liar who's got nothing to give and none You require / how could I forget; Your ways are much higher."
The semi-final track, "Hindsight," is also a favorite, both challenging and affirming our identity as humans and children of God: "Am I different than Judas? For I've betrayed the kindest friend / I'm all out of excuses with nothing to make my amends." The unfiltered and simple lines screamed out of the end of the track ("when You found me all broken from the words that I'd spoken, but You are faithful in devotion, yeah You remembered me, You remember me") really hit the nail on the head. The closing track, "Grave Digger," is a great song, but feels a little bit out of place bringing up the rear of Types & Shadows. Several tracks on this album would have worked quite well as closers, including "Fountain," "Hindsight," and the aforementioned "Lowly," so that was a minor disappointment.
Ultimately, Types & Shadows is one of 2016's best releases and will doubtlessly serve as a highlight in Wolves at the Gate's career. Even if you're not a fan of the post-hardcore genre (but enjoy rock), this album is worth checking out. At the very least, give "Fountain," "Lowly," "Chasing the Wind," and "Hindsight" a spin. If you're already a fan of the band, this is a must-buy addition to your collection; you won't be disappointed.
- Review date: 11/2/16, written by David Craft of Jesusfreakhideout.com