Wolves at the Gate made a pretty big splash in the industry when they released Captors in 2012. Now, less than a month shy of 2 years later, the band is releasing their second full-length record with Solid State. Five by Five, stylized as VxV, shows some strong improvements for this Ohio based band. The group still features their same post-hardcore sound, but it's even more polished this time around. That's not to say the record is over-produced (though the production is cleaner), but only to mean the band has continued to improve upon their sound. The guitars seem a little heavier at times and the screams seem to have a bit more bite. Aesthetically, it also features a really cool looking album cover with several nuggets printed inside of the multi-layer circles.
VxV opens with a spoken word segment from John Piper, titled with the same name, about the gospel. After a brief message about Jesus dying for our sins, Nick Detty punches you in the gut with his scream to start "Wake Up." The guitars and drums are heavy and frantic in the verse and open up in the chorus. It's a great opening number that eventually ends with one last reminder of the gospel as the line, "It wasn't you… It was the spotless, sinless, Lamb of God who died in you place; that's the gospel," is repeated from "VxV." As the music fades out, another heavy barrage fades in with "Dust to Dust." "Return" is the first time we get to hear a really solid juxtaposition of Steve Cobucci and Nick Detty. Detty starts with screams and Cobucci answers with clean vocals throughout a large majority of the track. This one is an album favorite. The heavy music continues through "Relief" and doesn't slow down until "The Bird and the Snake" starts up. This is one of the softest tracks on the album, but still features a rocking bridge complete with screams.
"Rest" is up next and is more of a rock song. It's actually reminiscent of something like The Almost - especially from their last record. "East to West" starts off with a spoken word section and it's not until 43 seconds in that the album's most powerful song officially begins. This track is VxV's closest thing to something like "Man of Sorrows;" it's a hard rock song, but it still carries with it a sense of worship. Cobucci sings, "Living You loved me though I fought. Dying You saved me, my soul bought. Buried You carried my sins away; You carried my sins far away." The lyrics talk of Christ's sacrifice for us and are also a reference to Psalms 103:12 and how far God separates our sins from us. "Wild Heart" and "The Convicted" bring back the aggression of the first few tracks and provide plenty of metal enjoyment. Finally, "Majesty in Misery" leads us to the final track. In true Wolves at the Gate style, "The Father's Bargain" also begins with a spoken word focusing on Jesus dying for us. The slow beginning lulls you into the false sense of a soft closer, but Nick Detty gives you another dose of screams coupled with heavy guitars at just the perfect time. The song finishes out strongly and caps off an album focusing largely on the gospel and Christ's love and sacrifice. It's a reminder that only Jesus' death and blood provides forgiveness of our sins.
Wolves at the Gate have definitely improved since Captors. Even though the record was highly regarded by many, VxV makes it clear that they were weren't operating at full potential. While it's hard to say whether or not VxV is the peak of their potential, it is clearly evident that they are at least one step closer to reaching it. Wolves at the Gate are offering up a nicely produced album full of post-hardcore and metal goodness. Some may complain that there isn't anything quite like "Man of Sorrows" here, but I would argue that's not a bad thing. One: There has been an improvement in the lyrical aspect of the song writing in general, and two: "Why would you want another song just like that?" Fans should be in love with this album and I don't blame them. This is just another example of why the Christian metal scene as the edge over its secular counterparts.- Review date: 5/30/14, written by Michael Weaver of Jesusfreakhideout.com
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