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Wolves At The Gate | Captors

by Mark Allen
Staff Writer —

If you’re in the mood for some heavy-hitting metalcore that rushes from the speakers like a wolf pouncing on unsuspecting prey and tears into your eardrums with fury and fierceness, then this Christian band’s sophomore album (following a debut EP last year) will hit the spot. There is nothing cutting edge here, mind you—Wolves At The Gate (WATG) are content to run with the pack rather than lead it; more beta than alpha, in other words—but this is very solid stuff for the genre.

Where WATG do differ from many of their metalcore brethren is in the vocal department, striking a nice balance between harsh screams/growls and the clean singing. Even more impressive, they manage to take this approach without sounding overtly commercial; both the vocal hooks and guitar hooks work in tandem to supply these songs a catchy edge, but rarely (if ever) does it sound ready to be played on mainstream radio. Aside from the root DNA that that all metalcore acts share, you will not mistake WATG for In Flames or All That Remains or bands of that ilk. That is not a criticism of those bands, but rather a comparison to emphasize that WATG are a little rawer, a little more old school, with engineering geared toward heaviness rather than slick polish.

Even as heavy as they are, WATG are more decipherable than your typical metalcore outfit. Even when the vocals go harsh and the screams rise to throat-bleed levels, the lyrics remain easier-than-normal to understand, which allows the band’s blatant Christianity to come shining through. Granted, this bold evangelical approach may not be to all tastes, but for the headbanging believers out there who lament the fact that so many Christian metal bands obscure their faith in enigma, lyrics like “How can I repay You, Lord / For this all-forgiving love? / For it’s the sight of Christ upon the tree / that sure will always still and humble me” will be welcome and refreshing. Those who find such scriptural proclamations to be problematic or proselytizing should probably go listen to Devildriver instead…

While the band primarily focus on heavy aggression, they have not forgotten that for many hard music fans, the chorus is the make-or-break factor. While the band’s skill in this department has certainly improved since their debut, with smoother hooks and better delivery, they could still use a bit more fine-tuning; some of the songs rage by in a hurricane blur but leave little lasting impression. But when the band gets it right, they can deliver the goods. “Dead Man,” for example, kicks more ass than Jesus did in the temple when the moneychangers pissed Him off, a relentlessly rampaging track with a monstrous stop-start chorus rhythm that merits the metal horns thrust heavenward in approval. “Slaves” starts out deceptively mellow, almost stealing the melody from Nirvana’s cover of “Lake of Fire” while alternative vocals drone over acoustic guitars, but then the metal slams in big time for one of the most anthemic songs on the album. So, yeah, while some of the choruses could be kicked up a notch, there are also some that really hit the mark.

Solid State Records has a reputation of only adding solid bands to their roster and WATG are no exception. This may not be the penultimate metalcore album, but it definitely should not be ignored; it’s a strong effort from a group of heavy metal artists who are just getting started. You know how some bands just huff and puff with no real power behind them, all faux toughness and hollow, cookie-cutter heaviness? Not so with these guys. When Wolves At The Gate pick up their instruments and proceed to huff and puff, they’re going to blow your house down.

Genre: Christian Metalcore

Steve Cobucci (vocals, guitar)
Jeremy Steckel (guitar)
Ben Summers (bass)
Nick Detty (vocals)
Ben Millhouse (drums)

Track Listing
1. The Harvest
2. Awaken
3. Morning Star
4. Dead Man
5. In Your Wake
6. Slaves
7. Step Out To the Water
8. Amnesty
9. Safeguards
10. Through the Night
11. Man of Sorrows

Label: Solid State Records


Hardrock Haven rating: 7/10