The Return to Christian Metal
Ohio’s Christian post-hardcore group Wolves at the Gate has released its second studio release, following 2012’s Captors. The title of this new album, VxV, pronounced “five by five,” refers to a military rating on signal strength and clarity — with a five by five rating being the best, and vocalist Steve Cobucci explains in an interview with Reel Gospel that he feels that such a title reflects the gospel they are trying to give. The trend of hardcore- and metal-influenced Christian bands mostly had its peak during the early ’00s, but Wolves at the Gate seems determined to bring about a revival. Whether or not this is a good thing remains to be seen, but if their passionate screaming and the occasional catchy riff has anything to say about it, the hard rocking Christians will have their resurrection.
The opening title track “VxV” is a short clip of a friend of the band and preacher Anthony Zurlo speaking about the gospel, and clips from him and fellow preacher John Piper pop up throughout the record. In case the screaming muddled the theological message, the various sermons serve to educate us. These breaks of spoken gospel do help ground the listener to the album, but they don’t solve the problem that even during an initial listen, most songs on the record are indistinguishable from one another. Tracks like “Wild Heart” feature guitar riffs that we’ve already heard various times throughout the record, so by that point it’s hard to tell whether we’re listening to a new song or the same few on repeat.
Wolves at the Gate, for all their preaching — a rarity these days — have nothing that makes them stand out in a sea of similar sounding metalcore bands, but VxV is a solid, decently enjoyable record nonetheless. Christian metal fans looking for a new band to get behind should certainly seek out Wolves at the Gate, but anyone looking for a unique or notable post-hardcore or metal record should likely look elsewhere; they won’t find a single new thing here.