Review Summary: If you are a fan of the genre, you’ll dig this album, and if you’re a fan of the band, there’s enough promise here for you to buy and listen to it numerous times.
Today, the metalcore genre is oversaturated, and then some. To separate themselves from the crowd, bands needs to constantly improve their music, whilst also trying to bring something new to the table with every release. As such, it’s not really an easy task, so fans have learned to manage their expectations from their favorite bands. The genre remains popular, though, so it’s not like things are going drastically downhill; although, long time fans will tell you that so-and-so decade was the best for this kind of music.
In that same scene, Wolves at the Gate
have emerged as a relatively newer band, and with their last release, “Captors”; they have built a nice fanbase for themselves. The expectations from their newest release, “VxV” (pronounced Five-by-Five) were quite high owing to the momentum of the last album and the buzz generated by the first single, “Dust to Dust”. Did they succeed? Following is a track-by-track review answering just that:
– There is nothing groundbreaking in this intro, but it does manage to set the message up quite nicely. It’s not an up-tempo song, but it serves as a breather before the actual onslaught begins. The spoken words are quite expositional, so you know what they’re attempting to convey with this album right off the bat.
2. Wake Up
– As the first track, it isn’t that excellent, though the production values are evident from the first chord. It is an average track at best, but the intent of the song works excellently to set the pace up. One can question its choice as the opener; especially when a better track comes right after it, but those are just the limitations of this trade, sadly.
3. Dust to Dust
– Barring the clumsiness of the opening verses, this song is great. It really picks up after the bridge and has one of the most memorable choruses of the album. It’s no wonder why this was chosen as the first single, although, it does make me question why it wasn’t Track #2. The lyrics here are outstanding and lines like, “If I sought fame, I'd be a thief, of all Your Honor; Honor, Glory, and Praise”, serve to involve the listener more as the album progresses. The clean vocals are excellent here, and add that much needed shine to this track.
– The progress in the sound continues and we come at the track that is one of the standouts of the album. The clean vocals here are perfect, and the juxtaposition with the harsh vocals works well to make this track what it is. The lyrics suit the tempo well and are, again, the aspect of the album that makes the songs worth more than they might sound.
– On the first listen, this might seem very similar to a lot of the other stuff that is available out there, but that doesn’t mean that this can be overlooked. The gravitas surrounding the entire album is evident here as well, and that is what might end up creating a separate identity for this song with the listeners.
6. The Bird and the Snake
– The best track of the first half, and genuinely so. What gives it added weightage are lyrics like, “Give me a feather and I’ll trade you my friend. It’s just a single feather dear, it won’t be the end”, and that’s saying a lot because every other song has great lyrics. Telling a story with your songs is quite a tough task, and if you’re able to do it with a very detailed meaning then you’ve succeeded at what you set out to do.
– It might seem that I’m repeating myself, but what elevate this average track are the lyrics. You don’t need to be a Christian to appreciate their meaning, and I’ve battled my hatred of the labeling of a “Christian” genre for quite long now, but that’s another debate for another day.
8. East to West
– A track that is quite unique, but “unique” doesn’t mean bad… at all. The drumming here is above average, and might stand out as the best of the album upon keener listens. It’s a solid length, too, and never overstays its welcome, so there are a lot of positives to be found here.
9. Wild Heart
– Against the other good tracks, it doesn’t quite stand out. It’s by no means poor, though, but it’s skippable if you’re not in the mood for a thorough listen.
10. The Convicted
– This is the sing-along track of the album, and would definitely be a “live” hit. What hampers this is its “sameness”, if you will, but as a separate song, it’s better than average, surely.
11. Majesty in Misery
– The riff of the song is reminiscent of “Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)”, which can be a good thing or a bad thing depending on the way you look at it. What carries it through is that it’s probably the song with the deepest meaning with lyrics like, “No rebellious cries with only love in His eyes.
He knew our sin meant His demise”, but it’s as “in-your-face” as the rest, probably intentionally so.
12. The Father’s Bargain
– The customary brooding closer, but it works efficiently in driving their message home. The production is solid here, and the changes in the tempo take the listeners through a pleasurable journey. If I had to deduct rating points somewhere it would be in the fact that the stage was set for a more different track and for them to take the long treaded path is quite deflating, but again, with the lyrics involved, it’s still a great track.
“VxV” doesn’t give Wolves at the Gate a separate identity, but it’ll definitely serve the purpose of bringing in more fans of the genre. They have not redefined the music by any means, but the improvement is quite noticeable. Keener readers would notice a lack of descriptions about the sound, and it’s for the reason that there is nothing special here. The drumming has improved greatly over the last album, but that’s all that can be said in that department. The lyrics are what can be appreciated the most, and like previously mentioned, you don’t need to believe in a higher power to understand it.
If you are a fan of the genre, you’ll dig this album, and if you’re a fan of the band, there’s enough promise here for you to buy and listen to it numerous times. There are many songs that standout here, especially in the middle, and first time listeners might only want to pick them up. There was room for improvement, though, but all in all, this is a nice sophomore effort, if only for the literal meaning behind it.
Overall Rating: 3.5/5
: Return, The Bird and the Snake, Majesty in Misery
This is my first crack at an album review, so feedback would be greatly appreciated. Thanks for checking this out!