Review Summary: Cutting through the silence
"Christian rock/metal" is a term I actively loathe, at least the way most Christians use it. I think that's because it speaks to the idea that you must separate everything into categories of "Christian" and "secular," which plainly don't exist. This idea seems to have died down in the past decade or so, meaning artists don't need a "Christian" label to appeal to youth group kids, and the nonreligious kids never cared to begin with. With their being less incentive to be overtly Christian, artists that do so are mostly doing it genuinely [War of Ages, Sleeping Giant, etc.]. Of those bands, I feel Wolves At The Gate do it best.
Wolves At The Gate have been steadily evolving over the years from standard metalcore band into something their own. Their 2016 record Types & Shadows
had the band move away from their metalcore roots and embrace musical and stylistic ideas from post-hardcore and alt-rock, not entirely dissimilar to that of Thrice and Alexisonfire. With Eclipse
, Wolves At The Gate continue on this path and release their most accessible album to date.
As mentioned before, the band kicks their alt rock sound in full drive on this record. While there are still a sizable amount of metalcore breakdowns, the guitars do more with the various types of leads and riffs on tracks like "Response". When the guitars allowed to experiment, it leads to some of the best moments on the record, such as the AFI sounding guitar riff used throughout the track "Enemy." The drums pull their own weight as they crash and cascade throughout tracks like "Drifter," creating a nice backbone for most of the songs. The band also continues to use keyboards to great effect throughout the album like during the opening of "Voice In The Violence." The whole album does a good job of mixing the band's metalcore roots with energized phc and upbeat alt-rock to craft an album that still sounds like Wolves At The Gate, but adds just enough new ideas to keep most of the album sounding fresh.
Steve Cobucci lets his melodic chops shine on this record more than any other, and it fits the album well for the most part. Steve has always had a knack for great hooks all the way back to their debut, but it was on Types & Shadows
that he fully put both feet into the pool of huge anthemic choruses. Eclipse has him continue that trend, with nearly every track having a big and bombastic chorus for Steve to show off his cleans. That is not to say that his screams are any less prominent, as he still screams as good as ever and continues to vary up his technique just enough to keep the vocal patterns from being stale aside from a couple tracks.
As is usual with Wolves At The Gate, the lyrics are very blunt about the member's beliefs, so if that is a sticking point for the listener, it is best to make that clear upfront. I myself am usually not predisposed to liking very praise and worship type lyrics, despite being a Christian myself. Even so, I find Wolves At The Gates' lyrics always uplifting in a way. Yes the lyrics are very in your face Christian, but it never feels overly preachy, and it never sounds like Steve is talking down to the listener. Steve just seems like a genuine guy who takes his beliefs very seriously, so they obviously come out through his lyrics. I'd say it like this: I don't always need deep theological treatises in my Christian artists, sometimes I just need an album that says " I'm not perfect, but that's okay, because I'm loved anyway." I think that's the message Steve and the boys in Wolves At The Gate are trying to convey.
Ultimately, I don't feel this is the band's best work. I enjoy the more alt-rock approach, but it can lead to derivative song structures at points. The band might also depend on the choruses too much, which leads to some songs not living up to their potential. Even with those critiques in mind, this album is still a well crafted record that shows the band making a more accessible album without entirely sacrificing their own style. Eclipse
does not live up to the standards Types & Shadows
set, but it is still a solid record in its own right. It proves that this band is still worth talking about and worthy of the attention they've been getting in recent years.
Voice In The Violence