Release Date: July 26, 2019
Record Label: Solid State Records
Genre: Post Hardcore/Metal
Album length: 13 tracks: 50 minutes
- The Cure (4:16)
- Face to Face (3:49)
- A Voice in the Violence (4:06)
- Drifter (3:59)
- Enemy (3:17)
- Evil Are the Kings (3:35)
- Eclipse (4:27)
- Response (4:04)
- History (3:38)
- The Sea in Between (4:09)
- Alone (3:52)
- Counterfeit (2:52)
- Blessings & Curses (3:49)
After 2016’s Types & Shadows, they quickly became one of my favorite bands. I don’t know that I’ve heard another band that I enjoy from a lyrical aspect as much as them. The music that Nick Detty, Stephen Cobucci, Abishai Collingsworth, Joey Alarcon, and Ben Summers have been putting out has been fantastic. I purposely stayed away from their singles, because I wanted to go into the album with fresh ears. A couple of thoughts before we get into this review: the album is a touch heavier than Types & Shadows, and thematically, it seems a little bit more morose. If you’ve paid attention to any of my past reviews, you know I enjoy a sad song. I wouldn’t say that this is a sad album, but compared to their earlier work, it is – to me – darker.
“The Cure”: As the opening track of this album, I couldn’t think of a better way to ease us into what WATG produced this time around. That opening scream (“I can taste the misery!”) from Nick really lets you know where they’re coming from. I read in another review of this album that they were writing from a perspective of… I can’t remember if doubt was the right word, but maybe uncertainty. For as amped as the intro to this song is – the verses have a great tension about them. They have this slow-burn build that breaks loose in the chorus of the song. Good to know WATG hasn’t lost any of their melodic edge. And, am I the only one that is impressed with how well Nick and Steve sound together on this album as a whole? They have always sounded great together, but you can tell they really poured a lot into this. Oh! And there’s an amazing mid-song breakdown! What a great start to this album.
“Face to Face”: What is the opening of this song? I love it when there are strings played behind loud guitars and banging drums! Seriously, that opening was excellent. With a 6/8 time signature, this song easily holds my interest. The guitars on this song (courtesy of Joey Alarcon and Steve Cobucci) are amazing. The production of this whole album is excellent, but I particularly love the mix in this track. Also, Nick’s delivery in the second verse is interesting. It’s awesome to hear him stretching himself as much as he has been. Lyrically, this song has an interesting dichotomy: it sounds incredibly somber – but also incredibly hopeful. I suppose that makes sense given the content – “Listen closely, every seed must die before it can grow!” As they say in the song, it’s bittersweet. When you’re considering that “death made me alive”, it’s easy to see why there is such a blend in this song. It’s a bittersweet track that walks a very fine line between somber and upbeat.
“A Voice in the Violence”: Oooohhh, those drums though! Abishai absolutely demolishes it on this song! What a crazy good drum performance here. This song is the perfect example of WATG’s lyrical genius – all throughout, they talk about falling in love with the silence/violence, and near the end of the song, as the resolution, they sing: “A voice cuts it’s way through the silence, telling me of love that is sincere. You quiet my heart from the violence.” I love that they do this lyrically – there’s not another band I’m aware of that writes like this. I watched the lyric video of this song and a comment said that this was uncreative – they had to have been listening to a different song. This song is fantastic! Musically, vocally, lyrically… I can’t find anything about this song I don’t like.
“Drifter”: My wife likes this song. She’s not really a heavy music fan, but she likes this song a lot. The first time I listened to this song, I didn’t realize it was Nick singing the pre-chorus – I keep saying it, but man, his voice has improved so much in the last few years. I do have to say, if there was to be an accusation of “generic” music anywhere on this album, it would maybe be this song. But, it is one of the catchiest songs on the album. That chorus is delightful – and Steve’s big long, “All I know!” after the bridge? Amazing. Instrumentally, there’s nothing out of place here. Every instrument is perfectly in sync with one another. This song is flawless. There, I said it. The best point is when there’s the tension between the chorus sung by Steve and Nick screaming, “There’s nothing left, I’m done with all this pain, I’m yours to save, so help me find my way. I’m yours to save.” Beautiful.
“Enemy”: This is a groovy song, and what a way to catch your attention right off the bat: “I’ve got a new enemy, but is it you, is it me?” Oooh, that’s deep. I do appreciate that Steve displays his vocal range quite a bit on this song. Joey Alarcon’s guitar work is pretty excellent throughout this track, too. Again, Collingsworth’s drumming is insane. Love the dude. The progression of the lyrics in this song is interesting too: “Is it you, is it me?... It’s starting to look and sound a lot like me… I think it’s just me/I will face it alone… I can’t face it alone.” That is so good! Oh, and the mid-song breakdown? Absolute filth, in the best possible way.
“Evil Are the Kings”: My first time through this song, I wasn’t that impressed. Not going to lie. I don’t know why I just wasn’t blown away by it. I think a lot of it had to do with the repetition of the chorus line, “If knowledge is the power then evil are the kings we are.” I don’t know, I guess I just expect a little more from Wolves at the Gate. But, after subsequent listens, I really do enjoy this song. A lot of my enjoyment has to do with the bassline (thanks Ben Summers) and drumming – what can I say, I’m a drummer, I like the rhythm section. But what really puts this song over for me is the opening and second half of the bridge: “We just don’t care. I think that we all know we’re well aware.” The vocals in this section are outstanding! The harmony that is pulled off in those lines is insane! This may not be my favorite song off the album, but that is definitely one of my favorite moments from the album.
“Eclipse”: The title track – often times the single from an album classified as “radio-friendly, studio-pleasing fodder”. But nope, not here. I can’t get enough of this song. This is definitely the most obvious track for where they were at when they wrote this album. “If I fall away, will I ever see your face? Is it much too late? Have I gone too far? Am I on the narrow road?” This song effectively asks the questions many Christians find themselves asking: Is there ever a point where God has enough of me and leaves? Have I gone too far? I love, love, love the concept of this song, and I’m glad to say that Wolves at the Gate convey this beautifully. This song is also flawless – instrumentally captivating, lyrically thought-provoking, and vocally moving: oh, this song is beautiful. I’ll leave you with this: “Though I fall away, it is then I find more grace. Though I’m desolate, though I’ve gone too far, far beyond the narrow road: You lead me home… Though I fall away, it is then I find more grace.” Perfection.
“Response”: If your desire is for a track more in line with Captors or VxV – this is your song. Another comment I saw on YouTube was fear that, because the lyrics were somewhat less sermon levels of theology, Wolves at the Gate were walking away from their faith. Let those fears be eased in this track. “I’m not selling you lies, just a beggar who has found favor. Show me what you despise, a selfless Savior? You find a lot of fault in me, I find it hard to disagree with you. I’ll own my crimes, my guilt has shut my mouth.” Goodness, the conviction in this song is amazing. It’s not really my favorite instrumentally – there’s nothing wrong with it, just not particularly my favorite. But lyrically, this may be a close favorite for me. “What is the fault you find in Him? To come and cure the desperate sin-sick and pay their crimes? Is there a greater love?” Now, vocally, I think that Nick and Steve both push themselves incredibly hard in this song. Steve’s voice sounds near angelic in the chorus (especially the “Show me what you despise” line), and Nick has one of his most brutal sounding screams at the breakdown: “I just want you to know of this perfect love!” Epic!
“History”: This may be my least favorite track on the album. I feel like this is a band that is lyrically driven, and I just don’t find this to be their strongest lyrical track. The music is great, the production is fantastic, and the vocals are excellent. But the lyrics just don’t do anything for me. I do enjoy the line: “We haven’t found the shame that binds us to our name. When the colors we choose make us pawns in a game, there’s no one else to blame.” All I can think of is politics, though – often thought of in blue and red: “When the colors we choose make us pawns in a game, there’s no one else to blame.” That happens every day: we allow our politics to drive us far too often, and even more often, we allow the “color divide” to drive our narrative. It’s wrong. Everyone should think for themselves and come to their own conclusions. Use logic and rational thinking as opposed to emotion and what “leaders” tell you. If you’re a Christian: base everything you do off of an understanding of Jesus’ love and what he teaches in Scripture. If the news lately has taught us anything, it’s that neither side is concerned with the well-being of who they're supposed to serve. I hate thinking about politics. Either way, kudos to WATG for making me think. I just feel like this song is missing something.
“The Sea In Between”: Another song in 6/8. This song, for whatever reason, reminds me of “The Father’s Bargain” from VxV. Maybe it’s the time-signature, or maybe the atmosphere of starting soft and exploding with energy. Either way, this is one of my favorites from the album. The guitars in this song are outstanding. I love the way they play with the melody in the verses, and the pattern that’s played throughout the chorus is excellent. I’ve gotta give a lot of praise to Abishai’s drumming, again, too. The performance he gives in this song is stellar. Steve and Nick seem to blend into one vocalist in this song: they sound so great together! Lyrically, this is probably the giant of the album. There is so much to consider here. Easily my favorite moment is Nick’s line in the bridge: “I will accept my death for it is warranted and true. But I cannot come to grips with separation from you.” And of course, the end: “This rescue came with suffering completely at your cost. It tore your body through and through but you brought me safe across.” This is amazing! I find myself thinking about my doubts as an ocean: deep and treacherous. While doubt in and of itself isn’t a bad thing, it is easy to get lost in them. This song reminds me to trust God with my doubts and allow him to carry me through them.
“Alone”: This might be one of the most melodic on the album. Steve’s voice is pretty haunting up until the chorus. From a lyrical standpoint, this may be one of the most complex on the album – or at least the most layered. “Terror alone won’t make you believe and see the beauty. Shutting your eyes to darken won’t help it, eventually, we’ll see.” Every time the chorus plays, I seem to unpack another layer. I had a hard time picking this apart, but I think I’ve finally got it (maybe it should have been more obvious), but let me give it a shot. “We hurtle towards the sun” – we are ever moving closer to Christ’s return. “Terror alone won’t make you believe” trying to scare people into belief won’t actually save anyone. “Shutting your eyes to darken won’t help it, eventually we’ll see” we can refuse to acknowledge belief, but eventually “every knee will bow”. “The panic and the peace start to collide” imagine being wrong about the existence of God and finding out that you were. Panic. Imagine you were right about him and found out that you were. Peace. “Flames swallow the night; comfort from the light (it burns eternally)” God is a light that burns eternally, his light erases darkness (night) and provides comfort. “The face of forever burning on our hearts” Wolves at the Gate are Christians and are not ashamed. Who they believe is burned on their hearts. Maybe I’m wrong, but I think I understand this song more now. As Detty closes out the song (I’m pretty sure it’s him), with the music fading, I find myself getting lost in these lyrics.
“Counterfeit”: Wolves at the Gate are angry, but this song sounds relatively happy. It’s weird. But, I love it! I think this song could go hand in hand with “Alone”. Maybe that’s why it’s the next song. I feel like this is the flip side of faith: fakes who spew about how great they are, how bad other people are, but then live like the people they criticize. Hypocrites. I would never say this sounds like Amongst the Giants (opens new window)’ “Tomorrow”, but there are some similarities. Both songs are about (to me) hypocritical “Christians” looking down on those they deem inferior. It’s this kind of Christian that makes me sick. Maybe that’s harsh, but it’s true. Christ calls us to live in unity and peace among believers and to, as far as it depends on us, live at peace with all people. Back to “Counterfeit”. The music here is fantastic. For the speed of this song, everybody is in perfect synchronicity. Collingsworth’s drumming is at it’s best, the guitars sound amazing, the bassline is wonderful, and vocals are amazing. Again, the harmonies in the chorus are stellar! Oh, and the guitar solo? Um, what? What is a guitar solo doing in my Wolves at the Gate song? I don’t know, but I approve! Seriously, this song is one of the best written they’ve released.
“Blessings & Curses”: I wasn’t expecting this song. I don’t know that I’ve heard a more vulnerable song from a rock band. “Hindsight” may be close, but that felt slightly more hypothetical than this. Stephen’s voice is something else throughout the verses in this song. This is easily the most restrained song, instrumentally. Everything feels perfectly held back. These lyrics are super relatable, at least for me: “I fear betrayal lives and flows in my blood. I can’t kill the curse of claim the blessing… How many songs of my betrayal will I have sung before it’s fatal? Though my words are weak and tired, your love still blossoms like a fire.” Oooh. This is some beautiful poetry going on here. This just may be the heaviest song on the album – and it’s the softest, instrumentally. The final words of this album are among some of my favorite in a WATG song: “O’ Love that reaches from the heavens to wretched, rebel hearts, lost and lone. You took my curse – gave me your blessing; Giving me hope in death.” I love this song. Amazing.
Eclipse is an experience. This album flows so well and is so cohesive that it’s hard to really find a complaint with it. While I wasn’t a huge fan of “History’s” lyrics, I still enjoyed the song as a part of this album. Covering themes of doubt, assurance of salvation, hypocrisy, and faith as a whole, this album is near without flaw. Everyone in the band has put forth some of their best efforts yet, and I couldn’t be happier with the result. I relate with the songs on this album probably more than on any of their other work, especially songs like “Eclipse” and “Blessings & Curses”. I’ve been with Wolves at the Gate since I discovered their song “Relief”, and I immediately fell in love with their conviction for the Gospel and their unflinchingly honest, faith-filled lyrics. They still haven’t let me down in that regard and just keep getting better.