The most ambiguous thing about VxV—intended to be read as “five by five”—is the title. The record itself lacks subtlety to such an extent that it weaves spoken, literal preaching into songs that are already rather preachy. But metalcore outfit Wolves at the Gate doesn’t aim for subtlety. This is a record about devotion, one so strong as to eclipse all other potential concepts. There isn’t a song on VxV that doesn’t bear these heavy Christian influences.
Wolves at the Gate bookends VxV with an actual preacher’s impassioned pleas to a doubtful audience. The album’s few spoken word segments allow for some neat segues into intense post-hardcore blasts—particularly those at both ends of the album—but it does grow tiresome and overbearing midway through. The plodding atmospherics of “East to West” would work even better without the heavy-handed narrations. Yet even those moderate distractions aren’t enough to detract from the song’s otherwise strong progressions, which erupt throughout a powerful sequence: an escalating, punctuated rhythm, then a somber bridge, then, finally, a sweeping wall of guitars matched by wailing cries.
Wolves at the Gate doesn’t shy away from melody, nor does it use aggression as a pretense to disguise generic pop-metal. Frontman Nick Detty shares vocal duties with guitarist Steve Cobucci; Cobucci adds clean melodies to Detty’s nastier approach. The stellar “The Father’s Bargain”—written from the perspective of Jesus Christ—is neither an all-out assault nor a boring ballad, but rather a carefully plotted song with varied dynamics.
Wolves at the Gate plays metalcore in the vein of Underoath, with intricate guitars and anthemic choruses. The band also underscores a contrast between uplifting songs of praise and darker, bleaker textures, musically. These songs are purely fixated on Christian themes, but their post-hardcore leanings might win over some fans of Thursday or Thrice.
Although it includes a clever allegory involving a shortsighted bird and a manipulative snake, much of VxV is standard religious fare. There is some intimate reflection—like, “I’m chasing after mysteries”—but VxV is largely a reiteration of beliefs expressed by the devout worldwide. This is essentially a condensed sermon, with the usual pitfalls that come from having a singular idea hammered in over the course of a lengthy sitting. Thankfully, Wolves at the Gate wraps that idea in competent metalcore and post-hardcore.[youtube http://youtu.be/eiIFO54jJZA]