It could be argued that the Christian metalcore boom was already on its way out by the time Ohio quintet Wolves at the Gate released its 2012 debut album, Captors. The band nails that classic Solid State Records brand of good-cop-bad-cop accessibility and aggression. While many of their contemporaries either broke up or changed beyond recognition, Wolves at the Gate have returned with Eclipse, a conceptually robust set of solid 2000s post-hardcore songs. Wolves at the Gate use earnestness, chops and thoughtful songwriting to make up for their played-out style of choice.
The album’s title cleverly reflects the faith complex: believing in light even when it’s hidden from view. This dichotomy of shrouding darkness and hopeful light fuels massive opener “The Cure.” Soaring falsetto harmonies are punctuated by fiery screams and impassioned cries, respectively complementing catchy melodic leads, chunky chords and ferocious breakdowns. The line “Oh God, destroy what poisons me” sets a tone of both pain and hope.
Themes of perseverance in the face of evil recur throughout the album, giving empowering positivity to dynamic arrangements. On “A Voice in the Violence,” drummer Abishai Collingsworth’s syncopation transitions seamlessly to the punchy bridge and the heavy instrumental passage. Without leaning on one specific part, every aspect of this song feels essential and calculated. Recalling the likes of Scary Kids Scaring Kids or Fall of Troy, “Drifter” shows the arranging potential of this style with its electrifying riffing and bodacious emo rock.
Singer-guitarist Steve Cobucci harmonizes with bassist Ben Summers while maintaining an emotive rasp akin to that of Architects, keeping up with the speedy drum fills of “Counterfeit” while leaving room for Joey Alarcon’s compelling guitar solo. “Response” balances violent and panicked chords, whiplash-like drumming and harsh vocals with soaring choruses, leaving plenty of gray area to subvert the usual metalcore formula. Eclipse lives up to its name by not only contrasting light and dark, but blending them into one cohesive statement.
Symphonic string arrangements of “Face To Face” and the surprisingly accessible alt-rock strumming of “Enemy” find a solid foothold in the album’s flow. The former’s rapturous crescendos to leveling drops work just as well as the latter’s more radio-friendly feel: hooky and passionate, yet unhinged and domineering. Keyboardist Nick Detty’s harsher vocal style ranges from heartfelt cries to full-throated screams, making the culminating line of “Face To Face” that much more memorable: “The taste of death was bitter-sweet… but death made me feel alive.” That “dying to self” theme is a solid lead-in for the plea for God to free you from false alliances and deadly sins on “Enemy.”
Wolves at the Gate have three credited singers to give the sing-scream changeups much-needed chemistry. The fact that each of them also plays an instrument gives songs like “Evil Are The Kings” a good balance of hooks and complexity. Voices and instruments are layered in a way that emphasizes the band’s melodic and guttural sides to a timeless effect. “The Sea In Between” showcases all three vocalists feeding off each other. Detty builds in anguish during the verses up to the surging chorus. The space left in the three-count rhythm structure gives each section, note and lyric time to breathe before growing and changing. It’s a beautiful vocation for a narrative that recalls the pain of separation from God but seeks the relief of salvation.
The title track spotlights Detty’s keyboard contributions. He provides the backbone for the entire first minute and the bridge, building an otherworldly atmosphere with chords, drones and understated beats before the band crashes down with overwhelming force. The grand soundscape reflects the lofty metaphor of light and darkness, helping whittle down cosmic upheaval into an illustration of pervading good during seemingly bad times.
Detty also plays a crucial role on “History,” which explores the need for America to acknowledge its shortcomings or else remain marred by past transgressions. His arpeggios and swells recall a time when metalcore bands were not only unashamed of keyboards but able to use them musically. It never overtakes the guitar riffs, instead becoming the perfect foil.
The electro-acoustic, layered slow-burner “Blessings & Curses” closes out Eclipse with a reflection of the album’s portrayal of the cosmic dichotomy. “You took my curse/ And gave me a blessing/ Giving me hope in death,” Cobucci sings before the album’s well-earned climax. Eclipse stands as a solid example of why Christianity practically dominated metalcore and post-hardcore during the 2000s. Its balance of progressive, poppy and roughness will make it one of the years most pertinent albums in the scene.