by Mark Woodhouse
This is a post-hardcore album.
DON’T STOP READING! Please, stay with me. Because, while it’s big and loud and not everyone’s cup of tea, it’s actually very good. Ok, there’s lots of yelling and headbanging. But these guys don’t come across as angry. They actually come across as very passionate! You can tell they really love Jesus.
VxV is the second full-length album from Ohio-based Wolves At The Gate. It’s a wonderfully composed, scripture-laden reminder of the hope and joy we have in the cross of Jesus. Sure, sometimes the lyrics are a bit hard to discern. But it’s worth the effort, because Wolves At The Gate want to sing (and yell) about Jesus every chance they get.
Wolves At The Gate are very talented songwriters, and the tracks across VxV are all beautifully and naturally put together. The guitarists are rarely playing the same thing as each other, and the instruments and vocals all contribute to very interesting music. And they really do make the most of song dynamics to keep things interesting – going from crushingly heavy one minute to beautifully reflective the next.
The tone is set with the opening track VxV, a short excerpt from a sermon quoting 1 John 2:2: “He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.”
The album really gets going with the energetic track The Convicted. It sets up the problem the rest of the album answers, picturing “the gavel striking down upon our crimes”, declaring us guilty of sin.
The book of Hebrews pervades the next two tracks, Rest and Relief. Not only can we find rest in the God who can sympathise with our temptations, but we also look forward to a future rest with him (“We were made for eternity!”)
Return (I hope you like alliteration!) is my highlight. I love the spiralling guitar riff that encourages you to look up and watch for the king’s return. Wake Up isn’t subtle. It’s a ferocious call to action and a great critique of complacency in the Christian life.
Wild Heart is a call for God to save a sick heart that follows its own desires. It’s got a fantastic groove that you can’t help but move to. The chorus of Dust To Dust soars, proving these guys can sing! East To West picks up on Psalm 103 and rejoices that God has “Carried my sins far away”!
The Father’s Bargain is written from the perspective of Jesus, and this is where the post-hardcore style really adds to the emotional weight of the song: “Bring in all their sins, lay it all on me / I can bear the weight of sins so all can be free”. It leaves me speechless.
Majesty In Misery picks up this theme of the horror and pain suffered by Jesus on the cross, and closer The Bird And The Snake rounds out the album nicely.
I love that I can hear scripture all the way through this album. I love that it’s presented in such a passionate way. I love natural songwriting. Even if post-hardcore is not your thing, I recommend giving it a listen. I’m giving VxV four out of five stars.