There are some things in this life you can’t understand until you’ve lived them. Perhaps one of the most difficult to describe is a total solar eclipse. It’s not only a visual trip, but it also engages the silence of the earth as it pauses in awe, the unreal introduction of chilling wind and darkness where the sun stood seconds earlier. How do you explain how shadows dance up and down sidewalks which belong to nothing but the sun and moon themselves?
In the end, it’s the glory of one single moment: When the sun and moon align in such a way that they create a display as breathless as it is indescribable. It’s this inspiration from which Ohio rock band Wolves at the Gate draw to create the theme of their new album, Eclipse. In most ways, Eclipse picks up where 2016’s Types and Shadows left off. The album isn’t a straightforward masterstroke of genre; rather, it’s a skillful execution of how the band can be a little bit of whatever sound they want. It transforms the album’s fiber as it marches on with each track, some spoken word with a mewithoutyou nod; spacey, galactic riffs; a rally of powerful and cohesive gang vocals.
“Enemy” is an easy favorite of the album with a ’90s rock vibe running through it like an angry river. Similarly, there are several other moments where, if you closed your eyes, you could picture almost any of these songs drifting out at a sea of kids from the fringe stage at Creation Fest circa 2003. The album has got that fantastic throwback element that’s just nostalgic enough to make you fall in love with that scene all over again without creating a kitschy or false imitation of the original experience.
The first few tracks are true to the WATG discography with plenty of the smooth vocals that establish the band as more rock than metalcore. True to form, there’s just enough screaming to generate interest and create dynamics. As with a lot of art in today’s climate, Wolves at the Gate dives into the strained political climate and social injustice of our world. It’s a tough line to walk – one where this wave of social outcry can border on trope – and, consequently, Eclipse doesn’t say anything wildly new. The closing track, “Blessings and Curses,” is an outlier here; the song is tender and earnest, a gradual build of intensity as the words do break through, connecting innate human failure to a God that is so much greater than we deserve. It is undeniably catchy, but, for any listeners looking for heavy, they’ll need to look elsewhere.
Alongside the breadth of styles WATG does justice to within their genre, the record layers a strong transitional element in both the sonic and thematic mapping. It makes the album less about the lyrical structure and content of the work and more about the ambiance and feel with which the piece leaves you. The sum is greater than the whole. You do walk away with a sense of gratitude, the album slowly removing the shadowing moon of the heavy heart of its content. Eclipse is a complete work worth listening to en masse. Like its namesake, the full experience of witness is what you’re left with here. It starts with expectation and desire, and, when it’s done, it exposes the sudden brightness of daylight again. With one last line, the album sums it up: “You took my curse, gave me a blessing, giving me hope in death…”
Wolves at the Gate Photo by Aaron Marsh