Creative Christian Moments
“Reviews of up and coming artists within the Christian Community.”
Blog Article 52: A Review of Wolves at the Gate
“What good can come from Nazareth? Come and see” (John 1:46 paraphrased). What good can come from Christian metal? Come and hear. And it’s the hearing part that often pushes many people away.
While the influence of Christianity continues to filter through ever sub-genre of society imaginable, God is doing miracles, signs, and wonders amongst the least of these: the heavy metal community. And it is no surprise, that evangelists entering this often marginalized mission field are armed with a tenacious love towards their people built upon an uncompromising foundation of Biblical principles. Within the Christian metal music itself, bands like Wolves at the Gate are unapologetically preaching the Gospel message through song lyrics and their music. I have not seen more theologically based lyrics in Christian contemporary music since some of the hymns from hundreds of years ago.
One has to look no further than in Wanderlust’s Christian documentary about the power of the Holy Spirit entitled Holy Ghost to witness the saving power of the Gospel message. The scene I reference is where Brian “Head” Welch (Korn), Reginald “Fieldy” Arvizu (Korn), and Todd White of Lifestyle Christianity are sharing the compassion and healing power of Jesus at a Korn concert. About ten minutes into this scene, whole crowds of people (who would never enter a church) are giving their lives over to Christ. It was a powerful scene to watch as more people came into the accepting and saving grace of Jesus Christ. And is some ways, these numbers eclipse some of the ministries I know in authentic Christian conversions. Personally, I found myself weeping in response as I reflected on just how hungry the heavy metal community is for the authentic Gospel message.
It is no wonder that Christian metal bands like Sleeping Giant report that God is working the miraculous at their concerts. Throughout history, the Lord has shown up in power for people who take risks and pioneer mission fields that no one else is willing to enter. These individuals are not miracle chasers. Miracles are simply a byproduct of the Gospel message being preached in its full capacity, which every Christian has access to.
Now for the skeptics reading this blog post and willing to write off Christian heavy metal, during this blog post I will dissect three songs below and their Scriptural significance. Now let’s transition to getting to know the members of Wolves at the Gate. I know it’s a little outdated but their 2013 interview with Metal-Cross in Enumclaw, WA’s Creation Festival answered much of my questions and skeptical nature (especially the meaning of their name).
Since their founding in 2009, Wolves at the Gate has had many talented members come and go. The songs I will be reviewing touch on some of the works of these past members including Colin Jones (unclean vocals), Dave Nester (drums), Ryan Connelly (drums), Anthony Caturano (unclean vocals), Ben Millhouse (drums, percussion), Jeremy Steckel (lead guitar), and Dylan Baxter (drums).
Current members of Wolves at the Gate include Steve Cobucci best known for his rhythm guitar; Ben Summers on bass and backing vocals; Abishai Collingsworth tearing up the drums; and Nick Detty on unclean vocals (screaming for the lay person) and piano.
Right from the introduction, Wolves at the Gate demonstrates their musical skills with the eclectic drums and rifling electric guitars through their song “Heralds”. The orchestra complication of their music is Einsteinian. It feels as though they have taken apart ever instrument to its foundation to discover just how far these instruments can be pushed musically. By far, this is my favorite song they have written because of the sheer skill of instruments displayed. Their music is brilliantly unpredictable. Just when I think I am anticipating how their next chord or percussion progression will occur, they take my preconceived idea and blow it away. Their music has that Anberlin feel to it with overly complicated music harmonized just right in every capacity. It just works, which also attests to how these gifted musicians can work together in synergy.
Lyric wise, “Heralds” is pouring out Biblical references all over the place. It’s like they took every Bible Scripture reference imaginable and detonated it into one song. “Let the dead bury the dead” is a direct reference to Matthew 8:22 and Luke 9:60 about the cost of discipleship to the Christian. “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us” is a direct reference to Isaiah 6:8 in his calling as a prophet to Israel during the rebellion against Assyrian conquest. “You will suffer but my strength is enough” alludes to 2nd Corinthians 12:10, which discusses the Apostle Paul’s strength in Christ amongst trials of persecution. Ultimately, the whole song alludes to the story of Isaiah 6 in parallel to Christ’s mission of redemption to humanity.
Or maybe you prefer the acoustic version?
“Dead Man” is powerfully both instrumentally and lyrically in these heavy metal and acoustic versions. The song reminded me of a heavy metal version of John Newton’s “Amazing Grace” published in 1799. Throughout the lyrics, the listener is told the tale of how the singer was once a “dead man, a stranger with no home” and how God forgave him by the sacrificing works of Jesus Christ. “Dead Man” could best be described as a musical version of a Christian’s foundation class.
Like “Heralds” above, “Dead Man” is filled with Scripture allusions and references particularly to the basic Gospel message found in Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. Personally, I think this song has become my new salvation song in that so much of the lyrical content reflects my own spiritual journey towards Christianity. And for those skeptics of unclean vocals, Detty’s vocals in the acoustic version are angelic and choir like. I always smile with amusement when a screamer can demonstrate to the listener their acapella like voices through acoustic and unplugged versions of their songs.
“What kind of love is this, friends? What kind of love is that is so big, so without bounds, that He [Jesus Christ] would come, He would want, He would want to do so much to rescue people who wanted nothing to do with Him? Who fought Him even when He came to cleave us from hell? What kind of love is it that sees us in our filth, comes to rescue us, sees us resist that rescue, but continues to rescue us anyway? What foolishness is this? That He would come offer us rescue and we would say, “No!” Why? What are we gaining by our resistance? Oh, how glorious He is, that He saw you like that and didn’t give up!” (Wolves at the Gate – The Father’s Bargain, 2016)
The opening sermon in the beginning of the “The Father’s Bargain” is a mind bender in that it shatters any preconceived philosophical question one might have about Jesus Christ. “What kind of love is it that sees us in our filth, comes to rescue us, sees us resist that rescue, but continues to rescue us anyway? What foolishness is this?” (Wolves at the Gate – The Father’s Bargain, 2016). God’s love is unfathomable. Just when we think we have figured out God in our preconceived box of His characteristics, He shatters it with a deeper understanding of His character. The tenacity of God’s love and compassion for humanity cannot be comprehended.
Like “Dead Man”, “The Father’s Bargain” is a retelling of the Gospel message of Jesus Christ. “Objects of justice, deserving of wrath” is a paraphrase from Romans 9:22 and Ephesians 2:3 describing how our sin nature made us deserve the wrath of God under the Hebraic Law. “No one can contain the power and depths of My abundant love” is a summation of Romans 9:38-39. “For even all their righteousness is just a filthy mess” is a rewording of Isaiah 64:6 which states “All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away.” “Did we earn such love and grace? Oh we couldn’t earn a thing, and there is nothing we can bring. So receive this love and grace, believe His love and grace” summarizes the message of “The Father’s Bargain.” We cannot earn the love and grace of God no matter what good deeds we think we have; God’s saving message through Jesus Christ is a gift to receive.
But wait…we have a last minute addition to this blog article. Just over a week ago, Wolves at the Gate released a new track entitled “Flickering Flame” from their up and coming album Types and Shadows. The most striking change in their music involves Detty demonstrating the power of his voice during the chorus ballads of the song. The intro has that nu-metal vibe to it with a slower gnarly guitar. Cobucci and Summers deliver grittier electric guitar chords marinated with a bass technique familiar to Brian “Head” Welch’s band Love and Death. Collingsworth’s drums remind me of the early days of the nu-metal movement from the late 1990s and it works! Their music is like a reinterpretation of the beginnings of the nu-metal movement.
“Flickering Flame” discusses the internal battle between the spirit and the flesh under the premise of a crisis of faith for the individual. It is that flickering flame of hope in the Gospel message that becomes the pedestal by which the Christian can stand in triumph through trials and tribulations.
If we are honest with ourselves and Christianity, I believe it is the familiar and the local which tend to be the hardest to evangelize.
The corporate Church tends to view the importance of missions as an event in which one must travel to some far off country but like Jesus told his disciples in the parable of the women at the well “open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for the harvest [describing all the Samaritans that accepted the testimony of Jesus Christ because of the woman at the well’s testimony].” (John 4:35b). God has a repeatable habit of choosing the least qualified individuals to accomplish amazing feats for His glory. How could God not use the Christian metal movement?
The amount of resistance to the Christian metal movement is staggering. One would think that Christians would support one another going into the darkest parts of society with the Gospel message but religious dogma creeps in, trying to strangle the move of the Holy Spirit. Every major movement in Christianity has met resistance from the religious unwilling to embrace the new moves of God throughout our 2,000 year history. Hopefully, we can change our behavior to join God in the new things He is doing amongst marginalized people groups instead of resisting His changes. New methods do not mean to compromise or negate foundational Christian teachings from the Bible but rather an adaption of methods to relay the Gospel in a meaningful connection to this current generation.
Historically, we are witnessing something beginning to synergize as the message of Jesus Christ reaches not only different countries, languages, and people groups, but for the first time in humanity’s history we are witnessing the depiction of the Gospel message in ever form of human expression fathomable and globally.
But like so many power moves of God, this is only the beginning. Wolves at the Gate and others following in their pioneering footsteps of sharing the Gospel message through Christian metal is just one of many methods by which God shall reveal Himself to this current generation. I am excited to watch the fruit of their labor blossom as God continues to reveal Himself in the most unlikely of artistic genres.
If you enjoyed the music from Wolves at the Gate, make sure to purchase their CDs or MP3s online. Follow them on their social media pages. If you are a youth pastor or ministry leader, why not host them for your next ministry event? And above all else, continue to pray and intercede for this band as they continue to snatch the lost from the jaws of Hell.
I look forward to watching Wolves at the Gate’s music continue to grow and blow any preconceived notions out of the water. Prepare for revival to break out during their concerts as God continues to use “the least of these” during this “eleventh hour” ministry opportunity. May God grant them dreams of song lyrics and musical chords from heaven. May restoration occur between people through the relationships they cultivate amongst their fan base. Godspeed, Wolves at the Gate! Continue to let God use your talents to accomplish the impossible.
Wolves at the Gate Links:
Official Website: http://www.wolvesatthegate.com/
YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/user/wolvesatthegateVEVO or https://www.youtube.com/user/wolvesatthegateband/
Make sure to follow Metal-Cross’s YouTube page in support of their interview: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCYBC9_1ahbW4n_vRjatjSKw.
Wolves At The Gate – Dead Man, YouTube, 4:04, posted by wolvesatthegate, April 16, 2014, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yns5lkZfq-w (accessed August 26, 2016)
Wolves At The Gate – Dead Man, YouTube, 4:23, posted by WolvesAtTheGateVEVO, July 17, 2012, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9fpZ3yIc9cs (accessed August 26, 2016)
Wolves At The Gate – Flickering Flame, YouTube, 4:31, posted by solidstaterecords, September 16, 2016, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uWjzxisyjwo (accessed September 19, 2016)
Wolves At The Gate “Heralds” Music Video, YouTube, 4:04, posted by solidstaterecords, September 10, 2011, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r6968u4GOKA, (accessed August 26, 2016)
Wolves at the Gate. Profile Portrait. Facebook. https://www.facebook.com/wolvesatthegate/photos/a.466594274107.274828.19155784107/10154522916279108/?type=3&theater (accessed September 19, 2016)
Wolves At The Gate – The Father’s Bargain, YouTube, 6:31, posted by solidstaterecords, June 5, 2016, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GYgi_0BVilU (accessed August 26, 2016)
WOLVES AT THE GATE – Official Interview 2013, YouTube, 7:23, posted by METAL-CROSS, August 18, 2013, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rn2Hn1OvWA8 (accessed September 6, 2016)