Rock five-piece Wolves at the Gate searches for humanity in the dark

Andy Downing
Wolves at the Gate

The title of the latest from Wolves at the Gate suggests the desperation and darkness that surface in a number of the band’s new songs: Eclipse.

“We’re fighting for our lives,” singer Steve Cobucci howls at one point on the album, sounding like a man rising up as a last resort.

Throughout, the singer's viewpoint switches from internal to external, Cobucci examining his own imperfect soul and a planet that appears to be losing its sense of humanity — a dimension that emerged in his songwriting around the 2016 election of President Donald Trump, though Cobucci doesn’t fault a single political party for the development.

“I completely recognize my own need for change. … I want to be honest with people and let them see my own frailty,” said Cobucci, who joins his bandmates for a record release show at the Athenaeum Theatre on Friday, July 12. “But there was also a big change in our society between 2016 and 2019, and I would have been remiss if I didn’t put some of those elements on the new record, because they’re things I thought about, and they’re things that burdened me. … If someone were to ask me my political party, it’s not something I’d feel comfortable answering. There are problems on both sides of the fence that need fixed so badly, but the way our country deals with race relations and inequality and caring for people who are being treated unjustly, these shouldn’t be political issues.”

While Cobucci spoke of revealing his frailties, and his words on the album are often uncertain or deeply questioning, the band’s music is steeled an muscular, building on thrashing guitars, pulverizing drums and Cobucci’s tortured screams, which make it sound, at times, as if he’s being singed by the flames that serve as the backdrop in the band’s current press photo.

Increasingly, though, the musicians have allowed more space into the songs, pulling back to give tracks room to breathe rather than cramming in endless guitar runs and drum fills — a trend Cobucci credited to the natural maturation process.

“When we started the band, there was a youthful energy and aggression that was often useful; it was everything all the time,” said Cobucci, who routinely writes on an acoustic guitar, understanding that if the framework of a song is strong it will hold up as the band layers on its instrumental onslaught. “The big thing is learning how to leave space for each other and when it’s good to pull back.”

Which is precisely what the band does on the album-closing “Blessings & Curses,” a slow-burning tune on which the frontman confronts his human imperfections and impresses a desire to find his way to a more righteous path.

“It’s me grappling with the idea that I don’t live the life that I wish I would,” said Cobucci, who has never shied from exploring his Christian faith in the band’s music. “I see how good God has been to me, and I feel like I betray him all the time. But the beauty of that song is just voicing it … and understanding that he is a God of mercy and forgiveness and nothing can separate me from his love. So, yeah, my goal [with this record] was to make people feel a little bit of that despair, because that’s what makes the hope so beautiful.”

The Athenaeum Theatre

6 p.m. Friday, July 12

32 N. Fourth St., Downtown