The Poetry of Metal: “Wake Up”

A few months ago, I started a series called “The Poetry of Metal,” where I analyze the lyrics of metal (or metalcore, if you want to be picky) songs in an effort to show that there’s more to them than just screaming. I believe that there is a lot of fantastic and even beautiful writing in this genre – you just have to look beneath the surface a bit.

The last time I did this, I covered the song “Panic Room” by Silent Planet, which was written about post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). This time around, I’d like to look at a song by one of my favorite bands: “Wake Up” by Wolves At The Gate, from their album VxV. You can listen to the song below, or just keep reading to see the lyrics.

Wake up! Wake up!

For if we speak without the truth upon our lips
We’re giving in and we’re falling fast

Creating more prodigals
More jaded and worn
Creating more prodigals
More jaded and worn

We organize and strategize
Yet we’re keeping our mouths shut
(Keeping our mouths shut)
For we are actors without action
When the cost factors no reaction
We hide under roof and steeple
‘Cuz we’re afraid of broken people

The wolves are biting
The wolves are clawing and snatching up the sheep
For if we speak without the truth upon our lips
We’re giving in and we’re falling fast asleep

Wake up! Wake up!

So if faith comes by hearing
Why not speaking by preaching?
Though my fear is the half-truths
That the many are teaching

The world is lining you up and bids you to come
To live on the edge till your heart it is numb
Lining you up and bids you farewell
To look like the righteous but still live like hell

Are we fighting?
Are we fighting or are we asleep?
Are we dying?
Are we dying to aid the sheep?

We compromise in our own eyes
Yet we’re keeping our mouths shut
(Keeping our mouths shut)
For we are actors without action
When the cost factors no reaction
We hide under roof and steeple
‘Cuz we’re afraid of broken people

The wolves are biting
The wolves are clawing and snatching up the sheep
For if we speak without the truth upon our lips
We’re giving in and we’re falling fast asleep

Before I take a closer look at the lyrics, a bit of background on Wolves At The Gate.

The members of the band are Christians, and their faith has a major impact on the songs they write. According to a 2011 interview with lead guitarist Stephen Cobucci, the name of the band comes from a passage in the Bible where the Apostle Paul is warning Christians about “savage wolves” who will try to infiltrate the church and try to lead them astray (Acts 20:24-32). Cobucci explains:

“…The name of our band is not who we are but what we seek to combat. The wolves at the gate are the things in this world that steer us away from the truth, steer us into sin and away from God.”

With that in mind, let’s take a look at these lyrics.

“Wake Up” is the first song on VxV (not counting the instrumental intro), and it packs a punch. The first few lines of the song introduce the imagery of wolves and sheep. Now, you might think wolves are cute, but this is not a flattering comparison in this context.  Wolves At The Gate is borrowing this imagery from the Bible, where “wolves” are a metaphor for enemies:

“Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves.” – Matthew 7:15 (NKJV)

The use of “sheep” also has Biblical ties – on multiple occasions, Jesus refers to Himself as a Shepherd, and to humanity as sheep.

“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep.” – John 10:11 (NKJV)

And many of us might be familiar with Psalm 23: “The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want…”

Even just in these first lines, the band is giving us a pretty clear (and somewhat graphic) image: ravenous wolves attacking a flock of sheep. The image works well in conveying the metaphor of enemies, like false teachers, causing division and strife. By using this image, the band is giving its listeners something that will stick with them, and will hopefully wake them up.

This metaphor comes “full circle” in a way later in the song with the lines

“Though my fear is the half-truths
That the many are teaching.”

Anyone who’s ever told a lie (which, let’s admit it, is probably most of us) knows that if you want to sell it, there has to be some truth to it. The enemies that the band is describing are cunning predators, like wolves – they know how to lure their prey.

This isn’t the only analogy that has Biblical ties, either. Back at the beginning of the song again, there’s the line: “We’re giving in and we’re falling fast asleep.”

The idea of being asleep ties to the whole idea of the song, of course – it’s called “Wake Up,” after all – but it doesn’t necessarily explain what the wake-up call is for. It’s not physical sleep, but instead a mental state. It means not being alert, like how it’s used in the Bible here:

“Therefore let us not sleep, as others do, but let us watch and be sober.” – 1 Thessalonians 5:6 (NKJV)

Wolves At The Gate is calling out Christians who aren’t alert, but have become apathetic to the “wolves” that are “clawing and snatching up the sheep.” The next few lines go further to show the effects of this apathy:

Creating more prodigals
More jaded and worn

“Prodigal” is actually an adjective that describes wasteful spending, but here, it’s used as a noun. Why?

You might be familiar with the story of the prodigal son, a parable from the Bible that talks about a young man who leaves his father, squanders his inheritance, and finds himself destitute. At the end of the story, the son realizes his mistakes and returns home to beg his father to take him in as a servant. To the son’s surprise, his father forgives him for his poor decisions and welcomes him back into the family. (You can read the whole story in the Bible in Luke 15:11-32.)

“Prodigal” here in the song refers to people who are like the son in the parable. They live recklessly, perhaps not with money, but with their time and energy. They’re cynical of the world and think they know what’s best. The critique in these lines is that Christians, by being apathetic to the state of the world around them, have caused people to become this way.

Alright, so we’ve looked at how Wolves At The Gate alludes to the Bible and borrows imagery from it to make their point, but they also use other methods. For example, these two sets of lines have particularly strong end-rhymes that stuck out to me:

We hide under roof and steeple
‘Cuz we’re afraid of broken people

Lining you up and bids you farewell
To look like the righteous but still live like hell

Although rhymes can sometimes come off as childish, that’s not the case here. Using rhymes in these two sets of lines makes them stick out in your mind more, and they become more powerful because of it.


Overall, “Wake Up” is exactly what it claims to be: a wake-up call for Christians who have become apathetic to the condition of the world around them. By using allusions and imagery that their audience would recognize – wolves and sheep – Wolves At The Gate creates metaphors that really drive the point of their song home. The end-rhymes used on certain lines also impress the importance of this topic on the listener.

Although there are many other aspects of this song I could talk about, I’ll stop here for now. I hope that this blog post has helped show how, even in a genre of music that most consider to be loud and brash, there is still poetry that conveys a deeper meaning. If there’s a song or band you’d like to see me cover in the future, let me know in the comments!

Until next time!

2 thoughts on “The Poetry of Metal: “Wake Up”

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