Holy Divers: What's the Matter With Christian Metal?

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Seattle-based metal group Demon Hunter are releasing a concert album entitled Live in Nashville on Jan. 27. Recorded last year during the band's Storm the Gates of Hell tour, the band musters their best Pantera impersonation amidst a shitstorm of unrelenting hyper-melodrama--all of which begs the question: Why are so many Christian metal bands terrible? I refuse to believe that the faith of those involved is solely the reason these bands suck or is the primary source of the overblown melodrama that suffocates Christian metal. There are plenty of good metal bands writing stupid lyrics about their allegiance to the spirit of Odin, which isn't nearly as metal as a dude getting his hands nailed to a couple pieces of wood and left to die. And yet, listen to Demon Hunter and then listen to Slayer. No fucking contest. But I don't believe that Christian metal bands suck because of the influence religion has on their music. I'm also not comfortable making the generalization that indoctrinated Christian thought inhibits artistic daring (ever seen the Sistine Chapel?). Here are some sweeping generalizations I am willing to make.

In these post-Stryper times (a.k.a. End Days), Christian metal almost always means metalcore or some derivation thereof. For those of you with lives, the term "metalcore" is kinda like "emo" but not quite as universally derided. Each meant something at one point in time and are now mostly synonymous with "stupid." Metalcore originally referred to bands who first started melding metal and hardcore punk, but now the genre is rife with paint-by-the-numbers breakdowns and vocalists yelling "I wanna see a circle pit," which leads us to generalization number two: 80 percent of metalcore sucks.1 If there's a band you like who mixes hardcore and metal, just call them "crossover" for safety's sake.

But the main problem is many Christian metal bands are so unimaginative, which seems to be why so many latch onto a genre where the conventions are so defined and the audience ultimately built-in. There's no impetus to venture away from the middle of the road. Perhaps the message is just too important to worry all that much with innovation, but surely making me want to stab my ears with pencils is detrimental to the message. And even when faith-based metal does stray outside of its contrived edgyness, the primary influence is never very hard to pinpoint. Unearth are playing this Sunday at Rocketown with a slew of shopping mall bands and a gore-obsessed Christian deathcore band called Impending Doom (deathcore is the same as metalcore except the metal in question is specifically death metal). There's apparently a term for this sort of thing, gorship.2 For the three or four metalheads who might be reading this, the secular version of this would be Carcass. Even though one of the guys is wearing a Slipknot shirt in their band photo, being a Carcass fan, I don't mind Impending Doom so much. But then there's a Christian band like Trouble, who just so happened to be trailblazers. Sure, it could be argued that the early pioneering doom bands weren't doing much more than aping Black Sabbath, but even some of Ozzy's lyrics can be construed as being Christian-influenced. After all, there's fear of demons and sorcery and bad guys plotting destruction "just like witches at black masses."3

Metal in other religions:

Hindu: Rudra
Muslim - Atakar

Jewish: Burn Your Wings

Baha'i: Kaliban

Um...Zoroaster

1Encyclopedia Britannica, probably in the Ms.

2Deleted Wikipedia entry for gorship.

3Refer to Lords of Chaos: The Bloody Rise of Satanic Metal.

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