Monday, 10 January 2011

The heavy metal you SHOULD be listening to!

There are a lot of misconceptions regarding music genres, a lot of stereotypes that don't necessarily hold their water. With this in mind, I want to spend a little bit of time considering 'heavy metal', and why Christians shouldn't dismiss it out of hand.

Metal is one of the genres that is generally avoided by the majority of Christians, the assumption being that this style of music is inherently evil, demonic and immoral. While there may be individuals and groups who use metal as a vehicle to oppose God and his statutes, this doesn't make the genre itself sinful. The whole world belongs to God; he created it - and therefore all music belongs to God. It's up to us as the human race to choose whether we use music to praise God or defy Him. With that in mind, any genre can oppose or worship. All sin is equal, meaning that a pop song by Lady Gaga can be just as immoral as a track by Cradle of Filth.
I personally think that heavy metal is very useful form of musical expression for Christians. While I completely agree that metal may not be appropriate for congregational worship, it has certain qualities that align well with the themes and facts of Christianity. Intensity, power and aggression are the words that I would use to sum up heavy metal, all of which are part of being a follower of Christ. The Christian life is one of conflict - Paul speaks in Romans 8 about a war being waged inside him, a war between his sinful nature and God's law. Shouldn't we therefore display this battle in our musical interests, raising a battle-cry against the darkness that seeks to envelope us? We are told in Philippians 4:13 that we "can do everything through him who gives us strength." Does this phrase invoke a whimper in your mind, a tiny pitiful sound? Or would this verse be better displayed by boldness and strength, by the sound of people standing firm, ready to fight?

There are many fantastic bands that speak God's truth through the medium of heavy metal. Through this genre, Christians can talk about their struggle against the sin that snaps at their heels, about living in a world that is in complete opposition to God, and can bring glory to God by highlighting his power, glory and might. With that in mind, here are a few bands defined as 'Christian Metal', that I suggest you should sample.

As I Lay Dying - taking their name from the title of a William Faulkner novel, this metalcore band from San Diego were formed in 2001 and have recently released their fifth studio album, 'The Powerless Rise'. AILD's musical style is a combination of furious guitar riffs and soaring harmonies, breakneck drum beats and varied vocal styles, mixing guttural screams with anthemic melodies. The band's religious beliefs are summed up perfectly in the FAQ on AILD's official webpage when Tim Lambesis states,
If you truly believe something, then it should affect every area of your life. All five of us are Christians. I believe that change should start with me first, and as a result, our lyrics do not come across very “preachy.” Many of our songs are about life, struggles, mistakes, relationships and other issues that don’t fit entirely in the spiritual category. However, all of these topics are written about through my perspective as a christian.
Try this if you like: All That Remains, Trivium
Demon Hunter - combining the speed and intensity of metalcore with industrial rhythms and tones, this Seattle-based band have battled their way into the mainstream US charts, whilst still retaining their uncompromised passion for Jesus Christ. Lyrically, their songs strike out at the fallen state of our world, with tracks like 'Tie This Around Your Neck', from the album 'The World Is A Thorn', highlighting the hopelessness of trying to live without God's power and direction. DH's musical style unites modern technical riffs and licks with classic metal power and swagger, refusing to be defined by cliches or stay stagnant in the past.

Try this if you like: Killswitch Engage, Fear Factory
Becoming the Archetype - if you're looking for progressive heavy metal that glorifies God, then look no further. Hailing from Dacula, Georgia (great town name!), this group push the boundaries of musical skill and experimental praise, displayed best in their reworking of the hymn 'How Great Thou Art' into a death-metal masterpiece. The band's unusual name is taken from the Genesis 1:26, "let us make man in our image," seeing Jesus as the archetypal sinless human who we should strive to emulate. Each of BtA's songs tells a story, with their latest album, 'Dichotomy', focusing on the opposition of biology and technology, of man versus machine.

Try this if you like: Opeth, Chimaira

There are so many other bands that I could have included, such as technical metal band Extol or post-hardcore rockers Underoath, but I just don't have time! If heavy metal is a genre that doesn't turn you on, don't worry, I'm not saying that makes you a bad person. However, what is important is not to limit your tastes in music because of stereotypes. If you like hip-hop or electronica, go and find some Christians who are making it. However, don't think I'm advocating shutting yourself off from secular music and culture - how can you reach the world if you have no connection to it? Hope some of this made sense and that it leads you to listen to some good old-fashioned 'bleeding-from-the-ear drums' heavy metal!

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