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Christian metal
Stylistic origins Jesus music
Heavy metal
Psychedelic rock
Hard rock
Christian rock
Cultural origins Late 1970s United States and Sweden in Jesus movement
Typical instruments Electric guitar - Bass guitar - Drums - Keyboards (occasional)
Mainstream popularity Some in the 1980s and 2000s.
Fusion genres
Unblack metal
Regional scenes
United States, Brazil, Mexico, Germany, Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, Finland[1]
Other topics
Bands, Christianity in mainstream metal

Christian metal is heavy metal music with a Christian message. Christian metal is typically performed by professed Christians sometimes principally for Christians who listen to heavy metal music and many times produced and distributed through various Christian networks. Christian metal is regarded more of a concept rather than a genre since it has no specific musical characteristics.[1]

Christian metal bands exist in all the subgenres of heavy metal music, and the only common link between most Christian metal bands are the lyrics. The Christian themes are often melded with the subjects of the genre the band is rooted in, regularly providing a Christian take on the subject matter. It has been argued that the marginal yet transnational Christian metal subculture provides its core members an alternative religious expression and Christian identity, and that the music serves the purpose of offering a positive alternative or counterbalance to secular metal music which is known for its generally dark message.[1]

Christian metal emerged in the late 1970s as a means of evangelization to the wider heavy metal music scene, and was pioneered by the American Resurrection Band and Swedish Jerusalem. Los Angeles' Stryper achieved wide success in the 1980s, otherwise the genre was mostly ignored by the mainstream. The term ”Christian metal” itself was born in 1984.[2] The movement was known then as "White Metal" and still is today, to a lesser extent. California's Tourniquet and Australia's Mortification led the movement in the 1990s. The metalcore groups Underoath, Demon Hunter, As I Lay Dying, and Norma Jean (dubbed by Revolver Magazine as "The Holy Alliance") brought some mainstream attention to the movement in the 2000s, achieving ranks in the Billboard 200.[3]



Christian metal is not a solitary style of music, but rather an ideological umbrella term that comprises almost every subgenre of heavy metal music. The musicians within Christian metal bands typically base their lyrics on Judeo-Christian traditions. The lyrical approach of Christian metal bands is somewhat varied, as some emphasize the positive aspects of faith matters while others iterate the teachings of Christ. Some bands keep their message hidden in metaphors. Only a minority take an aggressive attitude towards those who speak against Christianity, "preaching full-on fire and brimstone and Old Testament style God's wrath back at extreme satanists".[4] References to eschatology and apocalyptic themes, particularly the ongoing spiritual warfare between good and evil as well as the Last Judgment and fall from grace are typical.[1]

The lyrical style varies depending on culture, denomination, and country. For example, in Northern Europe the bands with Lutheran members usually prefer a personal lyrical approach, which is seldom meant to "convert" in an aggressive manner, since evangelism has been more typical among American bands. Christian bands never deny their conviction but typically avoid preaching, and sometimes the matter is left unexpressed, leaving religion as a private issue of the listener.[4] Certain bands choose to deal with every day life experiences from a Christian perspective in order to draw both Christian and non-Christian listeners. In such cases, identifying a "Christian band" can be difficult. Secular bands that occasionally deal with Christian topics are a different matter altogether. Defining a Christian band is a much debated issue on Christian metal forums. A Christian band is expected to have either professed Christian members or a Christian message, preferably both.[1]



Christian metal has its origins in the late 1960s and early 1970s in the Jesus movement, a hippie movement with Christian ideology consisting of hippies that converted to Christianity. The Christian hippies within this movement, known as "Jesus People", developed a musical movement called Jesus music, which primarily began in southern California when hippie street musicians converted to Christianity. These musicians continued playing the same styles of music they had played before converting, though they infused their lyrics with a Christian message. Possibly the very first documented appearance of a rock band playing in church is Mind Garage in 1967, whose music was called "electric liturgy", and it was finally recorded for RCA in 1969 and released in 1970 on an album titled The Liturgy.[5] Larry Norman was another early Christian rock musician who released his first album titled Upon This Rock in 1969 which is arguably the first Christian rock album produced.[6] After joining the band People!, he began to draw attention writing songs such as "Why Should the Devil Have All the Good Music?", opposing the growing beliefs that the devil is the father of rock and roll music.[7]

Resurrection Band, one of first Christian hard rock bands, live in concert, August 1988.

Following Larry Norman in early 1970s, other musicians and ensembles appeared within the Christian hippie movement that played rock and released their first recordings: Randy Matthews, Petra, Phil Keaggy, Randy Stonehill, and The Way. However, although these groups were more part with the Contemporary Christian Music scene rather than what would become known as Christian metal. Bands that played the emerging musical styles of the 1970s such as psychedelic rock, progressive rock, hard rock, and heavy metal began appearing.[7]

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The first Christian hard rock group was possibly the California based band Agape, formed in the late 1960s. Known for their psychedelic rock and blues influences, the band released an album titled Gospel Hard Rock in 1971, followed by Victims of Tradition in 1972.[9] After Agape, the Resurrection Band was formed in 1972 in Milwaukee's Jesus People community and released the hard rock album Music to Raise the Dead in 1974. The Swedish group Jerusalem was formed in 1975 and is cited as another early Christian hard rock group.[6] In 1978 Resurrection Band Released its album Awaiting Your Reply and Jerusalem released Jerusalem (Volume 1). Both albums had a notable impact on Christian music culture.[2] During that time, heavy metal was a new style of music for the Christian music industry, and many Christian labels did not expect it to sell well. However, Awaiting Your Reply hit big in the Christian market, and reached #6 on the Gospel album sales charts. Jerusalem also became an instant hit among listeners, and within the first six months the record sold 20,000 copies, unheard of within the genre of Christian rock in Europe.[10] Later, Jerusalem released the album Dancing on the Head of the Serpent, regarded as their greatest work by fans and critics.[11]

The Canadian progressive hard rock group Daniel Band was formed in 1979 and is cited as one of the first together with Resurrection Band and Jerusalem.[2][6] Daniel Band released the albums On Rock and Straight Ahead on the following years. A female-fronted hard rock band called Barnabas was formed in 1977, but the band was more active in the 1980s.[12]



Stryper's stage set during To Hell with the Devil tour, 1986

In the early 1980s there were four notable Christian heavy metal groups: Messiah Prophet, Leviticus, Saint, and Stryper.[6] The Swedish band Leviticus was formed by Bjorn Stiggson in 1982. The band's early releases were glam metal typical of the 1980s style.[13] Their second 1985 album The Strongest Power was put as one of the best records of that year in overviews by magazines such as Kerrang!.[14] This was the worldwide-breakthrough for the band.[14] Saint was compared to the British heavy metal band Judas Priest mostly due to the Rob Halford sounding style vocals of lead singer Josh Kramer.[15][16] Saint are best known for the negativity reflected in their lyrics. Common themes of their early releases include hell, evil, and apocalyptic themes such as the End times.[15] Their most successful album was Time's End (1986).[15] Although it is debatable as to which band was formed first, the Orange County native glam metal group Stryper was the most popular out of the two. Stryper was also the first band to identify as Christian metal. Stryper gained attention with their way of throwing Bibles with the band logo stickers on the covers at the end of their concerts.[6] In the beginning mostly Christians went to Stryper's concerts but soon they reached secular audience.[17] In the 1980s, Christian metal bands closely followed the trends of mainstream Metal bands.[6]

During the mid 1980s, heavy metal music divided into numerous subgenres and the term "Christian metal" was officially born in 1984.[2] The Chicago doom metal group Trouble was known to be the first band that was publicly marketed as "white metal" since their early albums Psalm 9 and The Skull feature Biblical references, at the time when Christian beliefs were almost unheard of in the metal world, according to Allmusic.[18] The factual basis on the origin of the "white metal" term remains unclear; it is merely known that the secular label Metal Blade Records used "white metal" as a marketing term in contrast to the rising black metal movement which was led by the bands such as Venom and Sodom.[7] However, while the vocalist Eric Wagner wrote all of the Trouble's lyrics, the guitarist Bruce Franklin has said about the Christian themes: "I guess it came from Eric's early interest in Biblical subjects, not from his interest in being a Christian, but from searching for something that was interesting."[19] Later, HM magazine wrote about the band: "While certainly not what one would call a Christian band, many Christian headbangers have enjoyed Troubles's upfront lyrics about the Lord on its first two albums (when they were commonly called the "white metal" band)."[20] Eric Wagner himself has commented on marketing the band as white metal:

It was Metal Blade. Back then they called all of it ´Black Metal´, y´know, Slayer, Danzig, etc., all those bands, they are ´Black Metal´, so I didn't grow up believing in all that crap and I think that people didn't believe in it either. It was a question about marketing your band in some way, so I had to do it. So I did this. Metal Blade called us as a “White Metal band” and I just wished they didn't.

—Eric Wagner on Trouble's white metal label in an interview with, January 2004.[21]

In another source he further explains: "I was brought up catholic, but you have to remember, back in the early 1980s, all the metal was kind of satanic, and I did not get into that vibe." He has implied that Metal Blade (or the owner Brian Slagel) actually came up with the term in the first place: "I think it was more like Metal Blade trying to be cute or something, with everything (satanic metal) being called black metal, so why not call us white metal, which is a bunch of crap."[22] Soon the Christian metal bands became controversial for their beliefs and often evangelistic goals in the metal music scene, which typically holds individualism in particularly high esteem.[1] Stryper, for instance, although a commercial success at that time, received a hostile reception when they headlined the Dutch metal festival Dynamo, Eindhoven in 1985.[23] Regardless of this, Stryper helped to popularize the genre,[24] They were first Christian band to reach platinum status on an album. Christian metal made its breakthrough in 1984 when Stryper released The Yellow and Black Attack EP.[4] The 1986 album To Hell with the Devil sold 2 million copies and achieved a Grammy nomination. The music videos for "Free", "Calling on You", and the power ballad "Honestly" all spent many weeks on Music Television's Top 10, and "Free" was in the number 1 position for 12 weeks (60 days), May 4-July 24, 1987. Following Stryper's success, Christian metal music became relatively popular.[24][25]

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Not only was Christian metal criticized by secular metal fans, but soon the movement was also criticized by fundamentalists.[26] For example, the televangelist Jimmy Swaggart wrote a book triggering off Stryper titled Religious Rock n' Roll – A Wolf in Sheep's Clothing in 1987 and criticized the scene for using heavy metal music to preach the gospel of Christianity. This drew the attention of the secular media to the Christian metal movement, which allowed the genre to gain fans worldwide. Many new bands began to arise, eventually drawing the attention of record labels that specialized in Christian music.[7][27]

The scene develops

Christian metal soon developed into its own independent record labels and networks. The first Christian metal label was Pure Metal Records, a sublabel of Refuge Records. Soon there appeared other labels such as R.E.X. Records and Intense Records.[27]

The regular music magazines did not cover the phenomena of Christian metal music industry very often. In 1985, Doug Van Pelt answered to this and published the first issue of Heaven's Metal fanzine. During that time almost every Christian record label became interested in Christian metal, and they advertised the newly signed metal bands on their roster on Heaven's Metal since it was the only publication exclusively covering the movement. Soon Heaven's Metal achieved more popularity and became an official, professional publication, with five full-time journalists working for the magazine. Heaven's Metal achieved a dedicated flock of 15,000 readers, and Van Pelt became a well-known and respected music author. Bands' sales usually rose when the ensembles were covered on the magazine.[2][28]

Following Heaven's Metal, there began appearing other less-known fanzines such as White Throne. Other American fanzines included , Turn Or Burn, Narrowpath, Screams of Abel, White Metal Review, and White Metal Alternatives. In Europe and South America, the emerging fanzines included Adonai Metal Rock (France), White Rock (Sweden), Blood Sacrifice (Germany), White Metal Crusades (Brazil 1987–1988), and White Metal Detonation (Brazil 1991–1992). From New Zealand came Wreathe of Thorns. As these titles imply, the term "white metal" was also used alongside with "Christian metal" in the early Christian metal underground press in some parts of the world. However, the use of "white metal" was mainly limited to compilation album titles, such as White Metal Invasion and White Metal Warriors Last Ship Home, since it was a common term among secular metal fans. During the 1980s and early 1990s, the more underground Christian metal releases were typically distributed in Christian bookstores, and those as well as the fanzines also traded Christian metal cassette copies with the music fans.[27]

Sanctuary International

Many rock and metal fans were rejected from churches in the 1980s. In 1984, California, pastor Bob Beeman saw this problem and soon started the ministry called Sanctuary - The Rock and Roll Refuge. This fellowship brought many musicians together and formed groups such as Tourniquet, Deliverance, Vengeance and Mortal that would soon become ground breaking acts in Christian music culture. Sanctuary's first worship leader was Stryper's vocalist Michael Sweet and later Barren Cross' bass player Jim LaVerde.[2] Sanctuary sponsored the first Christian metal festival, The Metal Mardi Gras, held in 1987 in Los Angeles. This proved influential and soon Christian metal festivals were organized elsewhere as well. Sanctuary's activities began spreading, and it had 36 parishes all over the United States at its peak by 1990s. The Sanctuary parishes had significant impact on the Christian metal movement: groups that would later become notable such as P.O.D. performed their first concerts in Sanctuary. It also reached many born again rock and metal musicians. For example, when Alice Cooper (Vincent Furnier) became a Christian, the Sanctuary personnel advised Cooper not to make "Christian music" since they felt that the Christian industry would turn off Cooper's fans and then he could not influence them carefully.[29]

By late 1990s, the parish's workers felt that regular churches' attitudes towards metalheads, rockers and punks had become more permissive, and therefore did not feel the need to keep Sanctuary going on any longer, hence, most of the parishes of Sanctuary were closed. Sanctuary became Sanctuary International, and it currently gives international studies and lessons on Christianity. Sanctuary also runs an internet radio station called "Intense Radio" which, in 2003, reached approximately 150,000 listeners.[29]

Late 1980s metal groups

There were also other notable hard rock, heavy metal and glam metal groups active from the late 1980s. Whitecross' early albums, which often invite comparisons to Ratt, are laced with fast, technical guitar work of Rex Carroll, who became well-known as a talented guitar virtuoso.[30] Sacred Warrior's music is often compared to that of Queensrÿche or Metal Church. Of all their albums, their first release, Rebellion, is considered to be their best.[31] The California native group Barren Cross was formed in 1983. Musically, the band is often compared to Iron Maiden, mainly due to the similarity of the vocals between Mike Lee and Maiden frontman Bruce Dickinson.[32] Their most notable album, Atomic Arena was distributed to both secular and Christian markets and a music video was made for "Imaginary Music", which received some MTV airplay. The Washington group Bloodgood's first major United States tour in 1987 was protested by groups on the Christian right.[33] The band was more popular in Europe than in the United States,[34] and they toured the United Kingdom in 1988. This tour featured lead vocalist Les Carlsen portraying Pontius Pilate during the song "Crucify," as well as a graphic, live-action portrayal of Christ being crucified.[35] Bloodgood opened ways for Christian speed and thrash metal styles.[36]

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The Kentucky based band Bride formed in 1983 initially playing speed metal, particularly on Live to Die, and reached wider audience on when they releasedSnakes in the Playground. Despite being criticized for their abrupt changes in style in favor of what's "hot",[37] Bride have gained a large following,[38] and are still considered "a primeval force at the centre of Christian heavy metal."[39] The band X-Sinner is known for having a very similar sound to that of AC/DC,[40] and was named the favorite new band of 1989 by the readers of HM Magazine.[40] The Connecticut glam metal group Rage of Angels was cited as "one of the most promising bands in Christian metal" and were often compared to the likes of Mötley Crüe. However, the band split up before they even released their only album Rage of Angels in 1989, and several members went to play in the secular band Steelheart.[41]

The band Neon Cross, formed in California in 1983, had a record deal with Regency Records.[42] Another Californian glam metal group, Holy Soldier released its self-titled debut on Word and A&M Records (Myrrh imprint) in 1990 to critical and commercial acclaim. Two years later, the band followed up their debut with Last Train, another critical success, leading to 60 city world tour. The band Guardian achieved some mainstream attention for its album Fire and Love, and one of the videos was included in the MTV's Headbangers Ball rotation.[43] The heavy metal band Angelica introduced vocalist Rob Rock, who also achieved initial fame as the vocalist for guitar virtuoso Chris Impellitteri's band Impellitteri during the 1980s and 1990s and then went solo with his Rage of Creation album.[44] He also performed guest vocals for the heavy metal band Warrior. The group Shout was compared to Stryper as their glam metal styles were similar.[45]


In the early 1990s, the rising musical styles, especially grunge, began to take their places as the dominant styles in the mainstream, which resulted in heavy metal music losing popularity and going underground for a decade.[46] Heavy metal musicians began to seek musical limits, therefore Christian metal musicians began to play extreme metal as well. Soon death metal replaced thrash metal in popularity. For the time being it was typical that Christian bands took it seriously how secular bands affected their audience. Death metal and black metal styles had grown more and more dominant in the metal underground. Themes such as violence, evil, and the occult had become subjects of growing interest in the lyrics of secular bands, such as Deicide and Morbid Angel. As a counteraction to this, there was a significant phenomenon in which Christian bands wrote lyrics that encouraged to go to idealistic war against evil.[47] The mainstream was no longer interested in the Christian metal movement, and the metal audiences in many underground metal scenes began favoring more extreme sounds and disparaging the popular styles, including Christian metal.[48] This affected the more traditional Christian heavy metal bands such as Saint, Bloodgood, and Leviticus, who split up in the 1990s. Even Stryper's popularity went through a regression. The band could not return its success even though they tried to change their style from pop metal to classic metal on the 1990 album Against the Law, and eventually, Stryper split up in 1993.[49]

Several changes happened: the metal scene in the United States focused more on the alternative styles. This caused the regional change that the center of heavy metal music moved to Middle and Northern Europe.[50] Even Heaven's Metal changed to HM: The Hard Music Magazine in 1995, and focused more on the mainstream Christian hard music rather than underground metal music. With the lead of Heaven's Metal magazine, the term "white metal" was abandoned by the Christian metal scenes in English-speaking countries as well as the Central and Northern European countries. They adopted the "Christian metal" term, and "white metal" remained in use in South America and southwestern Europe, although several groups in those scenes began rejecting the "white metal" tag as well. During the 1990s, Christian metal was almost forgotten in the eyes of the mainstream, with very few bands gaining mainstream success. However, bands such as Tourniquet remained popular despite their drastic stylistical changes. Bride, for example, survived by changing its style to post-grunge by mid-1990s, rapcore by late 1990s, and back to traditional heavy metal in 2000s.[27]

Christian underground metal benefited remarkably from the major German secular metal label, Nuclear Blast Records, which had an active distribution and sudden interest in Christian metal. Torodd Fuglesteg of Norway's Arctic Serenades Records has claimed: "The owner of Nuclear Blast was a committed Christian and he was pushing everything with that religious agenda through Nuclear Blast. Mortification and Horde were pushed like mad by Nuclear Blast when other labels were pushing pure satanic stuff."[51]

2000s: Revival

Return to mainstream

As I Lay Dying has been at the forefront of metalcore along with Underoath since 2002.[52]

The movement's revival began in the 2000s as the media began to show interest towards the scene again, with some groups reaching mainstream popularity. There are Christian metal bands that perform virtually every sub-genre of metal. Extol has a mixed (and often changing) style, and is popular among both Christian and Non-Christian metal fans.[53] Extol has toured with secular bands such as Mastodon, Opeth and God Forbid, their 2005 album The Blueprint Dives was nominated for Norway's Grammy, Spellemannsprisen, and it was voted for the top 5 metal albums of the year list by the readers of the biggest newspaper in Norway called Dagbladet.[54][55]

The Christian metal movement has spread worldwide since it emerged in the early 1980s, and there are now hundreds of active Christian metal bands. Inspired by the metal revival, many 1980s bands have made comebacks including Saint, Bloodgood and Stryper.[33][56] In October 2004, Doug Van Pelt brought Heaven's Metal back as its own fanzine.[57] The Internet has had a significant role on the revival of Christian metal as well. Many websites and online communities are dedicated to discussions about Christian metal's music, events, and bands.

Underoath, one of the more prominent metalcore groups.

For the first time since Stryper's success in the 1980s, certain Christian metal artists have found mainstream acceptance selling millions of albums to both Christian and non-Christian fans, including Underoath and P.O.D.. P.O.D. became the most successful Christian metal band when their 2001 album Satellite went multi-platinum.[58] Metalcore's popularity is especially based on Christian bands, including such crossover band such as Underoath, As I Lay Dying, August Burns Red, Norma Jean, Haste the Day, The Devil Wears Prada, Disciple, and Demon Hunter. As I Lay Dying have entered the Billboard 200 charts (#8) for its record sales and were nominated for the "Best Metal Performance" Grammy for the single "Nothing Left" from the 2007 album An Ocean Between Us.[59] The album made its debut on Metal Blade Records,' charting at #19 in Canada. In the United States, nearly 40,000 units were sold in its first week. The second week after it was released, it charted at #39 in both the United States and Canada. Other Top 200 debuts around the world include a #117 in the United Kingdom and #154 in Japan.[60] Christian metal is also selling well in other countries; for example, in Finland such groups as HB, Deuteronomium, Oratorio, and Sotahuuto have achieved ranks in the nation's Official Album Chart.[61]

In its 2006 In Review issue (February 2007), Revolver Magazine dubbed Christian metal the phenomenon of the year.[62] Editor in Chief Tom Beaujour interviewed the lead vocalists of As I Lay Dying, Demon Hunter, Norma Jean, and Underoath (Tim Lambesis, Ryan Clark, Cory Brandan Putman, and Spencer Chamberlain, respectively) as the front-page article for the issue. Tooth and Nail Records, P.O.D., Zao, War of Ages, Still Remains, and He Is Legend were also mentioned.[3]

Christian bands in metal subgenres

Thrash metal

Drummer Ted Kirkpatrick of the American thrash metal band Tourniquet live in 2005.

In 1986, the band Bloodgood opened ways for Christian speed and thrash metal styles with their song "Black Snake". During the mid 1980s the bands The Crucified and One Bad Pig infused their punk rock with metal and influenced later Christian thrash metal groups. The Crucified was formed in 1984 and the band released Take Up Your Cross in 1986 and Nailed in 1987. The guitarist Greg Minier was noted for his guitar playing skills and was featured in Guitar World magazine in 1991.[63]

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Some notable American Christian thrash metal groups include Deliverance, Believer, Vengeance and Tourniquet.[65] Allmusic states that Vengeance Rising's first two albums "were huge successes in the world of Christian music, making them one of the few bands in the genre to cross over into the secular music scene."[66] Tourniquet has been called "probably the best-known Christian metal band after Stryper".[67] According to Jonsson, Tourniquet's unique style brought them fans all over the world and broke new ground.[2] A music video was made for the song "Ark of Suffering", but it was banned from MTV because of its violent content that pointed out the horrors of animal abuse. Tourniquet's Pathogenic Ocular Dissonance was voted as the "Favourite album of the 1990s" by the readers of HM Magazine. Deliverance released Weapons of Our Warfare in 1990. A music video was made for the title track and received some airplay on MTV. These 1990 releases marked a turning point in Christian metal music. Allmusic has written about Believer's Sanity Obscure album:

Before 1990, the Christian heavy metal genre rarely strayed from generic riffing and poor lyrics. Bands like Petra and Sacred Warrior never broke through to the mainstream for this very reason. With low expectations, Believer released this massive slab of molten metal. Although it never really became popular, several mainstream magazines praised the album.[68]

The British bands Seventh Angel and Detritus introduced Christian thrash metal to Europe. Seventh Angel were considered to be thrash metal pioneers,[69] and their albums achieved mainstream distribution through Music for Nations label.[70] The band was known for its combination of doom metal and thrash metal.[71] Cross Rhythms states that for a long time Seventh Angel were considered to be the best metal act in the UK.[69][72][73]

In 1990s, New Mexico based Ultimatum and Oklahoman group called Eternal Decision gained some attention, the latter with its thrash and groove metal style. The 1997 album Eternal Decision hit the record stores in the U.S. and 16 other countries, achieving considerable acclaim and providing the band with even more notice.[74] In 2005 Temple of Blood released their debut album Prepare for the Judgement of Mankind which is one of the more recent acclaimed releases for the Christian speed and thrash metal genre.[75]

Death metal

German death metal group Sacrificium live at Elements of Rock 2008, Switzerland.

In 1990, the Australian group Mortification became the first widely recognized Christian death metal band. Their 1992 album Scrolls of the Megilloth was almost as ground breaking as Stryper's To Hell With the Devil, according to Jonsson.[2] They are one of the most successful Christian extreme metal groups.[76]

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Prior to Mortification the Brazilian band Incubus (later known as Opprobrium) already combined Christian lyrics to death metal on their albums Serpent Temptation (1988) and Beyond the Unknown (1990).[78] At roughly the same time the band Living Sacrifice was creating thrash and death metal. Their albums Nonexistent (1992) and Inhabit (1994) presented deathgrind style. Later they "evolved from their early death metal-inspired rumblings into a crushing, staccato-driven, heavily percussive metallic behemoth that pummels listeners with intense riffage and a decidedly personal, though nevertheless, often evangelical lyrical viewpoint."[79] The Minneapolis based Crimson Thorn released albums such as 1995's Unearthed, 1999's Dissection, and 2002's Purification. Allmusic describes them as "one of the world's most extreme-sounding Christian metal bands."[80] Other notable American death metal bands include Disencumbrance, Impending Doom and Embodyment.[81]

The best-known Christian grindcore group that focused on the goregrind style is the Australian band Vomitorial Corpulence. The band released its albums Karrionic Hacktician and Skin Stripper in 1990s. These classic releases were catalyst to the formation of a number of Christian grindcore acts (which has grown remarkably in recent years). Notable among these are Eternal Mystery, Horsemen of the Apocalypse, Vomitous Discharge and Rehumanize. The Norwegian death metal group Schaliach gained a notable cult following for its album Sonrise (1996), which had a slightly more melodic and doomier approach than most Christian death metal albums. The fellow Norwegian band Groms combined traditional heavy metal with groovy death metal and achieved notice in the local scene since they were signed to Arctic Serenades Records that had a satanic band called Suffering on its roster.[82] The album Ascension was released in 1994 (later re-released through Pleitegeier Records in 1996). Later, Norway's Extol and Finland's Deuteronomium and Immortal Souls began playing post-death and received notable attention. The Norwegian band Extol's early style combined elements of old school death metal, power metal and traditional heavy metal with experimental guitar leads. Allmusic described their 1999 album Burial as "a breath of fresh air among a genre that relies on satanic gimmicks."[83] The band were hailed as accomplished musicians,[83] and noted for their exceptionally precise guitarwork.[84] Technical death metal is currently presented by bands such as Aletheian and Sympathy.

Unblack metal

Norwegian black metal band Antestor in 2007.
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Horde is widely considered to be the first Christian black metal band. As a one man band with only one release (in 1994), Horde initiated controversy within the extreme metal community, opposing the more common lyrical themes of Satanism and evil.[85][86][87] The title of Horde's only release — Hellig Usvart — means "Holy Unblack", which is now often used by Christians to refer to Christian black metal, in order to avoid the negative connotations of the term "black metal".[88]

Antestor (then called Crush Evil) existed prior to the release of Hellig Usvart but their music was a death/doom style (or as they called it, "Sorrow Metal"), and was not yet musically considered black metal. During the early 1990s when the band was known as Crush Evil, Euronymous, guitarist for the seminal black metal band Mayhem, was planning to stop Crush Evil from continuing.[89] However, this never took place. By some sources, Antestor started the northern European Christian extreme metal scene.[90]

The Swedish band Admonish was also formed around 1994 or 1995, and is known to be the first Christian black metal band in Sweden. They gained notoriety for calling their style "Christian black metal" publicly on their website. This caused some debate in metal underground and soon one black metal fan started an anti-Admonish website. Although the band did not release anything until 2005, the magazine Metal Hammer called Admonish "One of the leading Christian black metal bands" in a 1990s issue which focused on black metal.[91]

Horde's "anti-satanic" and "crusade mentality" themes dominated the unblack metal movement for years.[86] In late 1990s, Antestor, Crimson Moonlight and Vaakevandring set a new direction: their lyrics focused more on philosophical and personal themes.[92] The release of Antestor's The Return of the Black Death on the British secular black metal label Cacophonous Records in 1998 proved influential on the Christian black metal movement. While the unblack scene is not part of the secular black metal scene, several musicians from both have co-operated: Stian Aarstad of Dimmu Borgir produced Vaakevandring's Demo 98/99,[93] and Jan Axel Blomberg of Mayhem played drums for Antestor's The Forsaken (2005) album.[94]

The movement has received some interest in mainstream media, and in 2006 Admonish achieved wider notice when twins Emil (guitar) and Jonas Karlsson (bass) both appeared on the MTV Europe show Pimp My Ride International on October 6. On that show, in which their car was modified, the twins advertised their band and Admonish's music was played.[95][96] In 2007, the Norwegian band Frosthardr appeared on the documentary feature film Murder Music – Black Metal (2007). They were interviewed for a minute and represented the Christian point of view in (un)black metal music.[97] There are unblack bands in different parts of the world but the prominent scenes exist in Scandinavia, USA and South America. The latter is known to have a more radical, highly anti-satanic unblack metal scene than other regional scenes.[98]

Power metal and progressive metal

German power metal group Seventh Avenue.
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Sacred Warrior preceded Christian power metal in the United States. The German group Seventh Avenue, formed in 1989, was one of more notable Christian power metal bands in the 1990s. They released Rainbowland in 1995, and after that the band was signed to Treasure Hunt Records. Their first release on this label, Tales of Tales, topped at 18 on the Japanese Heavy Metal Charts. The 1998 release, Southgate, was licensed to Megahard Records for release in Brazil, where the band subsequently toured. They released two albums, Between The Worlds (2003) and Eternals (2004), on Massacre Records.[99][100][101]

Later in the 1990s, the Swedish group Narnia made notable contributions to Christian power metal history. Previously, Christian Liljegren was in a melodic metal band called Modest Attraction which released the albums The Truth in Your Face and Divine Luxury before Liljegren teamed up with guitarist Carl Johan Grimmark to form Narnia in 1996 and released the first album Awakening in 1998. Narnia was later signed to Nuclear Blast Records, Germany, and Pony Canyon Records, Japan, and broadened its popularity.[102][103] Later there appeared more notable European groups such as the German bands Chrystyne and Lightmare, and the Swedish groups XT, Harmony, and Heartcry.[2]

The British group Balance of Power was a notable Christian progressive metal band, although their lyrics became gradually less Christian based album by album. The band was formed in 1995, released their first album When the World Falls Down in 1996, was picked by Japanese label Pony Canyon, and received significant airplay on Japanese radio stations. After Lance King joined them as vocalist, the band released Book of Secrets in 1998.[104][105]

It was not until late 1990s and early 2000s when some United States based power metal and progressive metal groups began to appear. Jacobs Dream, formed in 1997, became popular and was signed to Metal Blade Records. They soon released the albums Jacobs Dream (1997) and Theater of War (2000).[106] Magnitude Nine released the albums Chaos to Control (1998), Reality in Focus (2001) and Decoding the Soul (2004).[107][108][109] In 2003 a one man project called Theocracy created by Matt Smith released their self titled debut Theocracy, which achieved notable popularity in both Christian and secular scenes.[110][111][112]

Doom metal and gothic metal

Dutch symphonic death/doom metal group Morphia.
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In 1987, the Swedish group Veni Domine started playing progressive doom metal and released its first album Fall Babylon Fall in 1992. The album was called a "masterpiece" by some critics. The following album Material Sanctuary featured a heavier output, however, the band abandoned most of their epic style on later releases.

Paramaecium and Ashen Mortality are the two best known doom metal bands in Christian metal.[113] Australian group Paramaecium incorporated violin, flute, and acoustic guitars to its atmospheric music on their album Exhumed of the Earth, and continued on adding more symphonic elements on the following albums. What sets Paramaecium apart from other bands in the doom metal scene, is the fact that they are the only Christian death doom band that made it to the top of the genre.[114] Paramaecium would influence later Christian bands such as Pantokrator. British group Ashen Mortality was formed after thrash metal band Seventh Angel split up. Ashen Mortality mixed elements of medieval music and goth in their doom metal sound. The critics usually wrote that Ashen Mortalitys overall quality set them apart from competitors. The 1998 Your Caress was called "essential album".[115] In 2000, the ex-Pentagram guitarist Victor Griffin formed a traditional doom metal group called Place of Skulls, and released the albums Nailed (2002) and With Vision (2003)

Christian gothic metal was pioneered by Saviour Machine, which mixed David Bowie type rock-opera and classic metal. Saviour Machine was more popular in Europe, particularly in Germany, than US.[116] After releasing the albums Saviour Machine I and Saviour Machine II, the band gained attention with its ambitious Legend trilogy. The vocalist Eric Clayton also produced the United States gothic metal band Wedding Party's album Anthems (1997). Later Wedding Party changed its name to I-Dragon-I.

In the 1990s, there were three other notable gothic metal bands: Undish, Necromance and Kohllapse. All of them started out in early 1990s playing death metal before developing their gothic metal sound. The Polish band Undish, formerly known as Graviora Manent, released the 1997 album ...Acta Est Fabula on Massacre Records and made a European tour afterwards, also performing at Wacken Open Air.[117] The German group Necromance released the albums White Gothic and Wiederkehr der Schmerzen in the 1990s. The latter incorporated industrial elements, which continued on the band's 2001 release Tribulation Force. Their two latest albums were well-received by magazines such as Rock Hard and Metal Heart.[118] Australian group Kohllapse self-released the albums Kohllapse (1996) and Distant Mind Alternative (1999). These albums were distributed through Nuclear Blast USA,[119] gaining the band some attention in secular circles for its unique style that combined darkwave and doom metal.[120][121]

Alternative metal

Zao and Dan Weyandt live in Karlsruhe, Germany, September 10, 2004.

The alternative metal style's leading groups included the nu metal bands P.O.D., Thousand Foot Krutch, Disciple, and Pillar. Zao was a pioneer of metalcore, paving way for bands such as UnderOath and Norma Jean. In 1988, the industrial metal movement began. Although a fusion genre, there was a notable and mostly American based Christian movement around the style in the 1990s. The California based group Mortal is cited as one the first Christian bands that represented the style.[4] Mortal was not the first Christian band that played industrial metal, but they had a notable role in that they opened ways for 1990s industrial metal bands, both Christian and secular. The second album Fathom (1993) was Mortal's most guitar-driven musically, and became one of the band's most popular releases.[122] The song ”Rift” was rearranged later and a music video, which delt with the issue of child abuse, was shot for it in 1994, achieving MTV airplay.[123]

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Another 1990s Christian industrial metal cult band was Circle of Dust, which was formed by New York based Scott Albert after his former thrash metal outfit Immortal (USA) disbanded.[36][124] Albert rerecorded the album in 1995. The second album, Brainchild was more extreme than first one, and showcased dark cyberpunk-esque lyrics.[125] The album is characterized by strong elements of thrash metal.[36] A music video was shot for ”Telltale Crime” in Tennessee state penitentiary which was closed due to inhuman conditions.[125] Part of the song ”Deviate” was used as the intro-song for a long time in the now defunct MTV Sports show.[36]

Albert led the Christian industrial metal movement at one point and he was a part of many other groups such as Argyle Park, the underground supergroup of Christian industrial metal, which released the successful album Misguided (1995). Albert produced the sideproject of The Crucified members, Chatterbox's only album Despite. After a some disagreements with the label occurred, the touring line up of Circle of Dust disbanded.[125] Daren Diolosa started a soloproject under the name Klank and recorded the album Still Suffering in 1997. The second album Numb was somewhat successful because the song ”Blind” became a hit single.[126] Dan Albert recorded under the name Level. Scott Albert grew tired of R.E.X. Records' policy and the critique that he did not write Christian lyrics enough, and eventually left the Christian scene.[127] In 1998 Scott Albert recorded the "last" Circle of Dust album Disengage which incorporated elements of darkwave and synthpop. He took the pseudonym Klayton and formed Celldweller, and its music has been featured on many movie soundtracks, including Superman Returns and Spider-Man 3.[125] The Australian industrial metal band called Screams of Chaos was known for its bizarre style that combined several extreme metal influences with industrial. The band achieved significant attention for Genetic War (1997), its only album, as leader Neil Johnson is a professional film maker. He shot numerous music videos for the songs on the album. Some of the videos caused controversy in Germany for featuring video material from World War II concentration camps.[128] The late 1990s and early 2000s popular American shock rock group Rackets & Drapes was known to have elements of industrial metal, and achieved a wide following.[129]

Christianity in mainstream metal

There are notable mainstream acts that feature or have featured Christian members. While these bands may or may not have had lyrics using Christian themes or symbolism, some have caused controversy in their claims to Christianity, such as Tom Araya of Slayer[130] and Ralph Santolla of Deicide.[131] Others, such as Killswitch Engage and Linkin Park also have members who are Christian and frequently use spiritual themes.[132][133]


Australian gothic metal band Virgin Black attempts to highlight the difference between the Church and the spiritual aspects of Christianity.[134]

Certain Christian groups, most notably those in some King James Only denominations,[135] consider all types of rock and metal music to be opposition to their faith, regardless of lyrical content or the lifestyles of the band members. However, fans and artists see metal as another genre of music, parallel to such genres as blues, classical, jazz, punk, and hip-hop. Bands such as Showbread and Antestor believe that the instrumentation of the music is simply a medium of art, while the person creating the music as well as the lyrics being presented provide the message. Therefore, Christian metal is created when Christians compose metal music in a way that reflects their faith in Christ.[6] Kjetil Molnes, the original vocalist for Antestor stated, "We identify ourselves as black metal as a music style, not black metal as an ideology or belief."[85][87]

Certain fans of metal consider the use of Christian lyrics to be opposed to the "true" purpose of metal. Their attitudes range from ignoring the opinions or rejection of religion, though some will admit that Christian metal can contain enjoyable bands like secular metal.[136] During the 1980s and 1990s, the Christian metal movement was criticized for lack of originality by both Christian and secular groups. In an interview with Mean Magazine, Kris Klingesmith of Barnabas stated that "If you want to know what Christian music will be doing tomorrow, all you need to do is see what the secular guys are doing today."[6]

Some groups within the Christian metal movement, most notably bands from the 1980s and 1990s, have criticized bands within the industry for isolating the genre from the secular industry too avidly. For example, Callisto has stated that when a band becomes part of the movement, it is difficult to be portrayed as anything more than just a "Christian band," due to the isolation.[137] However, most Christian bands today oppose to being isolated in the Christian music industry and have become mainstream successes, such as Underoath, Virgin Black,[138] and Tourniquet.

Record labels

See also




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  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i Jonsson, Johannes. "Christian Metal History". The Metal For Jesus Page!. Retrieved 2007-12-19. 
  3. ^ a b Johnson, Wesley. "Revolver on Christian metal". Buzz Grinder. Retrieved 2007-12-19. "The cover of the latest Revolver Magazine features members of As I Lay Dying, Norma Jean, Underoath and Demon Hunter. The photo goes along with an extensive write-up on Christian Metal, which they’ve dubbed “phenomenon of the year.”" 
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  5. ^ A Contemporary Mass, Retrieved 2008-03-29
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  8. ^ a b Allender, Mark W. B.. "Resurrection Band - Awaiting Your Reply". Allmusic. Retrieved 2007-12-19. 
  9. ^ Thompson 2000, "Heavenly Metal", p. 154
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  11. ^ Majalahti, Michael. "The Best Kept Secrets in Rock". Imperiumi. Retrieved 2007-12-19. 
  12. ^ Thompson 2000, "Heavenly Metal", p. 155
  13. ^ Powell 2002, "Leviticus", p. 524
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  15. ^ a b c Powell 2002, "Saint", p. 787
  16. ^ Hale 1993, "2497 Saint", p. 319
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  19. ^ Siva, Shan. "Supershine". Retrieved 2007-11-29. 
  20. ^ Hard News. 58. May 1996. "Trouble's most recent album, Plastic Green Head has finally benn released in US (After contractual obligations only allowed the album to be released first in Europe first) Original drummer Jeff Olson has rejoined the fold for this album which is being distributed by century Media Records. As many of you know, Jeff left the band shortly becoming born again. Guitarist Bruce Franklin chose to remain with the band after his conversion, being a light in a somewhat troubling band. (Not every believer can handle its lead singer saying f-word from the stage and in its songs) Musically speaking, imagine Axl Rose singing for the original Black Sabbath and you get some idea of where the band's musical identity lies. While certainly not what one would call a Christian band. Many Christian headbangers have enjoyed Trouble's upfront lyrics about the Lord on its first two albums (When they were commonly called the 'White Metal' band) The band's last two albums have traveled in this direction, but inclusion of two Christians members have kept watching this band somewhat interesting.". 
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  32. ^ Hale 1993, "0272 Barren Cross", p. 67–68
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  137. ^ Koskinen, Kimmo K.. "Callisto Interview" (in Finnish). Rockmusica. Retrieved 2007-10-21. 
  138. ^ Morrow, Matt (HM Magazine journalist) (2001-08-27). "Virgin Black". The Whipping Post. Retrieved 2007-09-27. 

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