In the 1980s, some Christians believed the entertainment industry was being operated by satanic forces to promote the destruction of morality in American adolescents. This phenomenon has led to a mischaracterization of heavy metal as a music genre.
Disclaimer—some metal bands consist of actual Satanists. Several metal bands use motifs that are very negative in nature. There are heavy metal musicians who are immoral in how they act and what they support. However, those facts shouldn’t prevent someone from listening to the metal of the “good” kind.
Most styles of music have immoral characters and songs about inappropriate content—even Mozart had pieces about scatology. To suggest refraining from a style of music because it was tainted by several artists would require abstaining from most styles of music.
Many Christians believe metal musicians are devil worshipers because of the iconic satanic imagery used in some artwork and lyrical content, however satanical imagery has been used in western culture for centuries.
Dante’s “Inferno” was a highly detailed description of what an Italian in the Middle Ages thought hell might be like. “Paradise Lost” was another widely acclaimed epic poem telling the story of Lucifer’s fall, painting him as a protagonist. Michelangelo painted the devil in the Sistine Chapel. Even Shakespeare, Leo Tolstoy and Mark Twain wrote about Satan—But these works are not proof that they were devil worshipers. The same logic should be applied to metal musicians.
Christians have been in the metal scene since at least 1985 with the release of “Soldiers Under Command” by Stryper. Every style of metal has few Christian bands within the scene. Some popular bands in the metal scene have Christians in the band such as Megadeth, Iron Maiden, Slayer, Type O Negative and Twisted Sister.
Mortification, an Australian death metal band, wrote in the song “Break the Curse’” “Eternal love, hope in life, satisfaction, peace of mind, do you feel these things inside, or lost your life’s denied, Christ has come to heal your mind, to win and be revived.” Norwegian Christian black metal band Grave Declaration, in their song Reach for the Sky, wrote “You are our only hope, you are our source, of which all, good things spring fourth, you are the One, who can fill our hearts void, and keep us from dying destroyed.”
Christian metal bands still often choose to worship God through the lyrics they write. The style of the music does not dictate if a song is Christian or Satanist, but rather the lyrics written.
Metal originated from a working-class community which had developed a cynical attitude about society. The 1940s and the following two decades attempted to introduce a new kind of culture in the western hemisphere under the guise of family values and the “American Dream.” There were those whose circumstances prevented them from achieving this so-called “utopia.”
Under the assumption that art reflects the reality of the artist, the extremity of metal themes is only a mirror of the life the musicians live. The desire for something intense could come from a need for solace from the intensity found in the fan’s life. Often metal uses fantasy themes as a way of escapism to help individuals and artists themselves remain sane in a world of insanity.
From a metalhead’s perspective, their criticism of Christian contemporary music and pop music is that they convey an unrealistic depiction of reality. For metalheads, they look at society and see oppression, suffering, deception, destruction and violence. As a result, they often sing about what they experience and witness.
They often question why it is good to sugarcoat reality. There is an argument that metal can glorify the violence it depicts. There is a fine line between glorifying and informing, but both are better than ignoring. Ignorance about the events of the present can lead to more destruction than the glorification of the events.
Despite explaining the context of the themes in metal, many Christians still bring up Philippians 4:8 as an attack against metal. At face value, metal appears to go against the requirements set in this exhortation; however, deeper analysis can prove otherwise.
Many metal bands choose to write about extreme themes to alleviate the problem or to inform their audience to take a stance. Also, the keyword in this verse in Greek is logizesthe, which can be translated as, “to think,” “to consider” or “to take into account.” When a song sings about violence, if the song makes me consider a stance against violence, the end result leads me to follow through with what the verse suggests to me.
On the outside, the appearance of metal is one of the scariest, most violent and evil genres of music, but looking at the heart of each song can reveal love, patience, goodness and self-control. Taking one look at an evil-looking band with black and white corpse paint as their logo and making a judgement about them actually goes against what this verse discusses.
Taking a closer look at preconceptions of appearances, I believe the appearances of aggression and demons are subjective and cultural constructs. The aggression found in a mosh pit is no different from the scrums ORU’s rugby team does.
In my own experience of dealing with mental illness, metal music has been a positive influence on my perception of myself. The aggressiveness encourages me to directly take on life’s challenges. The energy and power in the music can actually calm me and relieve anxiety.
Metal has never pushed me to want to commit a crime or act of violence, despite its violent nature, but rather encourages me to love and recognize the value of life. It can be hard to not judge something on its appearances, but after testing it, it could be one of the best things ever experienced. What have you judged without vetting?