Since metal music exploded on the scene in the 1970’s with the Boys from Birmingham, Black Sabbath, the style has always been controversial. Geezer Butler’s terrifying song Black Sabbath, had people believing that they are “Devil Worshipers”. Ozzy Osbourne is often called the “Prince of Darkness” and even their album covers were considered somewhat Satanic. From the debut, self-titled album which is thought to have the ghost of an ancient witch on it, the album Sabbath, Bloody Sabbath which clearly displays the number of the Beast, 666, on the cover of the album, to the album, Heaven and Hell which has angels smoking and playing poker on it
Then came the 80s’ metal music with Iron Maiden’s album The Number of the Beast, Venom having inverted crosses on their album covers and gleefully Satanic lyrics and Slayer with their invert crosses, pentagram’s and “Satanic” lyrics as well with songs such as Hell Awaits and I Am the Antichrist. I’ve never been a fan of Venom, but Slayer’s lyrics are not true Satanic lyrics. They started out has a punk band but then became one of the first “thrash metal” or “speed metal” bands on the scene. Their lyrics are often anti-religious, and very political, but hardly Satanic.
Also during the 70’s a young couple from Chicago, Wendi and Glenn Kaiser had formed a hard rock band, which did often bump into a metal sound and they had a special twist to their lyrical themes; they were Christians and their band was called Resurrection Band (later Rez Band). Like the non-Christian bands, RB were considered controversial in that their music was “too hard” and Glenn had *gasp* long hair.
Then during the 80’s more Christian bands started to appear, and like their “secular” counter parts, they created controversy. One band called Philadelphia had an album entitled Search and Destroy which featured on the album cover a “devil” clutching a naked woman in its hand. This was considered “too extreme” by the Christian community and of course, there was no way these guys could be Christians with that type of album cover and metal sound.
With the onset of “glam metal”, there came a California based glam metal band called Stryper. They caused controversy due to the fact that they did the big, teased hair, tight spandex and touches of facial make-up thing. Their lyrics weren’t the best at the time, but they were full on about Jesus and did not compromise in their beliefs, nor their metal music. Stryper broke the mold for Christian metal music and they opened the door for many styles to come.
The latter part of the 80’s and into the 90’s saw quite a few Christian bands who were copy cats at best, but terrible at worst in their music. But the lyrics tended to be very open about their Christian beliefs. There were a few however, which were amazing in their metal sound, notably: Deliverance, Believer, Vengeance Rising and Light Force.
Steve Rowe, the founding member of Light Force had been a metal musician and Christian for many years and the musicianship of LF was a delight to listen to. As the world of death metal began to grow in popularity, Rowe began to take the sound of LF and make it heavier and faster. He eventually assumed vocals (he was also the bassist) and turned the band into full on death metal, changing the name to Mortification The name alone caused controversy; it is taken from the belief of Christians mortifying the flesh and becoming more like Christ. Their self-titled album feature a hideous picture of these monsters being cast into Hell, but it did the trick…it sold the album.
Drummer Jayson Sherlock is a multi-instrumentalist who had a love for black metal music and he created a black metal unit he called Horde. This unit was full on ugly black metal music, dark, cold and scary to listen to. But Sherlock’s lyrics were uncompromising. Though I am no longer a Christian, I still listen to a few Christian metal bands and have no problem with their beliefs and what they do musically. I highly recommend to any true fan of black metal to listen to Crimson Moonlight and Antestor.
About those Satanic bands? There are many out there and most tend to be black metal or symphonic black metal bands. My favorites are: Mayhem, 1349, Marduk, Dimmu Borgir, Emperor and Dark Funeral.
Black metal can trace its roots the early to mid-80’s with bands such as Celtic Frost (formally Hellhammer), Bathory, Mercyful Fate and the aforementioned, Venom. The music and lyrics are often dark and brooding, and the roots can be found in classic metal as well has early thrash metal.
Then in the 90’s there arose the “modern” black metal movement in bands such as Mayhem, Emperor, Marduk, Dimmu Borgir and others. Although Mayhem started in the 80’s as a more-or-less death metal band, it was when Per Yngve Ohlin, aka Dead joined up on vocals and lyrics, that the band took a much darker direction lyrically and the music became much faster and colder.
The bands Emperor and Dimmu Borgir started up what was dubbed “symphonic black metal” incorporating keyboards to give the music a more haunting atmosphere to it. The brains behind Emperor, Vegard Sverre Tveitan aka Ihsahn took his love of classical/symphonic music and incorporated it into the sound of Emperor and gave the music a darker and more sinister sound to it.
The Satanism in the lyrical themes of some of the death metal and namely black metal bands is not the Satanism of Hollywood, Christianity, nor Anton LeVey (author of the Satanic Bible), but rather a Satanism of rebellion against Christianity. They disdain the overall Christian attitude of believing in Jesus Christ as God Incarnate and view Him as a liar about His claims of Divinity. Although as with Christianity, I do not believe in Satanism, I agree with the notion that Christianity is a cancer. Christians do not respect other’s beliefs and have no tolerance for those whom do not believe in their way.
But, I digress.
It is often thought that Christian black metal should not exist as black metal is ultimately about being anti-Christian and indeed, as mentioned above, it is often held in disdain by those who listen to and/or perform black metal. However, Mayhem drummer Jan Axel Blomberg, aka Hellhammer did session drum work for the Christian symphonic black metal band called Antestor on the ep Det Tapte Liv and the full-length album, The Forsaken. Basically, this indicates to me what I’ve thought about metal overall. It’s about a love of the music, no matter what your beliefs are. So, if you’re just a metal head who likes good shit, listen to what you like and forget what others think.