Through a Glass Darkly: Intro to Metal

In this series we explore the many intersections of metal and biblical allegory.

Beginning in the early 1970’s through today, Metal has been a potent musical force in popular culture. Bands such as Black Sabbath, Deep Purple and Led Zeppelin led the way towards a heavier guitar-driven musical sound in the early 1970’s and away from the folk-driven hippie sound of the 1960’s. Accompanied with the darker, heavier sounds of the new genre of Heavy Metal, many of these bands explored the dark, disturbing and the macabre, expressed with images of the occult, hell, demons and Satan himself. Intermixed with these darker themes are references to the bible, God and Jesus but usually articulated in a non-Christian manner.

One early example is the song War Pigs by Black Sabbath which states, “Day of Judgment, God is calling. On their knees the war pigs crawling. Begging mercy for their sins. Satan, laughing, spreads his wings. Oh Lord yeah!” Another band, Iron Maiden opens their classic song The Number of the Beast with a lyric paraphrasing Revelation 12:12 and 13:18:

Woe to you, Oh Earth and Sea, for the Devil sends the beast with wrath, because he knows the time is short… Let him who hath understanding reckon the number of the beast for it is a human number, its number is six hundred and sixty six.

Then there is Metallica with their song Enter Sandman, which quotes a portion of the well-known nighttime prayer for children, “Now I lay me down to sleep. Pray the lord my soul to keep. If I die before I wake. Pray the lord my soul to take.” Edge of Sanity, one of the pioneers of fusing death and black metal with progressive rock, with their song Jesus Cries presents a portion of the gospel message paraphrasing John 1:1, 3:16 and Matthew 27:46 but then denies that truth:

The star upon the sky, is it just another lullaby?
What a world do believe could be all a ******** lie!
I’ll never serve in heaven. I rather rule in hell.

Many Christians did not see any redemptive value with metal, thinking that music which explores the dark and disturbing could not be used by Christian musicians. Christian Metal was thought to be an oxymoron, especially in the sub-genres of metal where lyrical content is masked by screaming and yelling. However, many Christian musicians saw metal as being so ripe with biblical allegory that the genre could easily move towards a Christian worldview. The 1990′s saw a flourishing of Christian metal bands from death metal to nu-metal which continues on today. Surprisingly, Christian metal bands have been one of the great success stories of contemporary Christian music since many of the artists in the genre are respected by metalheads across the globe and in some cases have been as commercially successful as their secular counterparts.

As we continue on in this series we will explore biblical allegory in the wide variety of metal sub-genres from Hair Metal to Math Core, Christian and secular and everything in between.

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