Monday, December 31, 2012

Oh Lord, No.

I have a soft spot for what in the '90s we called 'White Metal'. You might know it also as 'Christian metal' but I do find a distinction between bands that are outright preaching on What Would Jesus Do (like Messiah, Tyrant or Stryper) and those that are taken with concerns of faith and morality on some higher level (like Manilla Road, Saviour Machine or Secrecy). Many bands make clear and frank references to moral systems in Heavy Metal, Jesus isn't the first choice but a choice he is. The appeal is in that they are not writing about nonsense and Heavy Metal always is best when it's not about nonsense.

The fervour of belief is akin to that of passion. It goes well with Heavy Metal if you ask me. And White Metal was the sort of thing you would go to if you agreed, that is, before the 'orthodox black metal' boom of the late '10s. Orthodox Black Metal is like the hipster listening to Manowar with an ironic veneer about it all, testing the waters before - and if he ever - comes out as an actual, honest-to-Thor brother of metal. Orthodox Black Metal people should just go join a Gnostic church and stop playing around with 'evil inversions' of a very understandable tradition of faith that predates all their superficial concerns by thousands of years.

Most Heavy Metal listeners have a knee-jerk reaction to Christian metal. Perhaps some of them have no real reason to, besides peer pressure, but I am willing to accept that some of them really feel a sense of unbelonging permeating some of the typical Christian metal offerings.

I won't be examining the whole spectrum of White Metal, not at this time (though I'm willing to, if there's enough interest. You'd be surprised how wide the range of metal there is with some Jesus in it). No, this post is about something at once much narrower and somehow broader. I was listening to this song on shuffle:

And I paid attention to the lyrics. Yep, it's a Bruce Dickinson sound-alike telling me how abortion equals murder. I got somewhat upset about the ideology this band is selling and it got me thinking on how this happened. Who opened the door for evangelical ideology in Heavy Metal? There's bands that sing about what they believe in, sure. And then there's strictly manufactured American metal of the type of Barren Cross, made as an alternative to secular metal to sell in Christian-controlled communities. Surely this is an american invention, right? It has to be!


Black Sabbath. Fucking Master of Reality. Right there.

I almost never listen to Black Sabbath after the debut and before Dio so this doesn't readily come to mind, but this is where the Christians came in. Black Sabbath left the door open, it's pretty astounding. Listen to the lyrics closely, it doesn't get more preachy than this. "I really believe it was people like you that crucified Christ". Sheesh, as if Ozzy didn't sound enough like a grandmother.

Now, I'm no Black Sabbath scholar so I'd like you, dear readers to help me. Who is to blame in the band for this? As far as I know the band at this juncture were super high on bad drugs. who had the time to be a practising Christian? Or are they faking it? Is it the old story where Ward had some supernatural scares with his necronomicon or satanic bible or whatever it was and wrote these things for penance so the dark Lord wouldn't claim his immortal soul? Did it work? How does the band feel about this tripe now? Are Black Sabbath Christians in their old age? Were they always Christians and if so how do they reconcile the devilry of the first record with it all, much less the drugs and fornication? In any case, perhaps most of you already knew, but I just made the connection: We've got Black Sabbath to thank/blame for one more thing.

Obviously Candlemass doing their little pastoral turn circa Nightfall were following after Black Sabbath but they were much more solemn and austere about it because - clearly - they were doing it for effect, not because of true faith. They were tapping into the power of belief sans belief and this is one of the (various) failings of post Epicus Doomicus Metallicus Candlemass. Does "After Forever" explain the enduring fascination of doom metal with Jesus?


  1. Seems like we got Black Sabbath to thank for most things, Good or bad.
    As far as I know Geezer Butler is to blame, as he is credited with writing pretty much all of the lyrics for Sabbath at that period. What's interesting is that it's in stark contrast to Under the Sun/Every Day Comes and Goes released the year after: ''Well, I don't want no preacher telling me about the god in the sky,
    No, I don't want no one to tell me where I'm gonna go when I die
    I wanna live my life I don't want people telling me what to do
    I just believe in myself, 'cos no one else is true''

    Seems like a pretty hefty change of tone.It might've been something to show mom so she can see thatt hey weren't satanists? I've actually been interested in this pretty blatant juxtaposition for a while. From what I can gather from interviews Butler didn't particulary enjoy writing lyrics, if he struggled to come up with subjects that might be a reason why? I find the idea of Geezer writing it all a bit sad, when Ozzy delivers them the way he does.

    As for what they belive now, there is a new Sabbath album due this year. Let's wait and see?

  2. The idea of a bunch of coked up rockstars having to write a Christian song to show their mom is fantastic. I wish we had some sources!

  3. I think that After Forever is kind of an apology.

    "Oh, we are not really Satanists, we just use this whole hubbla for effect, and because it fits the music and the atmosphere we try to convey. We are Christians, just like you! Nothing to be afraid of!"

    Most of the members, with the exception of Iommi had a working class background. Iommi's parents had a small grocery store, which kind of makes them lower middle class I guess. It would not strike me as a surprise if all of them are Christians, even if they are not that fond of organized religion.

    Yes, Doom Metal is full of Christian themes. Just checking the names of some of the genre's leading bands should suffice. Saint Vitus, Cathedral, Reverend Bizarre, etc. On a funny note, Cathedral's sort-of title track from their debut Forest of Equilibrium, is about atheism and living a moral life sans religion. However, most of it is just for effect, because crosses and cemetery's are naturally associated with death and all things ending.

    Is After Forever responsible for this? On it's own merits, probably no. However, Black Sabbath were a god fearing band, which may have a larger effect on those that followed their footsteps.

  4. That is a truly awesome hypothesis. I was going to note the sudden change in subject matter as well, but the hypothesis I had found to explain it was variations in the combinations of drugs being used.

  5. Normalized Freak: If it's like you say why is there so much SPITE in 'After Forever'? It's not a 'God is lovely, I love god, perhaps you'll like god too, give him a try!'. There's a line in there, truly "I really believe it's people like you who crucified Christ". How do you write this just to be apologetic about all the devil symbolism of the past?

    I am not satisfied with that explaination.

    Black Sabbath, if memory serves, started wearing these large crosses after a point and on, they weren't God fearing from the beginning. But sure, Black Sabbath on the whole are a much more influential thing than Black Sabbath the first record (which I'm mostly interested in).

    Alex_P, if there's a variation of drugs that makes you hate unbelievers and accuse them of killing the son of God, it sounds like some bad stuff.

    1. Good to see this blog kicking again. There's no easy answer as to whether Sabbathian doom is Christian, for doom is built upon the tension between of belief and unbelief; or rather between the certain damnation and impossible salvation. Its founding moment is in Christ's agnostic cry as he dies upon the cross: "Father, why have you forsaken me?" In doom mythopoesis, Jesus in that moment is the alienated Everyman who sins and dies but still hopes. Doom is nothing without this duality remaining intact. "White Magic/Black Magic": the point is not to decide, but to abide in duality. As the narrator of "Sign of the Wolf (Pentagram)" tells us, "I got the love from above but it’s happening to me". Is he a man or a beast, or both? Does he seek bestial liberation or sanctification? Is the Witchfinder General a puritan or a pervert? Doom in a way shows puritanism to be pathological while establishing a musical puritanism in its place. Much more to be said of course, but here you have the "pathology" of doom you were grasping at earlier in a nutshell. Sabbath's adoption of the cross? To protect themselves from the power of what they summoned with the amplified tritone ... to save representation from noise. Without the cross, doom ends in drone - all the original tension gone.

  6. Gespenst that's a very enlightening (and at the same time occultative) comment. I am very glad you've posted it. What you say immediately rings true to me and for that reason I am trying to be very sceptical about it. I'll mull it over for a while and perhaps return to the subject. It's clear you've had time to think about this (like Nekromantis with the inherent depression of europower) and this makes me want to pick your brain more.

    Some initial questions to let hang in the air:

    Is doom (the feeling, not the musical genre inherently) on the tension between belief and unbelief, really? The moment of 'Christ, have you forsaken me?'. My initial thought is that doom is instead Knowledge itself. Nothing crushes willpower like wisdom, every little thing you know for certain makes you a little bit more dead. I think the moment where Christ is shouting 'Father, why have you forsaken me?' (and of course, then we all growl "ONCE UP-ON THE CROSS"), this is the only moment when he is truly alive. But perhaps there's reconciliation between what I say and what you said (and there's a pertinent Nietzsche thought right at the edge of my tongue too).

    If doom metal is inherently dual, then bands like Skepticism, who come from a doom tradition but are almost serene and still and very austere, are very holistic, without becoming noise drone. Something to consider.

    1. If the truth is nothing but a lie we agree upon, then perhaps we have little to discuss: Skepticism is not doom and I am no puritan. But we do agree: life is agnosis - certainty is death (interesting maybe to apply this idea to your most recent post). The music of Skepticism hangs in the balance in this respect, teetering at the limit. No band was better named, and yet no one is perfectly skeptical. But consider another kind of collapse, this time complete, into the Place of Skulls. Is it any coincidence that Griffin becomes so awesomely dull just as he is Nailed, or that Trouble ceases to be interesting so very soon after they Run To The Light (and then seemingly renege on it altogether)? I dunno and don't want to, but I'm glad for the chance to muse.

  7. I am not familiar with the Place of Skulls. As with most 'stonerish' doom, I am turned off. I... like, Pentagram. I think? But anything of that type I haven't had the inclination to scrutinize finely. Perhaps I should for academic reasons.

    Obviously, yes, that I want to 'realize what Heavy Metal has done to me' will lead to some certainty and some death, that's the point. The power of meaning, however, remains in its liquidity, how it follows the crevice and form of almost any cast. The death shall be then shallow as the imperfections of the cast are found. I doubt I'll present any air-tight thesis on this blog any time soon.

  8. Hah! That Barren Cross had been reminding me about something since I first saw it. Couldn't figure out why. Then it hit me:

  9. Came across this today: ”[the album]is released in June and includes tracks called End Of The Beginning, Age Of Reason and God Is Dead.”

    ”Osbourne reflects that the band’s outlook has changed significantly in their 43-year history. He describes the album as “Satanic blues” but reports of God Is Dead: “It starts off, ‘God is dead,’ but at the end it says, ‘I don’t believe that God is dead.’”