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?