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Bringing Death Metal Music to Life:
Resurrection Sunday & Beyond
A SONGtalk by psychologist, Dr. Bruce L. Thiessen, aka
Dr. B.L.T., aka
The Rock Doc
As a prelude to the article
that follows, I hereby offer
"The schedule posted at the Ingelwood Forum noted that the next event following Wednesday's Motley Crue concert would be Sunday's Easter Resurrection Service for the church owning the area. Some things just write themselves (Steve Hochman, Good Friday , 3/25/05 edition of the Los Angeles Times)"
The music of Motley Crue is enjoying a resurrection of sorts, though their metal is what I call "heavy metal lite." It doesn't even meet the level of "death metal warmed over." They don't scare me.
The real threat to the mind and spirit of our youth goes well beyond "heavy metal lite., or even death metal warmed over." It is death metal, dark."
Today we're going to stare
death metal in the face and summon it to come to life-urge it to come to
Christ, the source of abundant life. Easter, or as it's referred
to in the song, "Resurrection Sunday," has come and gone, but one thing
remains the same: The tomb where Christ was laid is empty.
So why are so many of the most popular artists of our time still living
(or rather, merely existing) as if Christ were still dead?
Cast in fire tempered by the flame evil demons lie within the bladeWhy all this fascination with death? Hasn't death metal's fan base (consisting mainly of one of our most precious resources, namely adolescents) heard the wonderful news of a risen Savior? Many have not. Others have heard, but remain in darkness, seemingly preferring darkness to light. Perhaps because in many cases, darkness is all they've known---marital discord leading to ugly divorces (as if there were such a thing as beautiful ones), child abuse and neglect---parents so caught up in seeking materialistic gain that their children are regarded as liabilities or barriers that prevent them, or holding them back from fulfilling their career goals.
I don't believe in miraclesThese are the words of one of the most influential Christian artists of our time: Larry Norman, in a song that, ironically enough, depicts the mighty power of divine miracles. Many children grow up in families where parents never seek or ask for miracles, where parents don't believe in the greatest miracle of all: the resurrection of Jesus Christ. We live in a society that demands scientific evidence. Reason comes before faith, and we must have a reason, an empirical one, before we will take the risk of believing in anything. Most of us are like doubting Thomases.
Although healthy skepticism is a good thing and, in many cases, it prevents us from getting duped, our society is poisoned by what I often refer to as the cyanide of cynicism.
Doubt has become our stumbling block on the way to the cross. Doubt thrives on darkness.
Visiting the tomb of the Risen Savior: Antidote for the Cyanide of Cynicism
So what does this doctor recommend to flush out the spiritual venom of disbelief from our veins? I suggest we go back to the days when Christ died, and then rose again. We can't go back in the literal sense, but we can go back to the empty tomb through the miracle of music.
Were you there when they crucified my Lord ?It's an old Negro Spiritual (I guess, to be politically correct, one would now say, African American Spiritual). It's been recorded by some of the most well known artists of our time---Harry Belafonte, Marian Anderson, Anthony Mills, The Norman Luboff Choir, Mavis Staples, Tennessee Ernie Ford, and Johnny Cash, to name a few. It's been recorded by some of the least known artists of our time, like me.
***Download for free, my
own modern rock interpretation of the song(on MP3) via this link:
If the song is done right, it can take you back to the last days of Christ's sojourn on earth. You will feel the power of the death of Christ, the ultimate payment for our sin, (the wages of which are death) and the resurrection, which holds the key to the abundant life, along with the power to bring life back to death metal and to all music born of darkness and death.
Many see no redeeming value in metal music, especially death metal, and to be honest, I'm not a big metal fan---period. But Jesus goes where angels fear to tread, and everywhere Jesus goes, miracles are performed. Years ago, Jesus seems to have laid his hands on metal music and brought it back to life. It is currently in the process of a divine metamorphosis. Or should I say metalmorphosis?
The Resurrection of Death
Another sign presaging the great metalmorphosis was the arrival of Jerusalem, a Swedish group with a passion for spreading the gospel of Christ through the medium of metal. Volume I was their groundbreaking offering. Then, just when Satan and his death-loving disciples thought it was safe to come outside, the band got even heavier, and deeper, with the release of __Warrior__, in 1981. Then in 1983, Stryper came to the rescue, boldly painting the metal world red with His stripes, by which we are healed. Christian metal historians point to The Yellow and Black Attack as Stryper's most influential offering.
Christian heavy metal grew just as mainstream metal was waning, and Nirvana and grudge were on a roll. The term Christian heavy metal was also coined in 1983 as the need to name a burgeoning underground movement became conspicuously apparent. Enter Warriors of the Son, the apocalyptic album by Saint. It caused much more than a big splash on the new Christian heavy metal scene.
The power of Christian metal as a medium that could lead souls to Christ became undeniably apparent when Sanctuary released The Rock 'n Roll Refuge that same year. This was followed by another historic moment: The release of the critically-acclaimed The Strongest Power by the band, Leviticus.
Then, just when we thought Stryper couldn't get any more bellicose, they released Soldiers Under Command. If that wasn't enough to cause demons to run for shelter, there was more to follow.
Just when we thought they couldn't get any bolder, they released To Hell With the Devil. This was Stryper's definitive answer to a question Larry Norman had posited in a song several years earlier: "Why Should the Devil Have All the Good Music?" It was also a testimony to Norman's profound influence on Christian music. Releases by Bloodgood, Pure Metal, Messiah Prophet and Metal Mardi Gras would follow in Stryper's metal wake, and take us into a new millennium, but no matter how profound their offerings, none could steal Stryper's thunder, or rob them of their heavy metal crown of thorns.
The rough, loud, abrasive soundscape of metal music has been forever altered.
What does the future hold
in store for metal mania?
Because he lives"Because He Lives!" has become one of the most frequently recorded of gospel classics. Artists like Bill and Gloria Gaither have devoted an entire CD to this very theme, and widely celebrated offering that includes guests like Jake Hess, Mark Lowry, Janet Paschal and Guy Penrod. "Because He Lives" is the reason Christian artists have the will, the passion and the drive to write, record and perform. I wish someone in the Christian metal world would make a heavy metal version of this song.
It is the knowledge of a risen savior that empowers bands like Deliverance, Flesh and Blood, Divine Fire, Tourniquet, and Stryper, the masters of what I call "life metal," to Shout at the Devil, and drive out the demons of death metal.
Lifting up a risen savior is the sole purpose of the artist who has devoted his/her and his/her music to Jesus. Resurrection Sunday is just one day on the calendar. Yet the fact that Jesus, "The Tombenator" Christ has defeated death and terminated the tomb for all time is cause to celebrate all year round. I listen to and critique all kinds of music, but I'll be the first to admit, I am not a big metal fan. I do however, have a suggestion for those who are big fans of Christian metal. For those who love metal, but hate death, I would suggest the best way to celebrate the resurrection and the metalmorphosis is with some good, new-fashioned headbangin', Jesus-glorifying "life metal."
The METALmorphosis have arrived! When Jesus died on the cross and rose again, He conquered death once and for all. Like the Bible says, "O Death, where is thy sting?" If your sentiments match mine, please join me in this declaration: Death metal is dead. Long live life metal!
For those about to fight
death metal with life metal: I salute you!