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05 February 2013

Christian Metal Bands and Other Non Sequiturs

Sociologists often study people who occupy contradictory social locations. Think gay black Republicans or anti-union poor manual laborers. These identities presumably would generate significant cognitive dissonance, but calls to reason almost never dissuade adherents from their beliefs. I've been very interested for some time now in one such community: the Christian aggressive music scene. In grad school, I became a fan of hardcore, metal, and other aggressive music genres. I realized slowly that several of the bands I liked identified in some way as Christian. Some examples are August Burns Red; Demon Hunter; The Devil Wears Prada; Oh, Sleeper; Thrice; and Underøath. I didn't realize this sooner because few of these acts are overtly Christian in the way that Amy Grant, Michael W. Smith, or Steven Curtis Chapman were. They do not do praise music, their lyrics rarely invoke "Jesus" or "God," and they seem fully integrated into the larger metal scene, touring with non- and even anti-Christian acts. In fact, many "Christian" metal bands are more comfortable with saying they are metal bands that happen to be stocked by Christian musicians.

The wedding of metal music and Christianity strikes many as contradictory. Metal has long been associated with Satanism, hate, anger, violence, and death, all of which are understood by most to be antithetical to orthodox Christianity; however, the simultaneous metal and Christian identities seem to be inhabited rather effortlessly by the musicians in the scene and their fans (most of whom are young men). In a future research project, I would love to interview the musicians and/or fans of these subgenres.

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