I'm a metal head. As you might expect, metal isn't always the most religion-friendly genre of music. The frontman for one of my favorite bands, Behemoth, has stood trial in Poland on blasphemy charges (the charges, filed by the Catholic church, were was dismissed). I listen to plenty of music that's overtly anti-Christian, and today I was scrolling through my YouTube subscriptions and found this gem:
Hell was originally part of the "New Wave of British Heavy Metal" in the early 80s; they re-formed in 2008 and have a new album coming out this year – from which the song above is taken.
Personally, I thoroughly enjoyed the video. One, because I like the NWOBHM style – they're clearly a throwback to bands like Judas Priest, Iron Maiden and even Black Sabbath, and the singer has some seriously impressive vocal skills. But I also really dug the occultish theatricality of the whole thing. I think too many mainstream bands have forgotten about the value of theatricality, so it's great to see a band still putting on an awesome show.
In any case, over in the sidebar, I saw that 80s Christian rock titans Stryper also have an album which came out earlier this month. And I rolled my eyes.
I caught myself in the act – why would I be annoyed with a theatrical Christian band, but not a theatrical anti-Christian band? Am I just biased against their music (and performance) because I'm a deconverted Christian and an anti-theist? But as I thought about it, I concluded no. That's not really why I think Hell is entertaining and Stryper is kind of lame. There are good reasons why I think it's not an apples-to-apples comparison.
Firstly, occult-type bands are generally tongue in cheek. Most people aren't stupid enough to really believe in demons, devils and other minor deities. Their aim is primarily theatrical, not evangelical. They're not trying to lead the audience in prayer to Satan or tossing out copies of LeVay's Satanic Bible or maybe The Necronomicon. Meanwhile, Stryper does lead the audience in prayer, and tosses out little Bibles. Their primary aim is evangelical rather than theatrical. If some occult-type band were really trying to win converts, I'd be just as annoyed.
Secondly, the occult is counterculture. Somewhere between 70 and 80% of Americans are Christians. In England the number is lower, but Christianity is still by far the most prominent religion, and England still has a state church. If the same number of people worshiped the Devil instead, then bands like Hell wouldn't be nearly as interesting to watch. Part of the entertainment is that they're not really worshiping the devil, but poking fun at the whole enterprise of religion.
And finally, I thought of one great example to the contrary: Megadeth. I'm still a big Megadeth fan. Dave Mustaine is a total uber-Christian and he supported Rick Santorum for President. Dave Ellefson is studying to be a Lutheran pastor. They have plenty of songs about Jesus, but I don't care because Mustaine is just singing about what's meaningful to him. Unlike Stryper, their music isn't evangelical. I saw Megadeth fairly recently, and there was no prayer-leading or Bible-tossing.
At least, that's the convoluted rationale I've created for myself. Maybe I do just think Christian music is stupid. One thing's for sure though: I missed out on a lot of awesome music back in my religious days out of plain old Christian fear and guilt, so it's nice to to enjoy blasphemous bands without beating myself up about it.