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August 31, 2010

Christians Could Learn A Lot From Heavy Metal

Christians could learn a lot about life from listening to heavy metal, according to a Church of England cleric.

Martin Beckford
August 31, 2010

The Rev Rachel Mann claims that the much-maligned form of music demonstrates the “liberative theology of darkness”, allowing its tattooed and pierced fans to be more “relaxed and fun” by acknowledging the worst in human nature.

She says that by contrast, churchgoers can appear too sincere and take themselves too seriously.

The priest admits that many will be “concerned” about metal lyrics praising Satan and mocking Christianity, but insists it is just a form of “play-acting”.

Miss Mann, priest-in-charge of St Nicholas’s, Burnage, writes in this week’s Church Times: “Since Black Sabbath effectively created it in 1969 by using the dissonant sound of the medieval ‘Devil’s chord’, heavy metal has been cast as dumb, crass, and on, occasions satanic; music hardly fit for intelligent debate, let alone theological reflection.

“And yet, as both priest and metal musician and fan, it strikes me that the Church, especially at this agonized time, has a serious gospel lesson to learn from this darkest and heaviest music.”

Miss Mann says that heavy metal songs, characterized by distorted guitar sounds, “intense” beats and “muscular” vocals, are “unafraid to deal with death, violence and destruction”.

Its “predominantly male and white” fans “generally like tattoos and piercings” but are “graceful, welcoming and gentle”.

“The music’s willingness to deal with nihilistic and, on occasion, extremely unpleasant subjects seems to offer its fans a space to accept others in a way that shames many Christians.

“Metal’s refusal to repress the bleak and violent truths of human nature liberates its fans to be more relaxed and fun people”.

She goes on to claim that “metal has no fear of human darkness” and while some Christians are similarly unafraid, “many are yet to discover its potential as a place of integration”.

Miss Mann quotes lyrics by the famous thrash metal band Slayer that describe Christianity as an “abortion” and state: “I’ll take the devil any day, hail Satan.”

But she claims: “Much of metal’s fascination with Satan or evil is play-acting, driven by a desire to shock.

“Metal invites Christianity to be less afraid of wildness and the ridiculous.”

She says metal festivals such as Sonisphere, where she saw Iron Maiden play last month, are modern versions of the Feast of Fools held in England in the middle ages, where “excess and anarchy” were allowed for a day.

Miss Mann says she worries that Anglicans have made their faith “too reasonable and ordered” rather than passionate.

“I am not suggesting that as Christians we have all had a humour bypass, but we are inclined to take ourselves too seriously even when we are having fun.”

There have been Christian heavy metal bands, such as the 1980s American act Stryper and the more recent Evanescence, but few have enjoyed much critical acclaim or crossover success.

By contrast many of the biggest heavy metal artists have used anti-Christian or satanic imagery in their lyrics and album covers.

In the 1990s, followers of Norway’s “black metal” scene went further by burning dozens of churches.