As you might guess from the header image, I am anything but a Christian. That said, I’ve always been a huge fan of both Christians and their music — the vast majority of them are genuinely nice, thoughtful, considerate people who are great to be around and a positive influence on everybody. I love them! And when it comes to music, for whatever reason, they’ve always been a little ahead of the curve — I can only assume it’s because they had wealthy, supportive parents, unlike those of us who were raised by broke, alcoholic losers who ‘didn’t believe in organized religion.’ Thanks, mom :/ #losing
Anyhow, the truth is that many of the best metal and hardcore bands of the last 10-15 years are Christian, and I think it’s time we gave them the credit they deserve. Let’s put aside the dull, redundant debate over whether Christianity has a place in music or not (hint: the correct answer is “who gives a fuck”) and focus on what is important: these bands rly know how to MOSH 4 CHRIST!
In this post, I will list a few of my favorite Christian bands. I will skip many of the obvious, big names that all of us know about and focus on the older, smaller bands that haven’t gotten enough props- and as always, there will be a few bands who probably should be on here, but couldn’t be included because I ran out of space and/or my memory failed me. Thanks to Christian Hardcore Records blog for refreshing my memory on a lot of this stuff– check it out if you are into any of these bands!
I’ll start with one of my favorite, tragically underappreciated bands. The 90s were full of bands who experimented with combining metal and hardcore, with varied results. Most sucked shit, some were pretty good, but none did it better than UNASHAMED!
Basically this song sounds like sick, elite-level thrash ala Dark Angel or Kreator, only with the energy and aggression of hardcore (not to mention the lack of cheesy thrash vocals). This song still makes me feel like punching holes in the wall every time I hear it, and I suggest checking out what is IMO their best LP “Reflections” on Tooth & Nail.
Six Feet Deep
Oftentimes you think of a band as the “Christian version” of a secular band, and I suppose you could call SFD “the Christian version of Integrity,” only IMO they were a lot better at the whole “Pantera meets Cro-Mags” thing than Integ ever was (and also didn’t have Integrity’s bullshit attitude/rockstar complex). To my knowledge they didn’t tour much (if at all), so they weren’t widely known outside of the Midwest– I didn’t hear about them until I moved to Cleveland in 1996, but the Clevo kids LOVED these guys. I actually saw them in 97 at a BMX park in Elyria, OH with Zao and Brother’s Keeper (two other bands absolutely nobody in my hometown of Seattle gave a fuck about, but were wildly popular in the Midwest), and they brought some fierce mosh that made me a fan for life.
If you’re interested in more about SFD, there’s a pretty in-depth history and discography over at Christian Hardcore Records that’s well worth a read.
Obviously these guys had a very lulzy look and image, but the truth is that they were a very good hair metal band that gave the likes of Pretty Boy Floyd and Tigertailz a run for their money! I won’t say much more other than that you should give these guys a second chance if you’re into this kind of thing- they really never got a fair shot IMO, thanks to narrowminded metal fans’ ignorant, bigoted attitudes about Christians.
While you want to make sure you listen to their classics like “To Hell With The Devil,” some of their later albums are really good, so don’t sleep on those (my favorite track from that era is “Not That Kind Of Guy,” which is a “Hot For Teacher” soundalike about how Michael Sweet refuses to have sex with some harlot who’s trying to seduce him– nice try, but he learned his lesson when Eve was all “Hey Adam, try a bite of this apple, it’s soooo good!! What, it’s just one bite? Oh fine… I’ll let you see my boobies if you try it!” Once bitten, twice shy, bitch! Someone should turn her into a pillar of salt)
ps ISIAH 53:5!
I have no idea why this band never caught on with the Cynic/Atheist/Pestilence crowd, because they were playing some really interesting, progressive shit for years and years. The songs are a little long, with odd, almost schizophrenic arrangements, but still very cool, innovative and catchy (at least to me, but I like Spastic Ink so what do I know). I think they sound kind of like a faster, less doomy Confessor?? And goddamn, THE DRUMMING! Ted Kirkpatrick is one of the best drummers I’ve ever heard, although outside of a few mentions in guitar/drum magazines in the early 90s I never hear his name (sadly).
Make sure you listen to at least a whole song by these guys, because they do a lot of different stuff and you can’t really get their vibe by just playing the first 15 seconds of the song (as the internet encourages us to do)- this video is a sampler of their entire 6th (!!) album “Microscopic View of a Telescopic Realm,” which is my personal favorite. They are one of the rare bands who got better with age, although all their records are pretty sweet.
The only part of Christianity that’s better than Six Feet Deep and Overcome is CHICK tracts– there are tons to choose from, but my personal favorite is the classic Dark Dungeons, about the dangers of D&D!
I liked these guys a lot when their debut album dropped back in 98 or so, but I didn’t appreciate how ahead of their time they were until more recently. Their off-kilter, discordant style is one of the earliest examples of what is basically contemporary deathcore, although they sadly abandoned it for a more hard rock kind of style on their second album (which isn’t bad on its own merits, but not nearly as cool as their first one). Oh, and this record also has one of the first examples of a bass drop that I’ve been able to find– you’re moshing!!
Speaking of deathcore, the first Impending Doom album still stands out to me as one of the best in the genre. Their newer stuff is OK, but I miss their more brutal, death-metally older stuff. Reminds me a lot of Embodyment, actually. I also miss when their myspace had their genre as something like “hammer-on, pull-off, guttural slamming brutality… FOR CHRIST!” Bonus points for 100% repping Riverside and the 951 (RIP 909).
Training For Utopia
From what I recall, this band kind of flew under the radar in the late 90s/early 00s, which is a shame since they were pretty ahead of their time. Their first EP and LP are fairly dull Norma Jean-style metalcore (ie ripping off Deadguy and Coalesce), but their last album is the one I really got into. I can see why it wasn’t very popular, because it’s not exactly accessible: think the odd riffing and distorted screaming of Today Is The Day with the glitchy, electronic elements of Nine Inch Nails or something. Weird stuff for sure, but it felt very fresh and interesting to me.
Also, I just found out that the main guys from this band went on to be in the extremely shitty, dull hard rock band Demon Hunter. Hilarious!
To be honest, I never really liked Zao back in the day, and I am still kind of lukewarm on them. They were certainly a lot tighter and more polished than just about any of the incredibly shitty, generic, mid-90s PA/Ohio metalcore bands they played with, but they had too much melody and screaming for me to get into them (ironically, too similar to black metal for my tastes). That is also probably why entry-level hardcore kids who didn’t know anything about metal got into them so much.
But I have to give them their rightful props: they were extremely influential, have been around forever, and Jesse Smith is/was a sick, sick drummer. Speaking of which, I saw them at a church in 98 or so and Jesse was wearing eyeliner and sparkly red Creepers. I said “There’s no place like home!” to him, but he didn’t seem to think it was funny- he just scowled at me and walked away.
Anyhow, while they’re not for me, Zao are great at what they do, and you definitely have to include them in any discussion of best Christian metal/hc bands! And if I’m being honest, they DO have a few tracks that go pretty hard, such as this one.
Anybody who’s read this far is almost certainly familiar with Underoath, I’m just including this song because a) it’s pretty lulzy that they used to be a generic death metal band b) the ridiculous anti-abortion lyrics are never not funny!
PS I like The Almost better than Underoath, am I the only one??
Blessed By A Broken Heart
I’ve written about these guys quite a bit, and hopefully they’ll get the break they deserve now that they are on Tooth & Nail. Not only are the one of the best retro-metal/neo-glam bands on the planet, they were doing the “scene hair and breakdowns for Christ” thing years before just about anyone — bands like The Devil Wears Prada and A Day To Remember actually opened for them on some of their earlier tours, to give you some idea of how long BBABH has been at it.
I opened with one of the most underrated hardcore bands of the 90s (Unashamed), and I’ll close with one of the most underrated thrash bands of the decade. I seriously can’t fathom why Believer doesn’t get more love, because they are right up there with Dark Angel, Coroner, Forced Entry and early Cynic when it comes to progressive, ass-ripping thrash. It probably didn’t help that they were on the ill-fated REX, but man… this shit is brilliant, and the guitar sound is CRUSHING.
Make sure you check out both “Sanity Obscure,” which is faster, more straightforward thrash, and “Dimensions,” which is slower, more intricate and progressive stuff. Both are awesome in their own way, so if you don’t like one, don’t stop there.
RUNNERS UP: Vengeance Rising, Strongarm, Living Sacrifice, Focused, The Blamed, The Crucified, NIV, X Disciple X, Focal Point, Extol, XDeathstarX, Norma Jean, Overcome, Scarlet (but really just that one song “Untitled“) and 5 zillion others I can’t think of right now, not to mention all the awesome Christian pop punk bands like Hawk Nelson, MXPX, FM Static and The Huntingtons.
Which of these bands is your favorite?? What bands did I forget? Why do people like Zao so much???? Why are metal fans such ignorant bigots toward Christians??? Will the upcoming Blessed By A Broken Heart LP be the album of the year?!?
Sergeant D. moshes 4 Christ every day at Stuff You Will Hate.