The evolution of hard rock into heavy metal started in the 60s. The term “heavy” was used in the mid to late 60s in “hippiespeak” to indicate a profound, often slower and more amplified song. The first heavy metal bands came out later that decade (’68): Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, and Deep Purple. The genre evolved over time and became defined by amplified distortion, emphatic beats, extended guitar solos, and over-all aggression.
Nearly a decade later Christian metal emerged on the scene. As those who grew up listening to heavy metal came to faith in Christ, they often brought their love of the genre with them into the church. Early Christian metal bands like Resurrection Band, Jerusalem, and Barnabas saw their role as largely evangelistic, reaching an audience that would not otherwise come to church. They took the sounds of their secular counterparts and subjected them to Christian lyrical content. The 80’s saw a marked rise in the number and popularity of Christian metal bands. Of particular significance during that era was Stryper, but from that point on Christian artists have garnered increased national and international attention, even by secular media (see bands like Demon Hunter, Underoath, and P.O.D.).
While the sounds were very similar to their secular counterparts, the lyrical content was dramatically different. The aggression may have stayed, but there was a specific bent towards boldness for Christ, not simply anger and rage. White Metal, as it was sometimes called in its early years, distinguished itself from the darker lyrical content of its predecessors by focusing on themes of Christ, salvation, and “overcoming the darkness.”
While there are loads of sub-genres to explore within metal I have simply categorized my list as “metal,” though I plan to do a separate list for more “hardcore” bands. Here are my favorite Christian metal songs:
1. “To Hell with the Devil” by Stryper
The most well-known Christian metal song of all time, and for good reason.
2. “The Last One Alive” by Demon Hunter
A song about commitment to Christ even if there were no other Christians to support you, even if you were the last believer alive.
3. “Stand in the Light” by Bloodgood
The darkness does not have to overcome you, stand in the light of the Lord!
4. “This Present Darkness” by Delieverance
There is no one who can overcome the darkness except the Lord, and He has mighty weapons!
5. “Bloodwork” by Living Sacrifice
We all need a spiritual blood transfusion!
6. “White Washed” by August Burns Red
A metal core response to Pharisaism.
7. “Me Against Me” by Project 86
A nu-metal take on Paul’s complaint in Romans 7:15-20.
8. “Psycho Surgery” by Tourniquet
Thrash metal meets Beethoven meets the Divine surgeon.
9. “Died in My Sleep” by Demon Hunter
God saves people in-spite of our pathetic efforts at testifying to Him.
10. “Game On” by Disciple
A great song that caught the attention of secular media and garnered some commercial success.