Although many heavy metal purists might agree that all the best bands are affiliated with Satan, it's not a requirement for all bands who were born to head bang. On the contrary, there are plenty of Christian metal bands that range from death metal, to metalcore and '80s metal. Some artists in this realm often wish critics and fans would focus less the religious aspect–claiming it detracts from the music–while others embrace the Christian themes expressed in their songs. The end result is a sound that one might never guess is based on a love for Jesus. We now present our list of the Top 10 Christian Metal Bands.
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Zao began in the early '90s in West Virginia and rose to become one of the loudest, emerging bands in the metalcore scene. With a heavy Christian theme, the band's early albums were inspired by religious imagery and were heavily faith based. Yet, as time progressed, and the band's line up changed, this influence became less and less tangible in the band's music, especially since none of the original line up remains in the band. 2004's seminal album, The Funeral of God has been the band's most well known album to date. The band has toured on the Warped Tour and alongside other bands such as Misery Signals, Unearth, Dillinger Escape Plan and Shadows Fall. Also be sure to check out the more abrasive, darker and mysterious album eighth, 2006's The Fear is what Keeps us Here, produced by iconic musical engineer Steve Albini.
This thrash metal band from Pennsylvania were always reluctant to label themselves as a Christian band, even though the lyrics have been primarily faith based, early on in the band's career. Along with bands such as Cynic, Pestilence and other similar death metal bands, Believer's emphasis on Thrash metal truly made them a different breed among other extreme metal bands. With origins on the East Coast in the mid '80s, the band disbanded in 1994, but has reunited with an evolved sound: one that fuses elements of experimental rock, classical, symphonic and even operatic metal. The band's lyrics have often dealt with themes from the Bible, and personal struggles with religious faith. Be sure to listen to 2009's Gabriel, and 2011's Transhuman, then contrast the sound with the band's early releases, such as 1991's Sanity Obscure.
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8. Vengeance Rising
Unlike most other thrashy death metal bands from L.A. in the late '80s, Vengeance Rising stood out like a sore thumb. Not because of their sound or imagery, but because of their lyrics and faith. As one of the first American Christian extreme metal bands, vocalist Roger Martinez led the band and recorded two of the most successful Christian extreme metal albums known, to this day, 1989's Human Sacrifice and 1990's Once Dead.
But this story took a turn for the unexpected, when after coming back from a tour in the early '90s, with the band in major debt, Martinez was abandoned by his band mates, and eventually became separated his initial faith in Christianity, first turning Atheist, then fully embracing Satanism; especially with his music. For a taste of this Anti-Christian music Martinez created with an entirely different line up than the original Vengeance Rising, be sure to check out the 2000 album, Realms of Blasphemy. The music Web site All Music said it best; “Vengeance Rising has one of the most entertaining and bizarre stories in the realm of heavy metal.”
With one listen to the Australian extreme metal band Mortification, you might be inclined to compare the band to such darker, sinister death metal bands as Carcass, Dismember, Grave, or Bolt Thrower. What you might not expect however is that the band members are devout Christian members, and the lyrics are from a Christian perspective. But this doesn't mean the songs aren't brutal, both in music and imagery. With a thrashy death metal backdrop the band has over 20 albums under its belt, and for decades have been pounding out intense music focused on the suffering of sinners in Hell, the epic violent tales from the Bible and even ancient prophecies. The band are still going strong, and have even dabbled in power metal, punk and hard rock, but have always in the end stuck true to their roots in extreme thrash and death metal. For a taste of the he band's most well known record, be sure to check out the 1992 album, Scrolls of the Megilloth.
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6. Impending Doom
From Riverside, this death metalcore group formed in 2005, the band plays a self-described type of extreme metal known as 'Gorship,' which allows them to express themselves with brutal music and at the same time honor the band's shared Christian faith. The band features vocalist Brook Reeves, Guitarists Manny Contreras and Eric Correa, along with drummer Brandon Trahan and bassist David Sittig. The band has four full length records and has already has success touring, already appearing on the Warped Tour in 2012, and sharing the stages with bands like Bleeding Through, Winds of Plague, All Shall Perish, Suicide Silence, Carnifex, Chelsea Grinn, and many others.
With Impending Doom's last two albums, 2012's Baptized in Filth and 2013's Death Will Reign, the band will surely take their blend of death metal, metalcore and apocalyptic biblical themes to as many fans as possible.
Another heavy metal band formed in Norway, Extol is known for defying the subgenres of metal by combining thrash metal, progressive death metal, and even ambient black metal. The band has sold over half a million albums worldwide, and has toured Europe and North America several times, over the years with bands such as Mastodon, Opeth, and God Forbid among many others. Extol is known for the technicality of musicianship and virtuoso style playing that has intensified on each subsequent release. Check out the 2000 album Undeceived, as well as 2003's Synergy for slabs of metal that is slightly tinged with elements of progressive rock and even hints of jazz, but is clearly founded on a heavy dose of old school thrash and death metal bands such as Atheist, Death and Pestilence.
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Hailing from Sweden, Narnia is a Christian power metal band, with heavy influences from neo classical, progressive rock, and melodic heavy metal. The band formed in 1996, and disbanded in 2010. Narnia's music is known for the uplifting vocals, neo classical style guitar playing and a constant fast tempo. Narnia's last line up was made up of singer German Pascual, guitarist CJ Grimmark, Andreas Johansson on drums and bass player Andreas Olsson. With epic albums such as Awakening (1998), Long Live the King (1999) and The Great Fall (2003) the band has earned an especially huge fan base in countries such as Germany, Mexico and Japan. Although the band was signed to underground metal record label Nuclear Blast, the band's style of music has often been referred to as 'White Metal' a stark contrast to the polar opposite style of Satanic black metal. In 2010, the band performed its final two concerts, in Germany and Mexico City before officially disbanding.
The term Christian black metal might seem paradoxical to fans of this dark, often Satanic subgenre of extreme metal. Yet that is exactly what this Norwegian band is. Formed in 1990, the band rose out of the infamous Satanic black metal bands, to inspire a legion of many other Christian bands, who although played a distinctly Evil sounding type of extreme metal, were for Christ, not against him, like the church burners in bands as Mayhem, Burzum and others. This sinister, dark, raw sound, was at once known as 'unblack metal' was later changed unofficially to 'sorrow metal' to avoid any confusion with other black metal bands that were actually Satanic. At one point, Antestor was the only Christian band on Cacophonous Records, an underground almost exclusively black metal record label, featuring such bands such as Cradle of Filth and Dimmu Borgir. More interesting, is the fact that the renowned black metal drummer Hellhammer (Mayhem, Dimmu Borgir) actually recorded the drums on the band's 2005 album The Forsaken. Be sure to also check out their second full-length album, from 1998 entitled The Return of the Black Death.
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With 13 studio albums, and a career that spans almost a quarter of a century, this L.A.-based Christian, metal band incorporates everything from progressive and classical music, to hard rock thrash and even death metal, mixing up styles within each record. 1991's album Psycho Surgery is a whirlwind of traditional heavy metal, '80s thrash metal, progressive, melodic death metal even doses of rap metal (predating the collaboration between Anthrax and Public Enemy, and 'nu-metal' by several years).
Drummer, founding member and main songwriter Ted Kirkpatrick has led the band since its inception in 1989; currently, the band is also comprised of singer Luke Easter, and guitarist/bassist Aaron Guerra. Tourniquet's lyrics are based on various biblical stories and often include strange medical terms, bizarre metaphors, and often focus on ending animal cruelty.
Quite possibly the quintessential Christian metal/glam rock band, Stryper's roots are local, the band was formed in the OC in 1983 and includes guitarist and singer Michael Sweet, his brother, and drummer Robert, as well as guitarist Oz Fox and bassist Tim Gaines. With a traditional hard rock, classic metal sound, the band has toured the globe, and sold over 10 million albums worldwide. In the mid '80s, when the band was at the height of its popularity, Stryper became a staple on MTV, and the infamous Sunset Strip glam metal scene along with such other acts as Poison, Cinderella, RATT and even Motley Crue. 1986's seminal album, To Hell With the Devil, is considered to be a classic '80s metal album.
The band's name is said to stand for the acronym, stand for Salvation Through Redemption, Yielding Peace, Encouragement and Righteousness. Yet, despite the overt Christian message and themes in the band's music, members have been insistent throughout the years, that although their music is faith based, they do not try to forcefully convert people into Christianity. Even though the band took a hiatus in 1992; they have reformed and reunited more than once: in 2003, 2005, 2009, and even in the past year, to record 2013's No More Hell To Pay.
Alex Distefano is an established freelance writer and music blogger from the Los Angeles area. With over a dozen years under his belt as a published Journalist, he covers the worlds of heavy metal music, punk rock, current events, cannabis culture, comedy, radio, food, tattoos, the paranormal, and ‘conspiracy theories.’ He graduated from California State University Long Beach in 2012 with a Bachelor’s Degree in both Journalism and Ancient History. Aside from his professional writing endeavors, Distefano works as an Educator, and delivery/rideshare driver.