Yes, at one time Jesus did attempt to rock in the 1980′s with Stryper (don’t forget the Isaiah 53:5!!) and most of my friends from high school drank their kool-aid bubblegum metal, but not me. Even in my headbanging days I just could not get into them; their “message of Christ” just made my stomach turn and forced me (and my Aiwa walkman) to get as far away as I could. Even with the big hair, cool outfits (well, at least at the time we considered them cool) and fret burning power ballads worthy of your Bic lighter, I thought they still were lame.
I’m a practicing Catholic so I’m not against religion, but when a band markets themselves as “Christian Rock” or “God Metal” I just feel they lose their credibility. When a band focuses on a message rather than simply playing music (as exemplified by Stryper)I became bored and preferred to listen to Iron Maiden or Quiet Riot. Awesome music and no message, except the message that Eddie was a cool mascot, Steve Harris was an awesome bass player, and that “metal health” would drive you mad!
Case in point would be 20 years in the future with today’s bands like Evanescence, Creed, or even as an other Hi-Fi reviewer mentioned Matchbox 20, I never catagorized them as religious rock, but I guess they are? The difference perhaps is these bands are not so much in your face about God as Stryper attempted to be; I happen to find Evanescence very talented; I actually own both of their albums and play them on a very regular basis.
Somehow Evanescence as a band has been able to market itself as metal with a gothic look and a mainstream sound (and a very,very,very subtle message about god) that appeals to a vast majority of rockers. It wasn’t until recently did I notice one of the lyrics as “my god, my tourniquet”, but I really didn’t think too much about it and I don’t think they wanted you to either.
Many of Evanescences’ songs focus on regret and despair, taking your own life, why it is not worth it doing, and also that there is so much to live for; although reoccuring themes of almost all of their music, it appears to be the formula they use in making a darkish persona for the bands sound. Perhaps a strategy to be respected in the metal scene; yet underneath it all they are a christian rock band? Themes like “regret” and ”despair” for songs are not unique solely to Christian rock bands. How many tradiational rock songs focus on those themes? Plenty do and always have, or any movie, or novel for that fact? C’mon, any rock fan knows that anger, resentment, fear, remorse and all the other positive things in life (oh, don’t forget booze, girls, and drugs too!) are the fuel for writing rock and metal songs in the first place.
Christian rock is actually cool if people like it, I think that Hootie and Blowfish and Jars of Clay do well at marketing themselves with those demographics without question. I played in a band once and getting any noteriety at any level was near impossible, perhaps that’s where these bands are smarter. They see how they can make a true living out of playing to a captured audience with a product they need. I’m not saying that these bands don’t believe in what their message is, but they definitely have carved a nitch for gaining fame (the fame all bands seek!) especially in a difficult career path such as music. Rather than just being another alternative band trying to make it to the general public, they’ve decided to specialize and hit a targeted market; and one that has money to buy albums and fill arenas. Good for them I say!
However, the bottom line for me is for bands to focus on their music and not a message; whatever the lyrics are and whatever someone thinks you are saying is totally subjective unto themselves. Simply put, if I want to hear about “Jesus and his turning water into wine” I will attend church on Sunday. If you want to point out that ”some dude can change water into booze and parties hard as a result” add some hard metal riffs and a drum solo, brother you’ve got me hooked, amen to that!