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Heavy Bands With Christian Messages Who Have Found Commercial Success

Heavy Bands With Christian Messages Who Have Found Commercial Success

Who says loud music is demonic? Besides the church. And parents. And the black metal fans. And the PMRC. Okay, okay. But the Bible does encourage loud, passionate music with stringed instruments. It also mentions dinosaurs (Job) and outlaws slavery and allows women to lead armies. So the whole “heavy music is evil” conception is nonsense.  Many successful heavy bands are made up of Christians, and their faith can inspire their music, but they don’t accept the label of Christian metal. This can be because they hate labels in general, they don’t like being put in a box, a few members aren’t Christians, or other reasons, such as secular audiences and platforms blacklisting them, preventing them from spreading the Gospel to non-believers. Bands like Stryper are or have a ministry, so they want to get the Word of God to those that need it most. When secular listeners think “Christian” they tend to stay away. Today I’ll be looking at the heavy groups that are huge with Christians due to their beliefs, or themes and lyrics. Even if the band doesn’t identify as Christian metal but are proud of their faith and use it to inspire their music (Stryper, Flyleaf, etc.).

If you listen to early rock, you can tell it came from blues. Arguably the first musician to make the transition from blues to rock was Sister Rosetta Tharpe. Her raspy vocals and guitar distortions were used mainly for gospel music. She was one of the early African-American musical legends. Much of it could easily be mistaken for the rock n’ roll music of the 1950s. However, Rosetta did this two decades beforehand, and was so popular that white gospel performers would perform as her backup, despite segregation! Christianity has been in rock since the beginning!

In 1969 a new song with a new sound came out. It absolutely terrified people. Many called the band demonic. They were unlike anything before (and since, though many have tried, none master it like they do) their time. While the band did enjoy booze, drugs, and the rock star lifestyle, they occasionally brought out gospel messages. “After Tomorrow” is said to be the first Christian metal song. Black Sabbath’s self-title song also wasn’t supporting the devil, rather about trying to escape from him. The band has also denied being satanic, however, Black Sabbath wasn’t exactly choir boys either. Many songs of theirs do contain Christian messages however if you look at the lyrics.

Alice Cooper has been a Christian for a while. While his music and lifestyle not always matched his beliefs, he has stated his music always had themes of good and evil. He has also said his message has been to choose God, not the devil. The greatest shock rock icon has sold over 50 million albums in a career spanning over half a century. His consistency and endurance are legendary. Alice Cooper’s albums such as Brutal Planet are blatantly Christian as well. Yes, the scary guy on the Muppets loves Jesus.

Starting in 1972, Rez Band started making a heavier Christian sound. While they received a little mainstream success, the band never broke out. 1975 Petra began using rock to spread its message. They received backlash from some televangelists, which hurt their popularity among many Christians. Despite that, they stayed strong and had a 33-year run that saw 24 total albums released. This resulted in approximately 10 million albums being sold, and an induction into the Gospel Music Hall Of Fame, the first hard-rocking group to get in. They would release 2 gold albums and inspire a young John Cooper (Skillet) as a musician with a Christian message.

Stryper dominated MTV in the late ’80s with multiple top 10 MTV Music Videos. They were also the most requested band to listen to on Dial MTV in 1987. To Hell With The Devil became the first contemporary Christian album to go platinum. It would sell over two million records. Their follow-up, (In God We Trust) according to an MTV interview sold enough copies to go platinum but was not yet certified as such. They also had a considerable following, in Japan and South Korea. To this day, many South Korean YouTube singers cover the power metal single “In God We Trust”. With several platinum and gold records, they became one of the more well-known metal groups of the ’80s. Since their “rebirth” from a hiatus that started in 1992, Stryper has received heaps of critical praise from sources both Christian and secular. Of their over 12 million records sold, 8 million were bought by those who don’t follow Jesus. 

Impellitteri is far more popular in Japan and Europe than in the United States. Axeman Chris Impellitteri is ranked as the second-fastest guitarist in the world. Vocalist Rob Rock is widely regarded as one of the best melodic metal singers. This has helped them sell over 2 million albums despite a massive lack of publicity in America. Despite being under the radar, they are one of the more decorated and respected speed metal bands. Chris Impellitteri is also known as one of the all-time greatest shredders, with multiple awards.

Creed burst onto the scene with a 6x platinum record called My Own Prison. They then released Human Clay, which was certified diamond in the United States. Weathered also went 6x platinum. Frontman Scott Stapp’s personal issues became too much for the band. It was unknown that he was bipolar, and after a crash, he got addicted to painkillers. The combination was just too much. On the happier side, Scott got help when he was diagnosed as bipolar and has helped others. He seems to have recovered. While their 4th album Full Circle wasn’t certified, their Greatest Hits compilation record went double platinum and sold nearly 3 million copies worldwide. Talk of a Creed reunion never seems to die, but if they do, hopefully, they let Mark shred this time.

In 1999 Payable On Death (P.O.D.) released the platinum The Fundamental Elements Of Southtown. They followed it up with a triple-platinum release in Satellite. The record sold over 7 million copies worldwide and was nominated for 3 Grammy Awards for their hard rock/metal performances. Their last successful release was the gold Payable On Death album, which has sold well over 1 million copies. Mixing rap, hip hop, reggae, and metal, they became one of the top and most respected nu-metal artists of all time. Ok, most people saw metal as trash, but P.O.D. was an exception to many.

Evanescence took the world by storm in the 2000s. Their first major studio release Fallen won two Grammy awards and sold over 17 million copies worldwide. It propelled Amy Lee to the status of queen of metal. Mixing nu-metal, and symphonic metal, their unique sound was the next big thing. Their next two releases topped Billboard, going double platinum and gold respectively. With two massive hit CDs and another successful studio album, Evanescence has sold over 25 million albums.

Underoath has had 2 albums peak in the top 10 on the Billboard Top 200 charts. They also have 2 Gold releases. They found popularity in the early to mid 2000s. Overall Theocracy has put together a respectable career. While they aren’t household names, the band did have 2 successful projects.

Paramore has 5 album releases. All are RIAA certified. Riot! is 3x platinum while Brand New Eyes and Paramore are both platinum. All We Know Is Falling and After Laughter is gold. Their singles have sold over 17 million units in the United States alone. They are also certified in Great Britain, New Zealand, and other nations. There is debate whether they are Christians with some believing Hayley Williams, the only remaining original member has lost her faith. However, when they were taking over, faith did play a part in their lyrics so they made the list.

Flyleaf debuted with a self-titled platinum release. Their next album wasn’t certified and they fell out of the spotlight, but a single off their second album (All Around Me) went Platinum and was a radio hit. They also have a few viral videos on YouTube. While most people see them as a one-hit-wonder, former Flyleaf vocalist Lacey Sturm is one of the most respected women in metal. She filled in for Jen Ledger on drums and backing vocals during a Skillet tour and has worked with Breaking Benjamin and P.O.D.. Lacey also became the first solo female artist to take the top spot on Billboard’s Hard Rock Albums chart.

Red took a simple name but plays complex music. It can be a banger they play or a theatrical ballad. Their range is ridiculous! End Of Silence was their gold debut, which had 2 singles reach gold status. The disc has 6 singles, with 5 topping the Billboard Christian Rock charts. Over 3 million units sales later, they are still kicking with hundreds of thousands of fans.

Skillet made it big when WWE used their song “Monster” for Hell In A Cell. This helped Awake go double platinum and sell over 6 million singles in America. 9 of their singles have been certified, as well as 4 albums. They have sold over 12 million units, and more than 10 million singles. This total of over 22 million unit sales has made them one of the biggest rock bands of the past few decades. They also have billions of global audio streams worldwide, with “Monster” receiving 3 billion. Frontman John Cooper and drummer Jen Ledger also have their own side projects but remain committed to Skillet. They are one of the most popular artists on the internet having several billions of listens on platforms like Spotify, Pandora, and YouTube each!

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About the author

John Ward

John Ward got into hard rock and metal when his father showed him Guns N' Roses in middle school. This began a long obsession with insane framework, cool to rapid gameplay, incredible vocals and guitar solos. In high school, he discovered Christian rock/metal and got addicted, despite being agnostic at the time. While being Christian, he opposes the setup of the American church, and therefore identifies more with the headbangers. After all the religious crowd HATED Jesus, a man who beat preachers publicly, had long hair, a beard, questioned religion itself, wanted loud music with stringed instruments, came back from the dead, and turned water into wine. Any "Christian" who calls metal and rock demonic is automatically a fraud. Besides he'll take Iron Maiden over funeral music any day of the week! He also loves anime.....

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