A Message from the Minister of Metal!
What you are about to read may shock you. It might even turn you off, but there is something that I feel I need to address. I am going to reveal what many of you have been suspecting all along but were afraid to ask. While you will find reviews and interviews of bands like Marduk, Belphegor, Mayhem, Dimmu Borgir, Nokturnal Mortum, and the like, I personally am a follower of Christ (I am very hesitant to use the word “Christian” because of the negative associations!). I am also an ordained minister who carries on a weekly preaching ministry. I feel like now is a great time to reveal this information because I have gained a fair amount of positive critique of my writing. If some people out there feel like I am knowledgeable of metal and a fair critic, then I think I have gained the respectability necessary to make this new revelation credible. In other words, if I had revealed this information from the beginning, I do not feel I would have been given a fair chance. But now that you can see for yourself that I am not one of those kooks who play old AC/DC records backwards to find “satanic messages”, then perhaps you will agree that I am a fair and open-minded individual.
If all this sounds bizarre to you—and to some it will—keep in mind that you are not alone. Many people find it bizarre to think that one who is a preacher of the Gospel could have anything to do with heavy metal. But to me it isn’t bizarre at all. This is the kind of music I have always listened to. It started back in the 70’s when I was in third grade. I had a fascination with KISS. From there it only progressed into harder and heavier music. To this day, as I approach my mid-30’s, my interest hasn’t waned at all. Anyway, in the mid to late 80’s, along with my cousin, I discovered bands like Mercyful Fate, Trouble, Slayer, and eventually Metallica. Of course, there was also Stryper—don’t laugh, they may have looked like girls, but they are still respected to this day for their music.
To me, my taste in music and my faith were and are two separate issues, and neither is threatened by the other. For the most part, I find bands that write music which is usually offensive to Christians (remember, I am not associating myself with that word), is usually offensive to them because it is critical of them. There song titles, their imagery, their lyrics, everything is calculated to be offensive to Christians, but the likelihood of such bands actually worshipping the “Devil” is practically non-existent. Just read my interviews with such people as Silenoz of Dimmu Borgir, Garm of Ulver, and Lee Dorrian of Cathedral. These guys and others like them may have a negative image to most Christians who would see their material, but they are to my understanding very principled people. But at the same times, there are bands that are more genuinely hateful and/or offensive, and some of those bands I cannot stomach. For example: I think Cradle of Filth goes too far with their imagery when they say things like “Jesus was a cunt.” I also find Marduk in that category. “Fuck me Jesus” and “Jesus Christ Sodomized” go beyond critique of Christendom (“Christendom”, the imperialistic, nation building, political agenda in distinction from Christianity), and I believe they will have to answer for such things. Whether you agree or think I am stupid, I draw a clear line between those who criticize all the evil that has been done in the name of Christ, and those who blaspheme Christ purposefully. But in disagreement with what both fanatical Christians and also Legion of Marduk says, I do not believe that heavy metal is inherently evil. It has been used as a tool for both good or evil by some, but for others it is simply a form of entertainment.
In another article, I intend to answer questions that arise from this “revelation” of mine. I am expecting both agreement and disagreement. Some who are not believers in Christ have written me in the past to ask me if I am a Christian. Some were curious and some were hateful (I particularly remember an e-mail concerning a review of Nokturnal Mortum’s NeChrist). But no one who has gotten to know me has hated me because they realize that I should not be associated with the kinds of people who go into hysterics about heavy metal. But I have also received less than flattering e-mail from Christians. One in particular from South America told me that I had a great spiritual battle going on within me. He just couldn’t accept the idea that I could believe in Jesus and also listen to bands like Mercyful Fate. I assure you, dear reader, that while I may fight spiritual battles, none of them relate to music!
Finally, there are two other groups who have responded to my beliefs and the music I love. Some of them are people who are not believers. They voice surprise, but it is a pleasant surprise. They are glad to know that not all followers of Jesus are against them. I find that many of them have a background of some sort in Christianity and have either been turned off to it, or hurt by it. Believe me, I have been hurt by Christians too! Anyway, the final group consists of people like me. That is, they are people who believe in Jesus as the son of God and the Savior of the world, but they also think that heavy metal in all its forms is killer too. They, like myself, neither follow nor support the irrational and the hysterical paranoia that “concerned” individuals’ voice. And like me, they believe that the church often deserves the criticisms leveled against it, as long as there is not a hidden agenda behind the criticisms.
Let me close by saying this: not all followers of Christ want to control your mind or deny you the right to listen to the music of your choice. We believe in the First Amendment of the United States Constitution that guarantees the freedoms of religion, speech, press, assembly, etc. We would not deny those rights to anyone unless they violate the rights of others. And while we would like for you to be as we are, we would never seek to change you by coercion, but by setting an example we hope you would want to follow. And if we can never agree on anything else, at least we can agree on this: HEAVY METAL RULES!
-Criticaltom, the Minister of Metal, February 25, 2002.