Metal and religion: sworn enemies or friends with benefits?

Is enjoying heavy metal at odds with being religious, or are they just misunderstood friends? Well, plenty of people seem to think the former must be true: “How can you listen to music like that, didn’t you say you were a Christian?!”

I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve had that reaction from friends, mostly followed by them either taking the piss out of me for my love of metal or my being vaguely religious, and recently it has got me wondering – what is the place of religion in metal? It’s no surprise that a lot of metal is pretty anti-religious, seeing as metal is more largely anti-conformist, and it’s not difficult to find anti-religious sentiments spread throughout the genre, from the more subtle references to the openly satanic ‘Antichrist Superstar’ by Marilyn Manson or ‘Shepherd of Fire’ from Avenged Sevenfold.

Is it okay for metal to rubbish religion? I’m all game for freedom of speech, but something does seem wrong about demeaning people just because of their religion. I love metal’s ‘fuck you and fuck what you think’ attitude, even when it’s aimed directly at religion, but only when it’s used in a positive way. “Fuck what you think, this is how we are and we like it” – this is the sort of message that unites fans and makes people feel accepted. I shudder to say it, but it’s the sort of message that has been so successful for Black Veil Brides. When it’s just discriminatory the message only succeeds in being insanely hypocritical – “fuck religion for being intolerant and aggressive”. If you’re going to be totally intolerant of intolerance and aggressive towards aggression, then you’re headed for chaos. Have people learned nothing from Martin Luther King?!

Turn it around though, and you can argue that it’s equally unfair for religion to rubbish metal – it’s the same hypocritical stereotyping and alienation. I vaguely remember the previous pope coming out and saying that all heavy metal and the like was sinful – a pretty stupid and unfair thing to say. Especially since, to tip the scale back, there are quite a few well supported and (relatively) successful Christian metal bands out there: The Devil Wears Prada, Underoath and August Burns Red to name a few. There’s no reason that metal and religion need to be at odds with each other.

Religion isn’t and shouldn’t be untouchable and music is a good avenue to criticise and support it, without having to be extreme and hate-mongering either way. A good current example of this is Architects’ ‘Broken Cross’ – which guitarist Tom came out to defend after it was roundly criticised by certain people of a religious persuasion: “To say ‘Religion is rubbish’ or ‘God is bad’ would be rather reductive, wouldn’t it? Let’s face it, religion is an unimaginably multifaceted beast, there’s plenty of good guys and bad guys”. I couldn’t have put it better myself!

I’m going to go ahead and repeat a little more of what Tom said, because he really hits the point I’m trying to make: “For millions (probably billions) I’ve no doubt that religion serves as a peaceful influence in their lives and that’s fantastic! But the moment others are outcast for their race, gender, sexuality and yes, even religion – well that just gets my goat. And I have no apologies for being upset about that.” The same goes for metal. There shouldn’t be any place in this world for marginalising and discriminating against people just because of who they are and the life they live.

So what am I saying? Simply, don’t be a dick and just be happy with your fellow earth dwellers. That’s not said as a Christian, or as a metal-er, just as common-fucking-sense. Another great example of this message, delivered by a band who I’m much happier to talk about than Black Veil Brides, is from Bury Tomorrow. When I happily moshed around at one of their gigs in Liverpool, screamer Dani Winter-Bates took the time between songs to tell everyone to just be happy and appreciative: “You can tell me you love Bieber and I’ll still shake your hand”. I think we can all agree, that’s pretty bloody tolerant.

Like any art, metal is there as freedom of expression – it can criticise religion and I can still enjoy it, just as I can enjoy ‘Mutter’ by Rammstein, even though I get on pretty well with my own mother. Stereotyping and aiming to be offensive to any group is out of order though – we can make quality music without needing to be dicks to each other.

Broken bones and broken tours – what are these guys up to?

Right now, the UK is sitting in uncertainty over their tour dates. Andy Biersack from Black Veil Brides broke his nose, so Kitteh’s virtually dying inside to see if they’ll finish off their UK tour (not for BVB you understand… My Passion is her passion). Matt Skiba broke his foot last night, so unless he can get a walking cast, the Alkaline Trio UK tour may not be going underway. The atmosphere in our house is unbelievably tense as we await news bulletins, tweets and Facebook statuses. Tours usually get rescheduled, so we might be overreacting. But these are some of our favourite bands that we’re waiting on – in the case of Alkaline Trio, it’s been over a year since their last UK appearance.

So, should dudes in bands start pulling off dangerous stunts while on tour or just before?

My answer is… yes! Of course they should! In the case of Andy from BVB, he gained his injury on stage, presumably doing what he does best. Skiba was out riding his motorbike when a truck got too close at a traffic light and ran over his foot, leaving both the foot and his ankle pretty badly broken. Part of why we love bands so much is not necessarily for the music – it’s for the personalities behind the music. Without their stage antics, or their constant Twitter updates containing information about all the stupid stuff they’ve been doing lately, would we love them just as much?

The same counts for lesser disasters too. Kitteh recently got bashed in the head by Laurence Rene’s mic at a My Passion gig and ended up with whiplash. She didn’t complain about it, she carried on going mental. When Max Bemis lost his voice at a Say Anything tour (possibly the last date they played in Birmingham actually… Guys, get back over here!), we didn’t stress and neither did he. He picked up an acoustic guitar, sent the band off stage, carried on and had us sing half of the songs. Although those last two examples are barely exploits of rebellion and daring-do, we are prepared to carry on, they are prepared to carry on and if they can’t, shit gets rescheduled. Kitteh comes from a different position – she is pretty upset that she might not be able to see My Passion due to someone else’s mistake. But without that reputation, would My Passion be touring with them in the first place? Probably not.

In times like these, all we can do is wish them the best, hold on to our tickets and play some tunes. And if tours go ahead, we can be safe in the knowledge that we will have one pretty interesting night ahead of us. That Say Anything show, despite being cut short, was one of the greatest nights ever – I made some good friends, Max brought some classics out we may otherwise not have heard and I can say that I’ve seen a performance nobody else has. If tours don’t go ahead… well, it’s not like I have a quiet winter without one show.