APOCALYPTIC UNBOUND: AN INTERPRETATION OF CHRISTIAN SPEED/THRASH MUSIC

By

Charles M. Brown, Ph.D.
Dept. of Sociology
Albright College
Reading, PA  19612
Phone: (610) 921-7865
Fax: (610) 921-7883
E-mail (cbrown@albright.edu)
WWW: (http://fp.enter.net/~brownc/)

Prepared For Presentation at

The Society for the Scientific Study of Religion
1995 Annual Meetings
October 27-29
Marriott Pavillion Hotel
St. Louis, Missouri

This is a working draft: please do not quote without the author's permission


APOCALYPTIC UNBOUND: AN INTERPRETATION OF CHRISTIAN SPEED/THRASH MUSIC

ABSTRACT

Christian speed/thrash metal music is an interesting religious phenomenon. It is an aggressive form of music that many would assume antithetical to Christianity, yet conservative Christians have co-opted secular forms for their own use. In this paper I argue that the relationship between conservative Christians and speed/thrash metal is largely centered upon conservative Christian views of eschatology and evangelism. Christian speed/thrash metal displays an affinity for apocalyptic themes in three dimensions: harmonic, visual, and lyrical. These three dimensions, along with the Christian views of evangelism and eschatology provide a unified, meaningful understanding of the apocalyptic phenomenon in this musical genre. I argue that identifiable themes are constructed around apocalyptic affinities of lyrics, musical structures, and visual presentations; and that Christian speed/thrash metal provides a distinct view of the world that fits with the social experience of the group it represents. I conclude this paper by suggesting that Christian speed/thrash metal can be understood as an attempt by alienated youth to make sense of the chaotic and irrational world in which they live.


INTRODUCTION

The notion that music plays an important role in any culture comes as no surprise to us. We are constantly bombarded with it in the United States; television commercials, movie soundtracks, restaurants, elevators, and grocery stores inundate us with musical collages. It follows us wherever we travel, we can't seem to get away from it. Indeed, it has come to the point where we feel uncomfortable in some settings without it, oftentimes turning the radio or television on just to hear the comfortable lullabies of sound.

The fact that music has become so influential in the lives of youth culture was summed up by Denisoff (1985) when he stated "if you want to reach young people in this country, write a song, don't by an ad (Denisoff, 1985: 54). The idea that music can be so influential continues to be tested in court like the one involving rock artist Ozzy Osbourne who was accused of influencing a teenager to commit suicide through his music (the court later dismissed the case).

There have been many studies on the subject of music from a social/historical perspective. Some authors have concerned themselves with the developmental and historical aspects of musical forms (Baker 1979; Carlin 1988), while others have focused on the sociological implications of music (Curtis 1987; Wicke 1987; Weinstein 1991). Although much has been written about contemporary secular music in a social/historical and sociological perspective, very little has been written about contemporary Christian music. It is Christian music that will be the focus of this study.

Contemporary Christian music encompasses a myriad of styles. Rap, pop, gospel, rock, heavy metal, and blues are examples. Heavy metal is perhaps the most controversial of all forms of contemporary Christian music. With its loud pulsating beat and sometimes graphic imagery, this genre is often accused of being the devil's music, and therefore unsuitable for Christian worship or evangelism. Some authors have researched Christian heavy metal (Peters, Peters, & Merrill 1986; Seay & Neely 1986; Wicke 1987), but this musical form is treated in slight fashion. Speed/thrash metal, a musical form evolved from heavy metal, has received even less attention, possibly because it is a fairly recent musical phenomenon.

Christian speed/thrash metal is a synthesis of heavy metal and punk rock. It is separated from secular speed/thrash metal in that the musicians' intent is to convey their individual relationship with God through Jesus Christ. These musicians place a priority on the role of ministry over musicianship and are doctrinally conservative. The phenomenon of Christian speed/thrash metal emerged in 1988 as a response to the growing popularity of secular speed/thrash metal. Bob Beeman explains that "The kids that were into Stryper (a Christian heavy metal band) four or five years ago are into thrash right now" (Van Pelt, 1989: 20). To date, there are approximately fifteen Christian speed/thrash metal bands in the United States who are signed to record labels with a national distribution. Since its inception, this specific subgenre has grown tremendously in the last six years in terms of bands and listeners. Furthermore, the subgenre of speed/thrash metal is beginning to spawn other subgenres by fusing elements of speed/thrash with industrial and rap music. Christian industrial groups like "Brainchild" and "Circle of Dust," for instance, rely heavily on speed/thrash rhythms and textures in their music.

In this study, I use Max Weber's model of elective affinities as a theoretical framework that illuminates how musical structure, lyrical content, and visual presentation merge to create a particular musical form; in this case, Christian speed/thrash metal. Weber used the term elective affinity (Wahlverwandtschaft) to systematically relate ideas and interests (Gerth & Mills 1946). In connection with the "Protestant work ethic" Weber (1910: 581) speaks of "the elective affinity of Calvinism...for capitalism" as well as "the elective affinity of the bourgeoisie for certain life styles" (1910: 596). In my study I argue that Christian speed/thrash metal has an elective affinity for apocalyptic themes in its musical structures, visual presentations and lyrics. Authors have viewed musical forms in their historical development and as cultural expressions of social groups. However, the fact that these musical forms contain elective affinities for particular behaviors and themes has not been directly addressed. While I believe that using Weber's concept of elective affinities can help in the understanding of the phenomenon of Christian speed/thrash metal, I am not suggesting that it is the only method of interpretation available.

This study is divided into four sections. First, I construct a theoretical framework from Weber's concept of elective affinities to interpret Christian speed/thrash metal music. Second, I present apocalyptic thought and identify the major themes that are central in apocalyptic thinking. Third, I provide a historical overview of the emergence of the phenomenon of speed/thrash metal and show that Christian speed/thrash metal's elective affinities find their context in Christian views of evangelism and eschatology. Fourth, to interpret the phenomenon of Christian speed/thrash metal, I analyze nine albums by eight recording artists. I also use magazine articles and interviews to investigate dress codes and views on ministry. I show how apocalyptic harmonic, visual, and lyrical dimensions have blended within Christian speed/thrash metal, and argue that this musical genre provides a distinct, coherent view of the world that is consonant with the social experience of the groups it represents.

WEBER'S USE OF ELECTIVE AFFINITIES

Weber's use of the term "elective affinities" is often difficult to decipher (Thomas 1985; Howe 1978), partially because Weber never provided a definition for it. Howe notes that Weber's use of the term is rare, and that Weber provided no systematic treatment of his elective affinities. One must piece together a model based upon his loose usage of the term.

Although Weber himself never defines the concept of elective affinity in an authoritative manner, he does explain the concept in some detail in Economy and Society where he states:

We can generalize about the degree of elective affinity between concrete structures of
social action and concrete forms of organization; that means, we can state in general
terms whether they further or impede or exclude one another-- whether they
are "adequate" or "inadequate" in relation to one another (Weber, 1968: 341).

According to Gerth and Mills (1946), Weber used elective affinities to systematically relate ideas and interests. Weber first used the term in a 1904 essay on objectivity, where he discusses the elective affinity between class interests and Weltanschauungen (Weber 1949). Weber also uses the term about the elective affinity of Calvinism for capitalism (Weber 1910) as well as the "elective affinity of the bourgeoisie for certain life styles" (1910: 596).

Berger (1972), while writing of Weber's concept of elective affinities, suggests that certain ideas and certain material developments in history have a particular affinity with each other so they, as it were, "seek each other out." This historical development is an important component of Webers's elective affinities. In The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism Weber analyzes the Protestant movement in a historical fashion to determine the components that provided the affinity towards capitalism. Weber pointed out that as the movement progressed, certain forms of Protestantism, namely Calvinism, took on an ascetic attitude toward economic life. This influenced their decision to save money and invest it back into the business rather than spend it on the "fleeting pleasures of the world." Weber suggests that this asceticism developed historically in response to a conservative interpretation of the Bible concerning worldly pleasures.

In The Social Psychology of World Religions, Weber identifies an elective affinity between religious and civic strata. Civic strata are "artisans, traders, (and) enterprisers engaged in cottage industry, and their derivatives" (Weber in Gerth & Mills, 1946: 284). According to Weber, the strata's whole existence had been based upon rational calculation and technology. This mode of thinking provided a fertile ground for "letting an ethical and rational regulation of life arise" (Weber in Gerth & Mills, 1946: 284). This in turn allowed for the affinity between civic strata and those religions that included an active asceticism along with the perception of the individual or group as being "God's tool."

Weber also discusses elective affinities in Economy and Society. For example, he suggests an elective affinity between bourgeois and religious powers that could lead to an alliance against feudal powers. He also points to an elective affinity between Protestant sects and political democracy, as well as "an elective affinity between spiritually prescribed conduct and the socially conditioned way of life of status groups and classes..." (Weber, 1968: 1180).

From Weber's usage of the term, it becomes apparent that in most cases he is referring to religious elements. Perhaps Weber felt it necessary to refrain from causal explanations because of the inherent difficulty of assigning causality to religious ideas. Whatever the reason, the term become an important component of Weber's sociology and can be used to interpret and explain social phenomena today.

MAJOR THEMES IN APOCALYPTIC THOUGHT

We can trace early apocalyptic thinking to a corpus of Jewish literature written primarily between 200 BC and 200 AD. All of this literature, with the exception of the book of Daniel was written between the old and new testaments and reflects radical social and religious changes. Although there has been some debate about the relation of this or that work to the genre of apocalyptic literature, most scholars agree on the parameters codified by the Society of Biblical Literature Genres Project that was published in Semeia 14, 1979 (Collins, 1984). They define an apocalypse as:

A genre of revelatory literature with a narrative framework, in which a revelation is
mediated by an otherworldly being to a human recipient, disclosing a transcendent reality
which is both temporal, insofar as it envisages eschatological salvation, and
spatial insofar as it involves another, supernatural world (Collins, 1984: 4).

This definition enables one to see the differences between true apocalyptic literature and those Biblical works that contain apocalyptic portions. Works such as Isaiah and Ezekiel should not be considered irrelevant however, as these influenced apocalyptic literature and thought. In fact, these works continue to shape Christian apocalyptic and eschatological doctrine--a point that must be considered when explaining the context for apocalyptic themes in Christian speed/thrash metal music.

In apocalyptic thought, the revelation is always mediated by an otherworldly being to a human recipient. The importance of the mediator is not only literal but figurative as it implies that the message is otherworldly and in need of interpretation. The content of the revelation is both historical and trans-historical in nature. It contains information about a supernatural world apart from the recipient's world, while stressing the imminence of judgment within this world. This judgment differs from earlier Biblical prophetic works in that it extends beyond death.

Apocalyptic literature can be viewed as unified in its interpretation of the world. Although the apocalypses vary in their revelatory message, they share common themes. By emphasizing these themes, one sees that the genre explains the problems of the world as the result of a continuing struggle between good and evil. The genre also provides comfort in chaotic times by stressing the impending triumph of good over evil. Values are clarified and behavior is monitored on an individual and collective level by emphasizing the notion of a final eschatological judgment. The world is viewed as mysterious, hostile, and therefore in need of otherworldly wisdom to give it meaning. Angels and demons exert their influence in human affairs and affect human destiny. As Collins (1984) points out, human life is bounded in the present by these supernatural beings and in the future by an inevitable final judgment.

The early apocalyptic literature is found in many Jewish, Christian, and secular movements. The Qumran community is perhaps the most famous of the earliest apocalyptic movements. Although little is known of the social aspects of the community, it has been noted that its members were avid scholars of Jewish scriptures (Harrington 1967). Many scholars believe that the Essenes were the inhabitants of Qumran. The Essenes felt that they could hasten the kingdom of God through prayer, and many left the cities to live in communities to pray and wait for the coming messiah.

While studying apocalyptic literature and movements, one becomes acutely aware of certain themes that appear consistently. These themes are important in identifying a coherent worldview expressed in apocalyptic thought. There are at least three major themes that find expression in most if not all apocalyptic literature and movements. Although these themes may be interpreted in different ways, the themes always concern themselves with future events.

Identification With A Coming Mediator
In all of the apocalypses, a mediator is introduced. As Koch (1972) points out, the mediator has various names, like the Messiah, the Son of man, the Son of God, and the Chosen one. The mediator's function also differs within the apocalypses (Russell 1964). In the book of Revelation, the Messiah functions as the mediator between God the Father and humans, as well as playing a significant part in ushering in the new age. The Messiah in 4 Ezra displays these functions (particularly in 12:31-34). The Messiah figures in the Qumran scrolls however do not play a part in the end of the world (Collins 1984). Rather, the Messiah acts as a human leader rather than a spiritual savior figure.

The Mediator is generally interpreted in an eschatological fashion. He is viewed as the figure that will lead his people to enjoy the fruits of everlasting life that is free from physical and spiritual hardships, temptation, and evil. In the Conservative Christian tradition, the Messiah is the warrior of truth, final judge, and ruler king. Believers are encouraged to prepare for his second coming, which will occur without warning, by abstaining from sin and living a righteous life. Those who have not accepted Jesus as their personal Lord and savior will be judged and cast into hell where there will be "weeping and gnashing of teeth."

Ultimate Battle Between Good And Evil
The apocalypses also focus on the ultimate battle between good and evil in which the faithful fight and defeat the unrighteous. The faithful may be led into the battle by the Messiah as described in the Qumran War Scroll. In the book of Revelation, God intercedes for the righteous by sending fire from heaven to devour the unrighteous.

The notion of an ultimate battle provides encouragement to the faithful because it suggests that evil will soon be eradicated. In the eschatological evangelical Christian tradition, the battle is followed by a judgment and placement of individuals into either heaven or hell. The battle plays an important role because it signifies the end of Satan's control over the earth.

The future battle between good and evil is often foreshadowed in apocalyptic writings by angelic warfare. In the book of Daniel an angel tells the prophet that he had been restrained by "the prince of the kingdom of Persia" for 21 days until Michael the archangel came to his rescue (Daniel 10:13). In the book of Revelation it is written that: There was war in heaven, Michael and his angels waging war with the dragon. And the dragon and his Angels waged war (Revelation 12:7-8).

While disasters marked the beginning of the end of the age, the unrighteous are still unrestrained and thus able to harm the righteous. The ultimate battle is the event in which the righteous, with the help of their God, can restrain the wicked.

All Inclusive Judgment
After the ultimate battle, apocalypses envision a time when the righteous and the wicked are judged and rewarded accordingly. In 4 Ezra 7:47, the author acknowledges that the "future world will make joy for few but tortures for many." In I Enoch 5:5-7 the author concludes that the wicked will find no mercy or salvation but only punishment while the righteous enjoy eternal life (Russell, 1964).

Two judgments are recorded in the eschatological evangelical tradition. Satan and his angels are judged (Revelation 20:10) as are the wicked at the final judgment known as the "great white throne judgment." Here, the wicked dead are resurrected and stand before God's throne. According to Revelation 20:12, the wicked are judged according to their works that are recorded in The Book of Life and condemned to hell for their unbelief. Death plays a large role in this theme because it is implied that judgment follows. Death is liberating for the righteous because it allows them to escape a hostile world. For the wicked however, death brings judgment and punishment.

The judgments themselves mark the decline of the penultimate age. The final age is marked by the separation of the wicked from the righteous and the abolishment of time as there are no ages to follow. In the book of Revelation, the earthly age is concluded and a "new heaven and new earth" are created after the originals are destroyed by God. The wicked are cast into hell with the Devil and his angels. Meanwhile, the righteous are united with God in the New Jerusalem that, at this point, is to descend from the new heaven unto the new earth.

The three themes I highlighted here can be found in varying degrees in early and late Judaic and Christian apocalyptic. As scholars have pointed out (Collins 1984; Koch 1972) the eschatological visions of apocalyptic are arranged chronologically, suggesting that the authors wish to show a continuous thread that connects them. In each of these cases, the authors are concerned with historical development and human participation.

Apocalyptic visions serve as forms of revelation and a means by which life can be interpreted. The framework of apocalyptic provided by the three explored themes suggests that the writers view the world as a hostile place. Human sinfulness, disease, and war can be interpreted as a foreshadowing of the events to come. Sinfulness, disease, and war are often believed to be at a critical state and in need of divine assistance to be alleviated. The world is mysterious and divine intervention is needed in the form of judgments and angelic beings. Disease, death, and other events are beyond human control, and are explained in a framework that points to future intervention. Furthermore, the apocalyptic provide a means by which the authors can find a sense of comfort. The comfort comes in the belief that the sinful world of the present will eventually give way to blissful paradise where the righteous can live in peace.

The most predominant apocalyptic themes are those that focus on the battle between good and evil and the themes of judgment. The world view expressed in the apocalyptic can be reduced to the notion that an ongoing fight between good and evil exists, and that a judgment is required to restore the good and punish the evil.

The themes of the fight between good and evil and judgment are crucial for two reasons. First, they place importance upon the role of individuals who live in such "chaotic" times. The individual has a responsibility to God to remain faithful despite the temptations and pressures of the evil world. This responsibility serves to empower individuals to make choices, thereby alleviating powerless feelings. Second, they serve as a warning to individuals who deviate from this role. Those who do deviate are to be punished.

The notion of an ongoing fight between good and evil has traditionally fostered an "us versus them" mentality among the faithful. This thinking was challenged and reinterpreted in Christianity. Conservative Christians view themselves as God's chosen people; as a result, they have an obligation to remain faithful and "go therefore and make disciples of all nations..." (Matt. 28:19). As we shall see later, the drive for evangelism along with eschatological views provide the context of Christian speed/thrash metal.

Apocalyptic themes are not the exclusive territory of religious groups; they also find expression outside religion. The apocalyptic is often used to express the interpretation of the world that is shared by religious and secular groups. The interpretation of the world as hostile and evil encourages a radicalized view of the world itself. By "a radicalized view" I mean that events and images are treated in a radical fashion to convey the urgency of the apocalyptic message. Symbolic images such as skulls, monsters, and corpses are reflective of this radicalized thinking, and show up on T-shirts, movie billboards, magazines, and art. The radicalization of the world is a central theme of the apocalyptic in general, as rebellion, the breakdown of social order, and gory imagery often reflect this radicalized view.

Apocalyptic thinking, be it religious or secular, shares common general themes. One such theme is the hostility and evil of the world. As a result, themes and images that reflect a radicalized view of the world play a large part in symbolically conveying apocalyptic thinking. The ultimate fight between good and evil is here, and will end in good defeating evil. A judgment that restores good and punishes evil is the final step that both forms of apocalyptic share.

THE HISTORY AND SOCIAL CONTEXT OF SPEED/THRASH METAL

The Historical Development of Speed/Thrash Metal Music
When exploring the history of Christian speed/thrash music, one must begin with secular speed/thrash metal, which set the foundation for the harmonic structure of its Christian counterpart. Secular speed/thrash has its root in heavy metal, which as a specific genre evolved from rock music during the late 1960's and early 70's. Three bands started in England were responsible for heavy metal's formation: Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin, and The Jimi Hendrix Experience.

The 1960's was a time of social upheaval for many individuals. The emergence of the youth culture, the Vietnam war, and the Civil rights movement challenged and impacted the social landscape of America. The Vietnam war and the threat of nuclear war were events often interpreted as signs of apocalyptic times. The indifference of the United States government and business world toward individuals was interpreted as a sign that the situation in the world was critical, and unless changed, would lead to the end of the planet. Music in the sixties called on the youth to prevent the coming apocalypse by becoming activists. As the sixties passed and the seventies set in, the "we" generation shifted into the "me" generation. The idealism of an era turned into pessimism.

Investigations of American popular culture reveal the apocalyptic as an idea in secular mythology. Nelson (1982) discusses the emergence of apocalyptic themes in movies and television. Some of these themes include (1) Humanity versus the natural world (Earthquake, The Poseidon Adventure, The Towering Inferno), (2) Humanity versus technology (Planet of the apes, 2001: A Space Odyssey, Westworld, Star Wars, Battlestar Galactica), and (3) Political conspiracy paranoia (Futureworld, Invasion of the Body Snatchers).

Secular music, particularly heavy metal and its subgenres also embody apocalyptic themes.

The Book of Revelations, that unique apocalyptic vision in the New Testament, is a
particularly rich source of imagery for heavy metal lyrics. Not only are songs such as
Iron Maiden's "Number of the Beast" inspired by its verses, but it provides a resonance, a
cultural frame of reference, for the imagery of chaos itself (Weinstein, 1991: 1-2).

Apocalyptic themes reach their height in secular speed/thrash metal. Environmental concerns ("Inherited Hell" by Nuclear Assault, "Blackened" by Metallica, "Greenhouse Effect" by Testament), Death ("Fade to Black" by Metallica, "Leprosy" by Death) and rebellion ("Be All, End All" by Anthrax) echo just a few of the apocalyptic themes. As we shall see, many of these themes are closely related to the chaotic element of heavy metal itself.

Apocalyptic themes in speed/thrash are an important component of the subgenre because they explore the texts and the harmonics of heavy metal in extreme fashion. As Weinstein points out, heavy metal is serious about power, and any lyrical theme within the genre is empowered by the sound. Lyrical themes can be placed into one of two opposite categories: the Dionysian and the chaotic. The Dionysian seeks pleasurable experience through ecstasy, including sex, drugs, and heavy metal music itself, and focus on immediate gratification. Dionysian themes are generally associated with a subgenre of heavy metal known as glam metal, a lighter form of heavy metal. The second category, that of chaos, finds expression in speed/thrash. Weinstein suggests that Dionysian themes are not unique to heavy metal, but themes of chaos are distinctive of the genre. Apocalyptic imagery, especially of the Biblical kind, is a primary source of chaotic themes for speed/thrash bands. But the secular apocalyptic thinking of the counter cultural movements of the 60's also influenced the genre. Apocalyptic and chaotic imagery is not relegated to lyrics, but also finds expression in visual and harmonic dimensions, each of which will be examined shortly.

Speed/thrash metal evolved in California between 1981 and 1983. Critics often point to three specific bands when alluding to its early formation: Metallica, Exodus, and Slayer. These groups fused elements of late 70's and early 80's punk rock with the styles of English heavy metal bands such as Venom and Iron Maiden. According to Weinstein, this new subgenre "can be understood as an attempt to reclaim metal for youth and especially for males by creating a style that is completely unacceptable to the hegemonic culture" (1991: 48). The subgenre represents, in part, a rallying cry for the return to the unpretentious, stripped down heavy metal of the early 70's.

Weinstein's analysis, though probably accurate, doesn't consider a form of Christian speed/thrash that has emerged in America. This form of speed/thrash is often identical to its secular counterpart in harmonic and visual dimensions, yet is often described as a "musical-missionary movement" (Rabey, 1987: 10ff). While Christian speed/thrash was influenced harmonically and visually by other secular speed/thrash bands, its thematic dimensions were influenced by Christian heavy metal bands such as Stryper, Barren Cross and Bloodgood. Apocalyptic themes are an important component of Christian speed/thrash, and find their context in the Christian fundamentalist apocalyptic movement that grew out to the 1960's counter cultural Jesus movement. This movement, which birthed contemporary Christian music, was decidedly apocalyptic in nature and was made up of youth who were largely disillusioned with the idealism and subsequent failure of the secular counter culture (Enroth, Ericson and Peters, 1972).

The music of the Jesus movement provided an outlet for the apocalyptic thought of its adherents. Larry Norman's "I Wish We'd All Been Ready" is one telling example. The song laments that some individuals are not ready for the second coming of Jesus. As the Christian music industry began to expand, it adopted many musical styles, images, and themes of the secular industry only to recast them into a fundamentalist Christian context. Heavy metal for example, was adopted by Christians almost ten years after it had been formulated by secular artists. With the development of this musical genre came the adoption of new dress codes and visual presentations of album covers. Christian album covers generally had pictures of the artists in friendly poses, smiling happily, conveying a bright, optimistic tone. Christian heavy metal album covers became more ominous. The artists, when pictured, looked serious, and the artwork reflected this serious tone through images of weapons (the missiles on the cover of Stryper's first album), blood (the spots of blood on Bloodgood's debut album), and chaos (Messiah Prophet's first album cover showed people running from falling debris off mountains). The lyrics in Christian heavy metal centered on apocalyptic themes of judgment and the second coming of Christ. Apocalyptic themes have reached new heights in Christian speed/thrash metal music.

Before we see the results of apocalyptic thinking on Christian speed/thrash metal, a brief history of the subgenre is helpful to explain the social phenomenon. Christian speed/thrash music began in the late 80's with the 1988 release of "Human sacrifice" by "Vengeance." A group by the name of Deliverance followed suit with a self-titled debut album. Both groups were born from the Sanctuary church movement, a group of churches in California that were created for ministering to those who listened to heavy metal. These churches became an important part of the Christian speed/thrash movement because they lent credibility to the music as a form of ministry. The churches also became centers of socialization by providing a place where other potential band members could meet each other and receive training in reaching the lost youth with their particular brand of speed/thrash metal. Many of the dozen or so Christian speed/thrash bands signed to Christian record labels today are involved in a Sanctuary church.

Christian speed/thrash focuses on themes of chaos, and has an affinity for apocalyptic imagery. The Bible is constantly used by Christian speed/thrash bands, much more so than their secular counterparts. The reason for this is obvious. Members of Christian speed/thrash bands are Christians with a fundamental evangelical slant. They believe in a Bible that is error free, and is therefore a guide for living one's life. Furthermore, the Bible speaks of the dire consequences of not accepting Jesus as a personal Lord and savior. Individuals and society are judged and punished for their unbelief. In The book of Revelation, the author speaks of the wrath of God on those who do not accept Jesus and continue to live a life of sin, and provides a glimpse into the future battle of the forces of good and evil.

Apocalyptic images lend themselves easily to Christian speed/thrash bands for two reasons. First, they can be used as links to those who listen to secular speed/thrash by using similar musical patterns and radical messages. This provides a common ground for Christian groups and secular audiences, allowing Christians musical and social credibility since they are using the same language (music and themes) as the audience. Second, Christian speed/thrash musicians can use this imagery in their preaching/teaching by pointing to its source and explaining its meaning within a biblical context.

The Context of Apocalyptic Affinities
Apocalyptic musical structures, visual presentations and lyrics were in existence before Christian speed/thrash metal. The Christian subgenre, however, focused these apocalyptic dimensions in a sharper fashion than its secular counterpart because of the unmediated religious connections.

Two dimensions of conservative Christian thought are relevant to Christian speed/thrash metal's elective affinity for apocalyptic: evangelism and eschatology. Evangelism is a requirement for a faithful Christian. Not only does it function to spread the Gospel and create converts, it also provides a sense of purpose for the Christian by fashioning a role to play in the continued fight between good and evil. The Bible suggests that the world is the battleground for souls and that these souls can only be reached and converted through active evangelism (2Cor. 4:3-6; Eph. 2:1-2; Rom. 10:13-15). Christian speed/thrash metal became a priority after it was discovered that many 15 to 21 year olds who had previously been into heavy metal were giving the genre up in favor of something more aggressive. Christian musicians who enjoyed this intense style of music began forming bands in hopes of reaching these individuals. This was a perfect form of ministry for many of these musicians because they could put to good use the music they enjoyed playing.

The second conservative Christian viewpoint that is relevant to the affinity between Christian speed/thrash metal and apocalyptic themes is an eschatological view of history. According to The American Heritage Dictionary (1985), eschatology can be defined as: "The branch of theology that is concerned with the ultimate or last things..." A more complete definition can be found in The Zondervan Pictorial Bible Dictionary:

Among theological conservatives it is generally agreed that Biblical prophecies will be
fulfilled and such events as resurrection from the dead, reward of the saints, punishment of
the wicked, and the continued conscious existence of all human souls throughout
eternity will eventuate. Biblical eschatology assumes that the Scriptures
predict future events with infallible accuracy and constitute a divine
disclosure of the future (Walvoord, 1967: 258).

The reason the style of Christian speed/thrash fits so well with eschatological views is obvious. The apocalyptic imagery serves as a warning of the urgency of the music's message; namely, that a battle is being waged between good and evil and that judgment will come upon those who do not accept Jesus. The listener is encouraged to make a decision concerning personal salvation before it is too late.

The theme of accepting Jesus Christ is a recurrent theme in Christian speed/thrash metal music. This makes sense. After all, the bands are using the medium of speed/thrash metal music to preach the Gospel. To them, the music is a form of language. Guy Ritter, the lead singer from the band Tourniquet comments:

We have Christian missionaries in this country that learn the different languages of other
third world countries...we're doing that in a similar way. We know about how the
kids live. We can relate to the kids that listen to heavy metal and thrash and we're
saying to these kids, you know, the Bible is cool. We're taking out the Bible and
we're explaining it to them so they can understand it (Hot Metal 4: The Video
1991).

The musicians see themselves as missionaries who are attempting to reach a group who may not be approachable by other means. Evangelists Billy Graham and Bill Bright are admired by musicians, however musicians feel that kids who are into speed and thrash metal will not listen to them. The evangelists, although speaking the same message, are simply speaking a different language.

Together, evangelism and eschatology form the context upon which the affinity of Christian speed/thrash metal for apocalyptic themes is constructed. To use an analogy from Weber's Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, evangelism and eschatology roughly correspond to the early Protestant issues of asceticism and election. Weber proposed that these two Protestant traits provided the context for the elective affinity of Calvinism for capitalism. In much the same way, I am suggesting that the evangelistic and eschatological views of conservative Christians provide the context for the elective affinity of Christian speed/thrash metal for apocalyptic themes. Evangelism and eschatology are central to the appearance of the apocalyptic in Christian speed/thrash just as election and asceticism were central to Calvinism in Weber's thesis. Evangelism and eschatology merged with the apocalyptic lead to the phenomenon of Christian speed/thrash metal. While evangelism and eschatology provide the context, the apocalyptic provides the form and the substance of the message.

THE APOCALYPTIC OF CHRISTIAN SPEED/THRASH METAL

In this section, I Identify three major components of Christian speed/thrash metal music, (1) harmonic dimensions (2) visual dimensions, and (3) lyrical dimensions and their relationship to apocalyptic themes. The first two components deal with the form of Christian speed/thrash metal, the carrier of the message that the musicians are preaching. The third component is the content of this message, where apocalyptic thinking is most evident.

The Apocalyptic Of Harmonic Dimensions
Christian apocalyptic perceives the world as a confusing and hostile environment that is in need of divine wisdom to give it meaning. This view of confusion and hostility is reflected in the harmonic dimension of Christian speed/thrash metal which is made up of radicalized musical structures. Christian Speed/thrash employs what is known as root 5th power chords. These chords are not true chords (three notes are needed to form a true chord) since only two notes are played together (the root and the 5th chord) without adding a third note. The riffs, short melodic phrases repeated constantly, are busier and often faster than in heavy metal or rock. Speed/thrash metal incorporates dissonant riffing frequently-- power chords played in one of three intervals, the minor 2nd, the tritone, and the major 7th. These three intervals are the most disturbing to the ear in Western music (Bowcott 1991), and are used for added rebellious dynamics.

Another common trait of speed/thrash music is its use of changing rhythmic subdivisions. Eighth notes, sixteenth notes, and triplets are often used back to back, making the structure of the music seem to skip, hop, stop and start, conveying a continuous quirky feel. The effect is to render the music unpredictable and therefore exciting as well as chaotic. To the listener, the music becomes the embodiment of chaos and rebellion; it seems to follow no musical rules and can change abruptly at any given moment.

Speed/thrash also eschews musical rules to reflect a chaotic attitude in its willingness to incorporate odd meter bars. Often, the meter will switch back and forth from the standard 4/4 time generally used in heavy metal and rock to odd meters such as 5/4 or 7/8, giving speed/thrash music a schizophrenic feel by throwing the listener off the rhythmic track.

The affinity between apocalyptic musical structures and speed/thrash music is apparent. The musicians reflect a radicalized view of the world by using radical musical harmonics and eschewing musical rules. The tritone interval, which consists of a diminished 5th or an augmented 4th; is commonly used in speed/thrash metal and is also known as "Diabolus in Musica," Latin for "the Devil in music." This interval was banned from church music during the middle ages because of its association with Satan. Church leaders felt that the interval sounded evil due to the extreme dissonance produced and therefore was not suitable for Christian worship.

By employing the power chords and dissonant riffing, speed/thrash music displays rebellion in the area of musical theory. The rules of musical theory are broken, as the musician rebels to the harmonic standards of traditional music. Not only does speed/thrash music defy the rules theoretically, but it also conveys emotionally a sense of an unresolved, confused view of the world. These feelings are played out through the apocalyptic chaos and rebellion of the musical dimensions of speed/thrash.

The Apocalyptic Of Visual Dimensions
Christian speed/thrash displays an affinity for apocalyptic visual presentations in dress, videos, and album covers. In dress, ripped jeans or knee length shorts, T-shirts with gory images and/or writing, unstyled long hair, earrings and high top tennis shoes are favorites amongst speed/thrash musicians. Skateboarding fashion is a large part of speed/thrash metal. This includes shorts that reach almost to the kneecaps, dark colored hightop tennis shoes, long T-shirts often printed with skateboard company names, and baseball hats worn backwards. Worn out jeans are an extension of the heavy metal culture from which speed/thrash originated. The jeans may or may not be ripped and often times contain writing that the musician or others have written with ink pens. Unlike glam metal in which the musicians commonly wear spandex and makeup, the audience and musicians share the same dress code.

Videos consistently incorporate apocalyptic themes and images such as dark churches, lit candles, and skulls, interspersed with concert footage of the band. The band Vengeance Rising uses this key imagery in their video entitled "before the time." This video contains shots, images, and camera angles moving at a rapid pace, at times keeping pace with the rhythm of the music itself. Band members look serious, scowling and grimacing. Smiles are ominous in manner, to accentuate a serious point made in the song.

Album covers extend the fascination with apocalyptic images and themes. Most have at least one if not all of the following: demons, skulls, and corpses. Christian bands incorporate these macabre images to emphasize the issues of the afterlife. These images are used to shock the audience into thinking about the future by pointing to issues of mortality and punishment for the wicked.

The fascination with apocalyptic imagery can be viewed as direct rebellion and defiance towards society. The rebellion in dress is an extension of the perceived notion of speed/thrash music in general, as visual dimensions and musical structure become an extension of viewing the world in a radical fashion. The world is perceived as hostile and repressive in nature. Loose codes concerning dress and deviant musical structure are the responses to this world.

The apocalyptic imagery focuses attention to the issues of impending death and judgment of the wicked. Skulls and corpses remind the listener that death is impartial and certain, shocking the audience into the apocalyptic reality that this is the time to make a decision to follow God as the end is coming quickly.

The imagery as a whole projects a dark, gloomy mood. This mood seems to run contrary to the bright, joyful disposition often associated with the Christian message. But this is only because Christian speed/thrash musicians generally speak in the narrow terms of the afterlife; furthermore, the speed/thrash musicians often aim their message to non-Christians and seek to obtain maximum impact on their audience.

The Apocalyptic Of Lyrical Dimensions
As we have seen, harmonic and visual dimensions reflect apocalyptic thought in form. As with any musical form, these dimensions are important in identifying the genre. The apocalyptic harmonic and visual dimensions provide the carrier for an apocalyptic message, setting the stage for the substantive dimension we will now consider. The lyrical dimension carries the content of the message itself and is therefore the single most important dimension in understanding a musical subgenre such as Christian speed/thrash metal. With lyrics, the artist can explore apocalyptic themes in great detail.

In Christian speed/thrash metal, musicians have produced detailed visions of the apocalyptic that may not be possible to convey in an album cover or video alone. Bands explore many of the major themes of apocalyptic thought in their albums' lyrics. The band Sacrament explores two major themes in their debut album entitled "Testimony of Apocalypse:" judgment, and preoccupation with physical disaster. Mortification, Vengeance, and Believer also explore the major apocalyptic themes on each of their debut albums.

Bands may explore the same apocalyptic theme several times on the same album, giving the listener a different perspective in each song. Vengeance, for example, in their album "Human Sacrifice," explored the theme of final judgment in the songs "Burn" and "White Throne." In "Burn," Satan is the object of the eschatological judgment, while in "White Throne" individuals who have rejected Jesus are judged and condemned.

All three major apocalyptic themes find expression in Christian speed/thrash metal; in fact, apocalyptic themes are one of the most common throughout Christian speed/thrash metal lyrics.

1. Judgment
This apocalyptic theme is one of the most dominant in Christian speed/thrash. The lyrics approach the subject of judgment from various directions. In "Testimony of Apocalypse," the band Sacrament speaks of judgment in general using graphic imagery:

Darkness descend. Judgment day, terminal decay. Bloody disarray, disfigure, by the
thunder of hoofbeats you're taken by surprise; the wrath of God apocalyptic riders will
avenge. (Sacrament/Testimony of Apocalypse)

The band Vengeance speaks specifically of the Great White Throne judgment mentioned in the book of Revelation. This judgment includes all the wicked dead who were killed in the ultimate battle between good and evil, as well as the wicked dead who were killed in all the ages before the battle and are temporarily held in Hades.

There will be nowhere to run, nowhere to hide at the Great White throne, so now's the
time to die. (Vengeance/White Throne)

The band Deliverance focuses on death and judgment. In this example, the final age is viewed in terms of the judgment, while the age in which we are living now is viewed in terms of death.

It has been appointed once for a man to die, but after this the judgment. Once the
appointment has been made, nothing can be done to change it. (Deliverance/Greetings of
Death)

The theme of final judgment expresses the immediacy and inevitability of the event. The phrases "You're taken by surprise," and "nothing can be done to change it" reflect this thinking. The conservative Christian view of evangelism provides the context for the affinity between Christian speed/thrash metal and apocalyptic themes. For the Christian speed/thrash musician, judgment is something to be feared if you have not accepted Jesus Christ. It is the point at which it is too late for an individual to make a decision. The decision must be made in this lifetime or the individual will suffer the consequences.

The band Believer, in a song entitled "Vile Hypocrisy," warns that "For rejection of Christ, (there will be an) eternal consequence." Mortification also warns that "Destructive consequences befall the denier" in their song "Satan's Doom." The apocalyptic theme of judgment is used by the bands to warn of the perils of unbelief. Listeners are reminded to "Cross over or you will die"; "Seek God with all your heart (and) listen to His voice" (Mortification 1991).

According to the musicians, an individual is placed in one of two locations after the judgment. Those who have accepted Jesus Christ are allowed to spend eternity with God in heaven; the wicked, however, are assigned to eternal punishment in Hell. Consider the following lyric from Betrayal:

"Enter to thy kingdom" the almighty God will say, or, "Depart from you evil doer, for I do
not know you this day." For those who accept Jesus will live eternally. The prince
of peace has shed His Blood. What will you do with it? (Betrayal/Plead the
Blood)

The lyrics pose a rhetorical question to the listener. It is hoped that this approach will cause the listener to question the need for a personal relationship with Jesus. The lyrics remind the listener that a relationship is indeed needed if h/she wishes to escape eternal punishment.

The theme of a movement from this world to another world is even more graphic in the next song by Deliverance. In this song, lost souls who have died and gone to Hell are shown.

A million screams in dreaded harmony. The shrieks of pain never ending. Thousands are
slaughtered but we'll never die. Damnation forever but to you through the pain we
cry. (Deliverance/Awake)

The apocalyptic theme of a spatial movement from this world to the other world is certainly evident in the preceding lyrics. The musicians remind the listeners that this event marks the end of the age. The punishments and rewards are for eternity. Damnation is forever while the faithful will live eternally. This scene is straight out of the book of Revelation. The earthly age is concluded and the wicked are separated from the righteous. For the righteous, there will no longer be any pain or sorrow. There will be no more tears. This marks the final victory of God and the faithful. No longer will the faithful have to fear the wicked or put up with Satan and his demons. God is glorified while Satan and this world are destroyed.

2. The battle between good and evil
Christians believe that a battle is being waged between good and evil. Christians are constantly encouraged to "Rise up with the sword of God and put your armor on," and "not grow weary in doing what is right, {for} God shall renew our strength" (Deliverance/Weapons of our Warfare; If we faint not). Christians are reminded that the battle being waged is not with other people, but with Satan and his demons:

Put on the full armor of God. Stand against the Devil. We are not fighting men, but evil
forces of a dark age (Mortification/ Brutal Warfare).

This means that Christians must use immaterial weapons. the armor in the song above is a direct reference to the armor listed in the sixth chapter of the book of Ephesians.

Stand firm therefore, having girded your loins with truth, and having put on the breastplate
of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the preparation of the
Gospel of peace; in addition to all, taking up the shield of faith with which you will be able
to extinguish all the flaming missiles of the evil one. And take the helmet of
salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God (Ephesians 6:14-17,
NASB).

Angelic beings also fight in the spiritual realm. Deliverance speaks of:

Angelic forces fighting the battles, unseen warriors, mighty they are, there is no place
where angels fear to tread, drawing swords of His awesome power
(Deliverance/Slay the Wicked).

This battle between good and evil escalates until the final battle of Armageddon which is recorded in the sixteenth chapter of the book of Revelation. Here, the forces of good defeat the forces of evil. After the battle, the evil are judged and punished while the faithful are rewarded.

The musicians rely on the apocalyptic imagery of the ultimate battle to remind every individual that (1) God exists, (2) evil will be defeated by God, and (3) individuals must choose whom they will serve. Christian speed/thrash musicians remind the listener of the fate of Satan and of the non-Christian. This message seems to serve two purposes. The first is to encourage the Christian with the message that Satan will soon be thrown in hell by God. This means that he will no longer have the power to tempt Christians into sin, and that all forms of evil will be eradicated. The second is to warn the non-Christian. Satan will be conquered by God and is therefore not worth serving. Consider the following lyrics:

Come before the writhing flames. Witness the death of your spell. For Satan is stripped of
strength and power. Left helpless to burn forever. (Mortification/Satan's Doom)

Sacrament echoes this sentiment when they encourage Christians with the words:

Following God you live eternal peace. Never will you see the flames of Hell. We've put up
with Satan long enough. Soon he will be destroyed. (Sacrament/Hellfire Denied)

This mocking tone towards Satan is also reflected in the Vengeance song "Burn" The opening lyrics begin with the singer chanting "Burn Satan Burn." The tone of animosity is grounded in the fact that the singer blames Satan for blinding the eyes of friends from following God:

For all our friends that you've got hold and made them slaves while they don't know. For
them I will not sin in ceasing to pray. But I'll be glad when you're damned. Time
will not delay. (Vengeance/Burn)

The singer reminds Satan as well as the listeners that God's judgment will come swiftly. The tone of the lyrics reinforce the belief that ultimately good will triumph over evil. Satan and non- believers will be cast into hell where they will no longer be a threat to the righteous.

3. The coming mediator
An identification with a coming mediator is another theme that is an expression of the apocalyptic theme of the world as hostile. The sinfulness and hostility of the world can only be overcome by the mediator who is savior and judge. For this reason, the second coming of Jesus is an event that Christians look forward to. At the same time however, two warnings are given, one to Christians and the other to non-Christians. Christians are encouraged to keep themselves "unstained by the world" to meet Jesus without shame.

Jesus is comin' back schedule is tight I gotta keep my stuff intact. Slack is wack it's time
out for the hack strengthen up your back. (Tourniquet/Spineless)

Meanwhile, non-Christians are encouraged to prepare for the second coming by turning from sin toward God. Vengeance in their piece entitled "Mulligans Stew" sing:

Jesus Christ is coming so we've got to get ready for broad is the road to death. Jesus
hasn't come to call the righteous but the sinners, for all have fallen short of the Glory of
God.

The second coming is an inevitable event. Those who are found to be without a personal relationship with Jesus will be punished, while those who know Jesus as their lord and savior will be rewarded.

For Christians, including the speed/thrash musicians, the World is viewed as hostile because it is at odds with Christian morals and beliefs. Passages abound within the new testament that reflect this thought. Jesus Himself suggested that since He chose His disciples out of the world, the world would hate them (John 15:19). The author of the book of James suggests that "whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God" (James 4:4). This attitude is reflected within the following lyrics that suggest that the world will soon come under judgment:

Save me oh Lord, save me. This place is evil. This world is headed for its due demise.
With mankind's corruption, destruction, {and} lies. (The Crucified/Hateworld)

Although the world is viewed as hostile, speed/thrash musicians encourage their listeners to realize that the world can only harm physically. After death, however, the spirit lives on either in Heaven or Hell. This being the case, the listener is urged to accept Jesus as their Lord and Savior and repent from their wickedness.

CONCLUSION

Christian speed/thrash metal displays an affinity for apocalyptic themes in three dimensions: harmonic, visual, and lyrical. The affinity between Christian speed/thrash metal and apocalyptic themes finds its context within conservative Christian views of eschatology and evangelism. In order to carry out and relate their ideas and interests, musicians readily appropriated speed/thrash metal because of its inherent affinity for apocalyptic thought. In this conclusion, I want to recover more fully the meaning of Christian speed/thrash. The elective affinity of Christian speed/thrash metal for apocalyptic themes is based upon the conservative Christian views of evangelism and eschatology. These views are important because conservative Christians perceive this world as a continuing struggle between good and evil, a struggle that will eventually end in an apocalyptic manner. Evangelism is imperative and this is why so many of the lyrics serve as warnings to accept Jesus. The apocalyptic imagery is used because it is a very graphic way to convey effectively the urgency of the message.

Christian speed/thrash metal reflects an attempt by alienated youth to make sense of the chaotic and irrational world. The apocalyptic themes signal that soon there will be a time when this earth, and all that are in it, will cease to exist. Order and peace will be restored while Christians will be rid of the confusion of this world. Christian speed/thrash metal explains the chaotic world and its irrationality by interpreting it in terms of the ultimate battle between God and Satan; it proclaims this world as confusing and hostile because of Satan and because of the initial sin of Adam and Eve that is passed on to all humans.

Since Christian speed/thrash metal views the world as hostile, rebellion ensues as a counteraction. Musical structures convey rebellion through dissonant riffing and power chords, breaking with accepted traditional musical theory. The visual imagery of speed/thrash music rebels by transcending accepted norms: album covers and dress shock outsiders while providing a focal point for social solidarity with insiders. Finally, the lyrics reflect rebellious apocalyptic themes, whereby individuals feel that they are able to make sense of an irrational world and dismiss it altogether.

Apocalyptic radicalization stems from the view that the world is a hostile environment; as a result, events and images are treated in a radical fashion to convey the urgency of the apocalyptic message. In Christian speed/thrash metal, many radical images are used to convey the necessity for a relationship with God. Jesus is referred to as a "human sacrifice" whose "blood will atone our sins" (Vengeance/Human Sacrifice; Believer/Not Even One). Individuals are encouraged to "Fill this place with blood, and that of no other than the Lord Jesus Christ" as "there is a fountain filled with blood drawn from Emmanuel's veins" (Vengeance/Fill this Place with Blood; Deliverance/Victory).

The image of blood is used liberally in Christian speed/thrash metal because it has obvious religious symbolism, but it also reflects a radical means through which the evangelistic message can be communicated. Musicians do not just allude to blood; rather, they emphasize bloody graphic descriptions to convey the urgency of the message.

One may interpret the phenomenon in terms of a constellation of ideas and interests that, when viewed collectively, provide a unified, meaningful whole. In Christian speed/thrash metal, apocalyptic lyrics, musical structures, visual presentation, and speed/thrash metal seek one another out, coming together to form the musical phenomenon of Christian Speed metal. Conservative Christian views of evangelism and eschatology do not cause apocalyptic musical structures and lyrics; rather, they merge like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle, which when viewed together provide a unified, meaningful social phenomenon. In the same way, apocalyptic musical structures do not cause apocalyptic lyrics; rather, the use of dissonant riffing, root 5th power chords, and high speed and distortion fit together with these lyrics better than conventional forms. The visual presentation of Christian speed/thrash metal and its album covers can also be viewed as incorporating apocalyptic themes as a piece of the larger puzzle. Visual presentations fit together with the musical structures and lyrics rather than being a cause or effect in themselves.

The musical style of Christian speed/thrash metal is a radical form of music in terms of its lyrical and harmonic content. However, this radicalization extends beyond surface observations of the music itelf to the underlying social and cultural views of those who participate in this musical style. The elective affinity model is helpful in exploring these underlying views by showing us how and to some extent, why Christian speed/thrash metal has attached itself to apocalyptic expressions. While this study does not represent the only interpretation of the phenomenon of Christian speed/thrash metal; it does provides a different way of interpreting the phenomenon, enhancing our understanding of our own culture and of our selves.


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