In the Silence of the Mind: September 20th, 2014
Ten Faith-Based Bands Every Heavy Music Fan Must Listen To
In the wake of Christ-focused rapper Lecrae landing the number one album in the country this week (!!!), conversations about “Christian” music and its merits have seen a bit of an uptick, for better or worse. Once mostly maligned as either unimaginative or outright copycatting, faith-based music has something of a bad rap (no pun intended) to mainstream listeners. But, as Lecrae and his 116 clique (including Andy Mineo and Tedashii, who have also had higher charting albums in the last year) have proven, faith-based music can more than hold its own in terms of both passion and artistry with it’s faith-non-descript peers.
With that in mind, submitted for approval of the midnight society, here are ten faith-based bands that anyone who loves heavy music dare not ignore. From simple “hard rock” all the way to the heaviest thrash metal, this list covers the whole spectrum of what we as music-lovers consider heavy. These are not just some of the best bands “Christian” music has to offer, these are some of heavy music’s brightest sons.
So, in no particular order, here are ten bands you as a hard-rocker and/or metal-head cannot ignore any longer.
Artist: Demon Hunter
Tenure: 2001 – Present
Albums: 10 and counting
Demon Hunter has brought the pain and power for well over a decade now. Though they don’t tour as much, due to DH being a side-project of frontman Ryan Clark (who works as a graphics designer in the “real” world), Demon Hunter has grown an insanely rabid fan following over the years. Just google “Demon Hunter Tattoos” for proof!
DH, inspired by Living Sacrifice, brought their faith in Christ and hearts for heavy music together for what is one of the best heavy bands, truly, of all time.
Where to Start?: Their newest album Extremist is simply a masterpiece, and is perhaps the best album of the year so far. After that? Their 2004 album Summer of Darkness certainly deserves your attention. After all, you may have already heard some of those songs on movies like Freddy X Jason and Resident Evil: Apocalypse.
Artist: Living Sacrifice
Tenure: 1989 – 2003, 2008 – present
Albums: 9 and Counting
When taking stage, Demon Hunter frontman Ryan Clark is apt to point out that Living Sacrifice are the godfathers of Christian heavy metal. In their original run, LS served to inspire the current generation of rockers with their hard-hitting and unapologetic style. The band disbanded in 2003, but fans would not let this travesty go unanswered. After much demand, Bruce Fitzhugh and crew picked their axes back up in 2008 and proved that they were back and better than ever.
Where to Start?: Their newest release Ghost Thief is a gem. If you want to get on board with the band where they are, start there. Classic fans often say to start with Reborn or The Hammering Process, however.
Artist: Project 86
Tenure: 1996 – Present
Albums: 12 and Counting
Starting out in the once-popular “rapcore” style, P86 has evolved with every album they’ve produced. Never content to rest on past victories, frontman Andrew Schwab continually proves to be one of the best song writers in the business. Their 2012 album Wait for the Siren ended up being my personal number one album of that entire year, and featured Living Sacrifice’s Bruce Fitzhugh, as well as Brian “Head” Welch and others! With a new modern day masterpiece, Knives to the Future, set to drop sometime in the next month, there’s never been a better time to discover the best hard rock band ever.
Where to Start?: Next month sees Knives to the Future cut its way into the wild, but 2012’s Wait for the Siren was one of the band’s best albums ever. Featuring everything from guest appearances by Living Sacrifice to uilleann pipes (!), this is an album not to miss. Before that, I would say … and the rest will follow would be your best bet.
Tenure: 1994 to Present
Albums: 9 And Counting
You may have seen them in the 00’s skater flick Grind, and you likely saw their massively popular song “Pitiful” playing at Target and on the WWE in 2002, but you may not know that Blindside is still going and is unquestionably one of the best bands in the world. Like Project 86, Blindside has continued to evolve their sound over the years. Though 2002’s Silence is a masterpiece, 2011’s With Shivering Hearts We Wait is one of the best albums ever produced, bar none.
Where to Start?: Well, both Silence and With Shivering Hearts We Wait are worthy places to begin. I would lean into WSHWW, simply because it may be the best album of this decade so far, even if the music video (below) doesn’t quite live up to that greatness.
Artist: Becoming the Archetype
Tenure: 1999 to Present
Albums: 6 and Counting
Whenever someone asks me what the overall greatest heavy album of all time is, it is with little hesitancy that I go to Celestial Completion by Becoming the Archetype. The way that the band blends the brutally heavy with the atmospherically sublime to form a bridge between European metal and American hardcore has never been done quite to this level of perfection since. And, there’s a ska/metal song in the mix, too. Oh, and their other stuff is great, as well, such as a hardcore rendering of the old hymn “How Great Thou Art.” The band has since parted ways with Celestial singer Jason Wisdom, who now plays in a new band called Solamors (which is also great). Plus, you can’t deny how amazing this NES era Final Fantasy video for “The Magnetic Sky” is (see below)!
Where to Start?: No question. Start with Celestial Completion. You’re welcome. That said, Dichotomy is great and … I Am is stellar as well.
Artist: War of Ages
Tenure: 2002 – Present
Albums: 8 and Counting
With a progressive hardcore sound, a continual use of battle imagery, and a passion for Jesus that bleeds through every guttural vocal assault, there are few bands out there who can match the gravitas of War of Ages, period. Never ones to mince words, Leroy Hamp and crew are brutally honest about both faith and failures, but they always come back to their passionate desire for Jesus Christ.
That, and (from many inside accounts) these are some of the most down to earth, honest, nicest, and most loving guys you’ll ever meet.
Where to Start?: WOA has impressive consistency. Almost every album is stellar, though few vary from their core sound. That said, 2010’s Eternal wins my top marks, and is one of their most relatable albums. Those looking for their newer material, however, will not be disappointed with 2014’s awesome Supreme Chaos.
Artist: For Today
Tenure: 2005 to Present
For Today has gotten quite a bit of media notice of late. Not only did they appear on Vans Warped Tour, and get a slap in the face from another major mainstream band, but they also got some decent mainstream notice for their work with the A21 Campaign on their newest album Fight The Silence to fight human sex trafficking.
For Today is heavy and unapologetic. Though many of the bands on this list wear their faith for all to see, For Today is not afraid to dive deep into lyrical theology and call satan out as a defeated foe already slain on the battlefield.
Where to Start?: I would guess that most fans would ask you to start with their incredible album Portraits. While I would agree to a point on this, for me the gateway is through Breaker.
Tenure: 1996 to Present
Albums: 7 and Counting
Just as Project 86’s Wait for the Siren was my overall album of the year two years ago, Spoken’s Illusion was my pick for last year. In fact, I can’t do any better than tell you to go and read my review to see what makes the band, and that album in particular, so amazing. But, for those who want the short version, Matt Baird’s voice is just so counter to what most hard rock bands sound like… but it just works so amazingly well. Baird is able to tackle the more intimate and personal moments with a gusto that lower octave singers are unable to reach… yet he can also shatter your spinal cord with his screams. It really is a delicate balance.
Where to Start?: Spoken has so many great albums. Last Chance to Breathe is a phenomenal place to begin… but Illusion is just so fantastic that I don’t know how to steer you anywhere but there first.
Artist: Haste the Day
Tenure: 2001 to 2011, 2014 to present
Albums: 6 and a return album on the way!
Whether you’re talking the pre-2005 Jimmy Ryan era or 2005-to-present Stephen Keech version of the band, Haste the Day is simply astonishing. As for me, I prefer the Keech era, but fans can always put aside arguments and revel in the 2011 live album that featured both singers! Either way, Haste the Day has some powerful albums to their credit, and they went out with a bang (before recently announcing their comeback). For my money, 2010’s Attack of the Wolf King (Deluxe) is a landmark moment in heavy music. Just search “White as Snow,” and you’re welcome.
Where to Start?: Really, there are two equally valid answers to this question. Those who want the higher pitched fry screaming of Jimmy Ryan should not pass go and head directly to When Everything Falls. Those who prefer their later incarnation should give Attack of the Wolf King (Deluxe) an immediate listen.
Artist: P. O. D.
Tenure: 1992 to Present
Albums: 12 (ish) and Counting
You know P. O. D. These were the guys who blew up the charts in 2001 with “Alive,” “Boom,” and “Youth of the Nation,” and were bringing original songs to everything from Adam Sandler movies to The Matrix. What you hopefully also know is that though they left the limelight (comparatively) a bit, the boys from the Southtown never slowed down in the decade since then.
Where to Start?: Although Satellite is their most well-known album and Murdered Love is their most recent, I would say start with their 2006 gem Testify. Not only is it one of their more diverse albums, but their collaboration with Matisyahu on “Strength of My Life” is beyond powerful.
Note: Sonny Sandoval, P. O. D.’s frontman is also notable in that he appears on the albums of many of the others on this list. Though he has not (to my knowledge) worked with Demon Hunter, Spoken, Haste the Day, or Becoming the Archetype, but Jason Truby (of Living Sacrifice) joined P. O. D. for a time, Blindside guested on the song “Anything Right” and the video for “Boom” (though they were not in the song), and Sonny did guest appearances with Lecrae (“Children of the Light”), War of Ages (“Eternal”), Project 86 (“Six Sirens”), and For Today (“The Only Name”).
What a great way, then, to wrap up this list.
So there you have it. Ten faith-based bands that every heavy music fan owes it to themselves to check out. Disagree with my list? Who would you have in yours? Be sure to scan through the comments for other great Christ-centered bands that define heavy music, not just “Christian” music.
If you’ve come to this article because someone, likely me, linked it on social media, you may be surprised to find that it was extremely difficult to narrow down to just ten. Want proof? Just check out the rest of our site for other amazing Christ-centered acts who are also head-bangingly heavy!
So, before we go, here are some honorable mentions.
Honorable Mention: Skillet, Extol, August Burns Red, Sleeping Giant, Disciple, Everything in Slow Motion, In the Midst of Lions, A Plea For Purging, The Showdown, Wolves at the Gate, Eyes of Eli, Pillar, No Innocent Victim… more in the comments section, I’m sure.
Trek back through the Silence:
The Most Important Thing You’ll Ever Read; Becoming a Band – Part 1 (featuring Seth Hecox of Becoming the Archetype) Part 2: What’s in a Name, The “In The Silence of the Mind” Interviews (feat. Eyes of Eli, Righteous Vendetta, Southbound Fearing, Dorean Lives, and Declaration AD), Part 2 (feat. Silverline, Merge, My Ransomed Soul, This City Awaits)