In the Silence of the Mind: February 15, 2016
Just a little over two years ago, I wrote a little article where I picked ten bands that I felt every self-respecting heavy music fan owed it to themselves to investigate. That little article broke IVM’s comments section, spurring some… heavy… debate. After all, how could I have relegated August Burns Red to honorable mention status?!? What about Extol? And just because I was only allowing for then “current” bands… couldn’t UnderOath have snuck in on a technicality?
At the time, Lecrae had just broken the Billboard charts wide open and people who normally don’t think much about faith-based bands were suddenly very interested in what this “Jesus music” might sound like. To do my part, I told them about Demon Hunter, Living Sacrifice, Project 86, Blindside, Becoming the Archetype, War of Ages, For Today, Spoken, Haste the Day, and P.O.D.
Fast forward two years through IVM’s phoenix-like rise from the ashes to a time when 21 Pilots is breaking all sorts of records, Lecrae has twice appeared on The Tonight Show, and long time Christ-centered rockers like Skillet find themselves pushing into new cultural territory.
Now more than ever there seems to be a growing proliferation of faith-based bands that are entering the mainstream eye. And, that was sort of the point of the first post in this series. It’s not that ABR didn’t deserve better than honorable mention, it was that then (and even more so now) trying to limit hard hitting faith-based bands that EVERYONE owes it to themselves to check out down to just ten was a monumental task.
We now live in a world where the first billboard people see when exiting the airport into my city (Columbus, Ohio) is “Beartooth welcomes you to Columbus.” How great is that!?! But, it does make it hard to narrow the field to the essentials. So, be sure to debate my omissions and inclusions in the comments section as there are simply too many great bands out there to list.
Note that I am still going with “current” bands (bands still active in some way) and I am purposely stretching into all realms of heavy from hard rock to the heaviest of metal alike to give some variety.
So, in no particular order, here are ten MORE faith-based bands every heavy music fan should give a listen to.
Tenure: 2012 – Present
Since Beartooth is welcoming people to Columbus Ohio via the aforementioned billboard by the airport, what better way to welcome you to this list than with the Ohio-based Red Bull records act.
If you’re in Radio U territory (or listen on their app) you rarely go a day without hearing Caleb Shomo’s passionate vocals and screams. Beartooth brings an… aggressive… style with passionate and socially aware lyrics.
Where to start: While their newest album Aggressive is powerful stuff, I recommend jumping in with the Deluxe Edition of Disgusting. Not only is the main album a great place to start with the band, but you get a great cover of “Blitzkrieg Bop” thrown in for even more fun.
Artist: Wolves at the Gate
Tenure: 2008 – Present
How about another Ohio-based act that simply cannot be ignored?
Wolves at the Gate have been tearing it up since 2008, debuting with Solid State Records in 2011. But, for many, it was 2012’s Captors that really put the band on the map. Since then, they have release stellar album after stellar album with some equally powerful EP’s mixed in for extra flavor. 2014’s VxV took the band to new heights, but for me it is 2016’s Types and Shadows that has really set the band out from the pack. Incorporating a style that sounds akin to Thrice, Types and Shadows is certainly on my list of top albums for this past year. And while the album hits hard, it is the spiritual depth that really brings Types and Shadows to the front of the pack.
Where to Start: Types and Shadows gets my recommendation for first listen.
Tenure: 2001 – Present
It is a sad tale that Phinehas is still under the radar for many. Bringing a heavy metalcore sound that is mixed with dominant faith-forward themes, Phinehas is really a band to dig into. From one who cares about lyrical depth, Phinehas brings the goods and then some. Plus, the band is skillful enough that their acoustic offerings (as found on 2013’s The Bridge Between and 2016’s Flight Through the Night) can be just as engaging as the rest of their work, which is often the acid test for really skillful bands.
Where to Start: This is just my own personal journey speaking, but I would start with the band’s 2013 offerings The Last Word is Yours To Speak and The Bridge Between EP. That said, 2015’s Till the End is absolutely phenomenal.
Artist: My Epic
Tenure: 2005 – Present
We may be a little biased about My Epic here at IVM, since the band got their start on our once and future record label. But, I don’t think it will take you long after listening to My Epic to understand that this bias is totally grounded in reality.
My Epic is one of the best bands out there, period. While their style is softer spoken than most of the bands on this list, the boys at My Epic know how to bring powerful rock music that incorporates some of the most theologically deep lyrics around. Listening to their latest masterpiece, Viscera EP, is akin to sitting down with Martin Luther, John Wesley, and C. S. Lewis over coffee.
Where to Start: Simply because the Viserca EP is their newest album is no reason to start there. The reason to check Viscera out first is that the quality of that work is simply undeniable. “Ghost Story” featuring Shane from Everything in Slow Motion is a worthy contender for best song of 2016.
Tenure: 2002 – Present
RED has long been a favorite for those following Christian hard rock and metal. Ever since their landmark End of Silence, which recently celebrated it’s ten year anniversary, RED has been a force to contend with. While some of their work can be hit or miss (I didn’t include them on the first list simply because they had just come off a weaker album with Release the Panic), RED has produced vastly more joy than sorrow for fans.
Their latest release, the beautiful/aggressive/atmospheric/surprising Of Beauty and Rage, may just be their best work yet. That said…
Where to Start: It is hard to ignore End of Silence. As such, I recommend starting there if you’re new to the band. Sure, their sound has grown over the years and has struck an even better balance of piano, strings, and metal, but End of Silence is where it all began for many.
Artist: Fit For a King
Tenure: 2007 – Present
Back in 2011 my ears first heard Fit For a King’s incredible album Descendants, and those same ears have not stopped thanking me since. While many would not come to know FFaK until their Solid State debut in 2013 (which also saw a re-release of Descendants), few have been able to ignore them since.
This past year saw the release of Deathgrip, a fitting title, as that is what FFaK has on their fans due to their guttural power and impassioned message.
Where to Start: Descendants. Hands down. For my money, I say go with the original independent release version of Descendants. Your ears will thank me later, while I will, sadly, have to apologize to your sore neck.
Artist: Lacey Sturm (Flyleaf)
Tenure: 2002 (as Passerby) – Present (solo as Lacey Sturm)
The Whosoever known as Lacey Sturm rocks. Anyone who heard her guttural screams in Flyleaf’s early work knew in that moment that this was a rocker (of any gender) to contend with. For me, it is still that early Flyleaf work (like the demo versions of “Cassie” where Sturm just bottoms it out with her screams) that brings the fondest of memories.
Fast-forward through a departure from Flyleaf (to take time as a new mother) and Lacey continues to prove that she is a force to be reckoned with. Her latest album Life Screams is a welcome and powerful hard rock entry with a great message and some shattering vocals to match.
Where to Start: Most will know Sturm best from her time in Flyleaf, and many will choose to start there. I personally prefer the older Flyleaf stuff where Lacey was allowed to just wreck her vocals (probably why they changed that as the band got more popular). Life Screams is appropriate to jump on with the artist where she is now, though.
Artist: Memphis May Fire (Matty Mullins)
Tenure: 2006 (as Oh Captain, My Captain) – Present
I wrestled (literally for a couple months) with how to narrow this list to just ten more bands. And, honestly, I only recently discovered Memphis May Fire. I know, I’m late to the party. That said, I have been working my way back through the band’s discography and have been rather enthralled.
Just like Spoken (from the original list of ten bands), MMF has a wonderful dynamic of being aggressive and heavy and yet featuring a lead singer that has a silky smooth voice. In fact, it was Matty’s guest appearance on Spoken’s latest album that got me to notice the band. While I’m mentioning Matty’s melodic vocals, though it is far from heavy, Matty’s own solo album is just full of powerful music.
Where to Start: Since I’ve already admitted that I only recently came to the MMF party, can you blame me if my answer is their most recent album; This Light I Hold? Still, this album is pretty great. It hits hard both musically and with it’s faith-forward message.
Band: August Burns Red
Tenure: 2003 – Present
You didn’t think I would neglect ABR twice did you? C’mon.
If there were ever a competition for THE poster child for Metalcore music… Underoath and August Burns Red would have to battle each other to the pain (Princess Bride style). Simply put, ABR are legends.
Whether they are destroying some amazing Christmas music, or simply blessing fans with some of the best drumming and guitar work in the business, ABR always brings just what fans want.
Where to Start: I almost want to point you to their Christmas tracks. I mean many would say Leveler, and that is a great place. There’s plenty of Punk Goes… tracks to whet your appetite with… I mean, just go to your favorite streaming service, load the band, hit shuffle and enjoy. There’s no wrong answer here.
Band: Death Therapy
Tenure: 2017 – Present
Okay. Let’s close this thing out with a HUGE risk on my part. Why is this a risk? Death Therapy, having only recently signed to Solid State Records… hasn’t released an album as of this writing. WHAT?
Yep. Their debut album comes out this month. So why in the world would I take up a spot on this list with an unknown property?
Jason Wisdom. That’s why. Fans will best know Jason for brutalizing their ears as the frontman for Becoming the Archetype… and lesser so as the singer for Solamors… and that should say everything you need to know right there. Just give a listen to “The Lie” or “Slow Dance (With Death)” and you will quickly see what has made BTA one of the best heavy bands out there (though recently without Jason).
Need any more proof? Track two uses the words “featuring Andrew Schwab.” Mic drop.
Where to Start: Hah! There is only one answer as of right now. The Storm Before the Calm releases on Feb. 24th, though you can already check out “The Lie” and “Slow Dance (With Death)” on your favorite streaming platform.
So that’s it. Ten more bands you should check out, tell your friends about, and then tell me why I’m all sorts of wrong in the comments. But, through all our passionate debate, in these divided times, may Christ and heavy music bring us back together.