What does black metal have to do with Christianity? I caught up with Asaph and PATHØS of Indiana’s own Symphony of Heaven to find out.
IVM: You guys have been playing this style of music for a few years now. How did you get into black metal (or extreme metal in general) and what led you to want to play music in this style?
Asaph: So my answer to this is a bit of a journey. I started the metal journey really with Living Sacrifice, which the early stuff would be considered extreme metal. Becoming the Archetype, Extol, Death, Cynic, Embodyment, and Sepultura all came pretty soon after. As far as black metal goes, the Christian scene is notorious for putting out a lot of black metal that is subpar, to be honest. But, as a young man, I was interested in listening to as much as I could. The first real connection for me was Ceremonial Sacred. I had heard Horde and I liked it, but Cerimonial Sacred started that journey. As far as playing the style, Skald in Veum, A Hill to Die Upon, and Mgła really helped me make that journey.
PATHØS: I began my metal journey around the 7th or 8th grade. Started with bands like Korn, Slipknot and Static-X. Once I began advancing more on the guitar, I was searching for harder, faster and more extreme music to play. Eventually I discovered bands like Cannibal Corpse, Morbid Angel, Dimmu Borgir, Cradle of Filth and Fear Factory. It was just the overall heavy atmosphere that that style created that I loved. Once those bands were on my radar, there was no looking back. That style of metal was the music that spoke to me.
IVM: What have been some of the biggest challenges of maintaining your band? What are some of the biggest joys/successes (however you choose to define success)?
Asaph: I think getting shows has proven to be a difficult venture for us in Indiana. The places around here seem to be very difficult to get in to play. We’ve had a lot of shows that get booked and then a week or two before we’re supposed to play, it gets cancelled, usually by the venue. As far as success goes, being able to play and meet with some of our favorite bands has been one of the coolest experiences in my life.
PATHØS: I would have to say the biggest challenge we face as a band is the distance between all the members over the years. Living hours apart made it a bit more difficult to get more done. We had to always do all day practices, combined with photo shoots, band meetings, etc. We would get to do that once every couple months, but we always made the best of it. I will second what Asaph said as well, shows have proven to be elusive more often than we would like. Success wise, for me it’s been the relationships built over the years with my dear brothers and friends, via the medium of art and music.
IVM: Symphony of Heaven is associated with the Christian metal scene. What role does faith play in your music, band, writing, etc.? What role does it play in inspiring the creative process, specifically for creating extreme/black metal?
Asaph: Personally, my faith is best reflected with lyrics that I’ve written. It does impact how we as a band make major decisions, which I think has been a beneficial factor. As far as the music itself goes, with extreme metal, we approach the material with a Job-based feeling. He went through a great deal of suffering, which everyone goes through in their daily lives, so relating our personal struggles in life makes relating to the listener much easier. Our music comes off as sorrowful, angry, and even morose at times, but never loses that glimpse of hope that Jesus has provided for each of us.
PATHØS: My Faith in Jesus Christ is everything I am. It guides every second of every day, every decision I make and every thought. I was a Christian before I was a metalhead, so I view music and art through that lens. I believe my Faith teaches me that an artist should do everything they can to the absolute best of their ability, and that what we create should he top-notch, and show God’s Glory. God is the ultimate Artist, and we get to mimic and participate in that as His creation, and as His Children by Faith, we have access to the same Spirit that created the Heavens and the Earth, therefore we have the ability to take part in the creative process that God began. As far as black metal and extreme metal, I feel that it fits perfect with the atmosphere. Many times in Scripture, the writer cries out to God, feeling utterly lost and abandoned and without Hope. Those are normal human feelings because this world is so dark. But as Christians we have the Hope and Light beyond the suffering to look to and grab hold of.
IVM: What can fans or promoters do to help with the challenge of playing live shows?
Fans can always help by name dropping us to any promoters they know, sending us names of promoters in different cities, and when we get the opportunity to play to make sure and bring as many people as possible to the show! As far as promoters go, we are willing to play just about anywhere thats reasonable as far as travel expenses will allow us to go!
Symphony of Heaven have a new single out called “In Anger’s Midst” and will be releasing an EP early in 2024. Keep up with the band via their website here: https://symphony-of-heaven.com