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Is there a place for Christianity in heavy music?

(Image credit: Alex Bemis)

Metal has always been prided itself in giving outsiders a place to feel safe. It's also made a name for itself as being anti-religious. From the early days of Black Sabbath (Tommy Iommi was raised a Catholic), through to Venom and Motley Crue, and of course black metal: Taake, Rotting Christ and Behemoth, are just a few to have raised a few eyebrows with their deeply anti-religious rhetoric. Heavy metal has given many an escape from devout doctrine.

But is playing metal, by its very definition, a "Satanic" or anti-religious act? The Christian metalcore scene proves that it isn't, but even within this subsection of the metal scene, some members are beginning to move away from the church. 

Why? Does metal make you question everything? Or does it merely give you a new community, one where you are free to break the restraints of the puritanical values of the American South, in particular?

One band who have done just this are Gideon. Established in Alabama in 2008, the metalcore quartet embraced their Southern Baptist upbringing with their lyrical themes, sound and of course, band name.

The band were picked up in 2011 by the smaller label division Strike First Records of Christian rock label, Facedown Records – fitting neatly amongst the Christian hardcore and metalcore acts within the label's roster. 

But after success as a Christian metal band, they, like many who leave their homes and experience a myriad of cultures, began to lose faith in God – and they've reflected this by throwing away the rule book and creating music on their own terms, ignoring expectations.

Their last album, 2017's Cold, marks the beginning of this departure from their Christian rock roots with its more bitter and aggressive sound. And with Out Of Control, the band have further pushed the boundaries, with an eclectic mix of melodic hardcore, metalcore, outlaw country, even a little hip hop. While the band are keen to stick to their Southern roots, they are renouncing their Christianity once and for all.

Check out their brand new single, Sleep, taken from the forthcoming new record, below:

We spoke to drummer, Jake Smelley, to find out whether or not he thinks there is still a role for Christianity within metal, despite his new found secularity...

Jake Smelley: Is there a place for Christianity in heavy music?

"Music should be an outlet, a way for you to express your emotions and to express what you’ve been going through. As I got older, it became harder to express myself within the Christian metalcore genre guidelines, to talk about my struggles and having to write about something that I was, in fact, questioning. 

"Growing up in the South, you learned quick that people don’t like it when you question things, especially things that they’re scared to question. So I was put into a box, musically and personally.

"It comes to a point where you’re afraid of being yourself, a fear of even coming out to talk about how you feel about these bigger issues. Because it doesn’t just affect you. It affects your family, the people you’ve met, people that believe to the core. 

"Because when someone believes in a religion so strongly, and you question that, if someone really cares about you, they think you’re going to hell. And not only are you going to hell, you’re a stumbling block to those around you and could cause others to stumble or stray. You become a problem.

"Gideon has gotten a lot of backlash lately - with people asking questions like “Are you taking back your Christian lyrics?” or “Do you think Christianity is stupid?”. They’ll even post our lyrics back to us. 

"Truly, Christian metalcore was there for me in a time when I needed it and provided me an outlet. I’m thankful for it. 

"But over the years our relationship has changed. And I’ve changed. The music got me out of where I was but I wasn’t fully prepared for where life was going to take me.

"To the people who aren’t satisfied, if you don’t like what I’m writing, I encourage you to write your own music and put what you’re feeling into it. 

"Christian metalcore has its place within metal - and it’s kept alive by those need it. That’s just not me anymore.

"The future of this band will be what it’s always been - question everything, seek truth and stay true to who you are. ‘Out of Control’ has brought up a lot about where I’m from in the south and the fences people set up around themselves. 

"My next mission, my goal, is to touch on things that keep people caged in, that I’ve seen first hand lead to substance abuse, depression. The things that keep people scared. 

"It’s awful what this place can do to you, but it’s my home and my love for this place drives me to stand up for people that are going through their own hard times. That’s what lead us to this point. This definitely isn’t the end of the story. It’s just the beginning."

Gideon's new album Out Of Control is out October 11 via Rude Records/Equal Vision Records and available to pre-order now.

Gideon are touring with Stray From The Path, The Devil Wears Prada, and Loathe in December. Grab your tickets here!