Monday, August 12, 2013

Heaven's in Here!

Sure, this, that and the other type of music is, was or has always been the devil's music. And the devil's music has been done to... death (cue maniacal laughter). And we all know that half of this devil-worship idea is purely an act by those rockers seeking publicity and attention. But what about the other side of the equation? Is there any music (other than gospel) that is imbued with angel-stuffing? A high-minded cream-filled holy christian centre? A thin wafer of heaven? An unwitting or unsuspected host of the holy ghost?

Perhaps, like Stairway to Heaven's supposed backwards messages we can find God hidden in the grooves of a rock record or some other such unexpected place. Let's take a quick search...

Nirvana's Serve the Servants. In a song that is certainly mostly about his own personal life, Kurt Cobain keeps repeating the line "Serve the Servants". Well, the idea of serving the servants is not exclusively a christian idea, but: "Jesus called them [his disciples] to Himself and said to them, “You know that those who are considered rulers over the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you shall be your servant. And whoever of you desires to be first shall be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.” Mark 10:42-45

How can you possibly find The Lord in a Guns N' Roses album? Just last month I was blogging about how they appeared to have written a racist song just for the sake of it, and here I am writing about how they wrote a gospel song. Yes, a gospel song called Paradise City. If you take a internet search and sit through some videos of covers of the song, you'll notice that various choirs around the world have picked up on this songs' obvious gospel-sounding characteristics. And though the original Guns N' Roses first album cover was banned, the one they replaced it with was, ironically, in the shape of a cross with the skull-heads of all the members of the band at each end of the cross. Certainly Slash's most famous guitar solos are blues-influenced, and there certainly was an air of mayhem and catastrophe about the band, but gospel? Surely i must be joking. Well, no I'm not. Paradise City is most definitely, in structure and in message a gospel tune, sung by a former Pentechostal church choir singer named Axl Rose.

Perhaps if all those holier-than-thou radio-unfriendly-evangelist wannabes in the late seventies and early eighties listened to Led Zeppelin forwards instead of backwards, they might have noticed the lyrics to a song that could be considered a modern-day requiem. It's called In My Time of Dying, and sure, the blues was once considered the devil's music before heavy metal was ever invented, but this song by Led Zeppelin, borrowing the tradition of a combination of several other blues artists is clearly about one thing and one thing only. It's a man praying/pleading for his everlasting soul to be carried to heaven.

 If you've noticed a pattern to this blog so far, you'll see I've obviously taken some of the most famous bands associated with the cliche of an excessive lifestyle and devil-worship and turned them on their heads. If we can take another twist of this idea, we could be more pro-active about the lord, rather than just always reacting to the criticism hurled by those who portend to be holier than those of us who listen to the 'devil's music'.

Starting with the band that made famous the palindrome "Satan oscillate my metallic sonatas"
In 1992, Soundgarden wrote the song 'Jesus Christ Pose' in obvious deference to certain televangelists that were preaching on T.V. and constantly asking poor, uneducated and altogether too-trusting 'believers' for more money. The most famous of these scumbags was one Jim Bakker and his then wife Tammy Faye who's PTL-club were charged with numerous
counts of fraud by selling lifetime memberships to their religious club for $1000 a pop. Tammy Faye was allegedly as naive as she appeared to be in front of the camera, but there was a gigantic scandal when Jim Bakker went to prison. However, neither their scandal, nor the righteous anger of the song Jesus Christ Pose could take the evangelists off the television. Today, there are still several preachers asking for money and donation on tv, they just have better bookkeeping and sell less interesting stuff. And while Tammy Faye passed away in 2007, Jim Bakker is apparently still preaching on radio somewhere in Missouri, and apparently still owes the IRS $6 million. Soundgarden is purported, on more than a few occasions, to introduce the song 'Jesus Christ Pose' in their concerts by saying simply 'This one is for Jesus'.

Perhaps however, we can take this whole thing one step further and defend some of those falsely accused. Iron Maiden is a band that has been accused of Devil-worship ever since the Number of The Beast album came out in 1983. Back then, many christians supposedly feared for the souls of their children because this band had put out an album with one of the coolest covers ever. Apparently the image of the band's mascot representing the Beast ruling a demon-scape world, as described in the book of revelations, was enough to cause christian parents to think their sons and daughters had taken up the cause for the other side. The truth is that, despite the 'Revelations' connection, God and religion come into question more powerfully in the song Hallowed Be Thy Name than on the title track. Needless to say, the album and the band succeeded despite the christian backlash, and a couple of decades later, after a couple of line-up shuffles and a lengthy hiatus in the late nineties, Maiden returned to form with their 2003 Dance of Death album which contained a song called Montségur.

Montségur is both about a place and a historical event. In the middle ages, beginning in 1209 the Pope Innocent III began the 'Albigensian Crusade' to rid the world of the Cathars, an outside sect of Christianity that had been deemed heretics and lived mostly in the south of France and northern Italy. How can you tell a Cathar from a Catholic? According to Arnauld Amalric: "Kill them all. The Lord knows his own." For the next half-century, the Cathars were rounded up and either killed en masse or forced to recant their religion in favour of the catholic church or face death. The greatest stronghold of the Cathars was in the citadel at the top of a mountain called Montségur, where they withstood a 9-month siege by over 10,000 soldiers of the archdiocese of Narbonne. In the end, the Cathars surrendered and it's estimated that 220 were burned alive at the foot of the mountain when they refused to recant their faith.
This sort of act would be unthinkable in this modern day, but in writing and singing a song about such a hellish massacre, perhaps Maiden were taking a poke at their former critics and suggesting that those catholics haven't been so innocent and neither was their Pope in 1209

And finally, there's this...
In 1966, Howlin' Wolf, in discussing 'What is the blues?', not only answers the question, but follows up with the idea that both the blues and 'thinking evil' has something to do with money. I think he might be right. Strange that an African American Blues player would make that connection before all the supposedly more religious and holy citizens of the world, but then again... maybe he knows from experience.

Thus concludes my blog on Christian Rock. I'm sorry if it wasn't what you expected. Perhaps you expected a hokey-jokey exposé on some of the christian metal of the 80s. Or maybe you would like to have watched a video by Stryper or other such upfront christian band. In that case you can go here. However, if christian-metal really is your thing, then for all their strypey-ness, Stryper is nothing compared to a band called Deliverance.

Amen and Godspeed.