Mainstream and Christian Rock Music Reflections

AN NRT EXCLUSIVE ARTICLE, Mainstream and Christian Rock Music Reflections

Through recent conversations and events within the music scenes, I have been reflecting on the contrasting themes within Christian and mainstream rock and metal genres. It becomes evident that both musical landscapes offer unique avenues for self-expression, emotional connection, and spiritual development.

Christian rock and metal music dives deep into matters of faith, employing lyrics that uplift, inspire, and encourage listeners to embrace their beliefs’ hope and transformative power. In contrast, mainstream rock and metal explore a broader spectrum of human experiences, delving into personal struggles, societal issues, and introspective reflections.

However, what unites these genres is their ability to tap into the raw emotions of listeners, providing solace, catharsis, and a sense of belonging. Whether finding spiritual connection or resonating with relatable themes, rock and metal music, in all its variations, serves as a vessel for self-discovery, self-expression, and the profound exploration of the human experience.

Scripture often guides our everyday lives as Christians. One message that has always spoken to me on this topic is Matthew 12:34 “A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.”

Whether it’s music, media, or peers, what we put into our hearts and minds will influence how we speak and act. With this in mind, I want to share some reflections and thoughts about the contrasts and similarities between the rock and metal music scenes concerning Christianity and faith.

Themes and Lyrics

As previously mentioned, Christian rock and metal music genres predominantly revolve around faith-based themes, emphasizing lyrics centered on Christian beliefs and themes of redemption, salvation, and spiritual warfare. The lyrics often convey hope, love, or the transformative power of faith in Christ. Some bands quote scripture in their songwriting; a couple of my favorites who do this include bands like For Today, Extol, and Beard the Lion. Some bands like Phinehas, Wolves at the Gate, and Demon Hunter write music that sounds like they would blend into your readings of biblical literature, like Psalms.

One of the most notable marks of a Christian focus in the music or band is the lack of expletives. It’s almost become synonymous with the Christian music world that if there are expletives, the band probably needs to focus more on Christian messages (reflecting primarily on Ephesians 4:29).

Mainstream rock and metal genres encompass various themes, including personal experiences, relationships, social commentary, and introspection. The lyrical content can vary from introspective and emotional to rebellious and aggressive, depending on the subgenre and artist. Mainstream songwriters often write songs more directed to life’s non-spiritual struggles but still relatable as we all go through mental, emotional, and physical struggles.


Spiritual Perspective

Christian rock and metal genres provide a spiritual perspective, aiming to inspire listeners to strengthen their faith and find solace in their relationship with God. The music often serves as a medium for worship and reflection, aligning with Christian values and offering a spiritual connection.

These songwriters write from various emotional spectrums regarding their spirituality and relationship with God. Some bands like Theocracy, Crowned in Sorrow, and Stryper write songs centered on biblical teachings and stories. Some songwriters create music that resembles prophetic scripture, with a perspective that closely resembles the judgments of God in the Old Testament. Some bands, such as Impending Doom, Disciple, and With Blood Comes Cleansing, craft music that takes a direct and aggressive approach toward ungodliness.

Mainstream rock and metal genres typically focus on exploring human experiences, emotions, and societal issues from a non-religious standpoint. While they may touch on spirituality or existentialism, the focus is not on a specific faith or religious belief. Those who write about spirituality often write somberly, as it is usually from the perspective of those who were hurt by the church or Christians and reflected on their rejection and pain. In this context, hope is often left out of the scenario.


Tone and Sound

Christian rock and metal music genres exhibit various styles and subgenres, incorporating familiar rock and metal music elements. The sound can vary from melodic, old-school, and radio-friendly rock to heavier and more aggressive metal subgenres, depending on the band and their artistic direction.

The actual genres and music styles in mainstream rock and metal are similar. One of the majors would be black metal, an extreme metal genre with a few subgenres, typically excluding any singing/clean vocals. In the Christian music world, the bands who make similar music to black metal call it unblack metal (as the black metal itself is largely focused on more violent and often anti-Christian themes). The music itself isn’t unwholesome, but the lyrics are, which means unblack metal still can reach those fans of the genre but with better lyrics.

It’s worth noting that due to the vastness of the mainstream music industry, specific smaller subgenres may need to be better represented in the Christian music scene. This is because there are fewer fans and listeners (some independent bands and artists fall into this example). I enjoy listening to symphonic metal music, which is a lesser-known subgenre of Christian music. Combining beautiful melodies and biblical themes creates a sense of togetherness within the community.

Audience and Impact

Christian rock and metal genres primarily connect to a specific audience of Christian listeners who seek music that aligns with their faith and values. Music can serve as a source of encouragement, spiritual connection, and inspiration within the Christian community. Some bands lean more toward this connection with their fans and the impact they have than others. Some bands like Disciple, Seventh Day Slumber, and Stryper ensure the Gospel is heard. Tattoos are often a way fans show their long-term appreciation for groups, including Christian bands.

Mainstream rock and metal genres appeal to a broader audience, transcending religious boundaries and reaching listeners of various beliefs and backgrounds. The music can evoke emotions, provide a sense of catharsis, and resonate with individuals through its relatable themes and energetic sound. I have often found that the significance of a mainstream band’s influence on a person’s life is more surface-level than that of Christian-based ones.

Many bands, such as Switchfoot, Lifehouse, and Demon Hunter, have succeeded in both worlds. Yet, their music continues to impact people in a deeper, more profound way, as they stir spiritual conversations and speak of eternal themes – unlike most of the mainstream world.


Ryan Adams lives in Montana with his family and recently adopted a dog. He has been writing with NRT for three years.

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