Hark! Christian Metalcore Rises Again!

Christian metalcore band Underoath at Warehouse Live in 2011.
Christian metalcore band Underoath at Warehouse Live in 2011.
Photo by Kendra Berglund

Of all the metal subgenres, the most difficult to explain might be Christian metal. We all know a lot of Christian rock is garbage; a marketing tactic employed by drug-addled Pearl Jam ripoffs like Creed. [We think NEEDTOBREATHE is pretty okay — ed.] But Christian metal, especially Christian metalcore, is a confusing label because in its time it was actually pretty great. But its time passed about a decade ago.

In the intervening years, not much has been made of the little subgenre that could. Definitely it spawned some influential bands in metal and hardcore, like the Chariot, but it has largely fallen into that weird space of music people simply associate with their childhood. Could that be changing? Could Christian metalcore be resurging? There are a few reasons to believe it might be time to revisit all those CDs you buried from your memory.

A quick aside. While it never mattered to me as I was not raised in a religious household, Christian metalcore meant everything to my friends whose parents, living in the Bible belt of Houston also known as Tomball, refused to allow them to listen to any other kind of heavy music. Their parents would read the lyrics written by bands like the Acacia Strain and burn the CDs and T-shirts.

But Underoath was perfectly okay, because they were Christian. It was a gateway for so many kids I knew to be able to listen to the kind of music they enjoyed without judgment, and may be the reason the subgenre manages to persist. Also, some of the music was actually quite well done. The aforementioned the Chariot was one of the greatest live hardcore bands to ever do it, and their music was both complex and insane.

All that being said, while most of the bands from the scene remain forgotten relics in 2015, some are experiencing new found popularity. After raising enough money to record a reunion album on IndieGoGo, Haste the Day returned last month with their new record, Coward. Composed of members from all their various lineups, Coward features a new, much heavier sound for the revitalized band, and it shows that bands like these can still be relevant creative forces today.

Meanwhile, even bands like Underoath, who broke up a few years ago, are still popular, if not more so than when they were still a band. A documentary surrounding their final tour entitled Tired Violence is coming this year, and it shows that the band is still going strong even in death, with the members even teasing an eventual reunion one day. And during this year's SXSW, I saw a lot of metal bands, but one stood out in particular: old-school Christian metalcore band Norma Jean. They never called it quits even after multiple lineup changes, and their most recent album came out in 2013.

I saw them perform when Wrongdoers was new that year, and they sounded tired. Now two years later, I saw them put on their best performance yet at Dirty Dog Bar in Austin. In just two years, they've gone from a nostalgia act to one of the best metal acts I've seen in a long time. What happened?

My guess is that with more and more kids coming around to this stuff, a new generation of youngsters experiencing the same things my generation came up with, these bands are finding their footing all over again. Christian metalcore isn't just a shared memory between myself and my friends from high school anymore. It's a living, breathing genre that is once again giving power to bands who thought their spotlight was done for good.


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