Yes, I’m actually going to talk about things that make me happy. Mark this moment. It will probably not happen again for some time.
Anyway, seeing as it was my idea to do a series of blog posts on music, it is proper that I should do so. So, here we go.
Like my previous colleague, my primary exposure to music as a youngster was to contemporary Christian music. This was at least partially because I found most pop music to be pointless, and most rock to be far too angry and vicious. However, unlike my colleague, contemporary Christian music did not leave me feeling empty inside, as I was much more willing to mine for the nuggets of goodness and used it primarily as background noise. I also have no problem with rewriting lyrics in my head if I don’t like the song.
As you might be able to tell from that paragraph, I still had a lot of problems with CCM, largely because most of the ideas being conveyed never seemed to get beyond “God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life.” While this is valuable at a certain level, getting nothing but that message from your music gives you a twisted and distorted idea of how the world works, because the world is a battlefield–and sometimes, the bad guys win–sort of. (More on that in another blog post.)
Also, I like loud music, and a lot of the loud CCM was, frankly, overdramatic and otherwise poorly written, or was written about things I really didn’t care about. However, as mentioned, I was trapped there by the fact that the ideas being conveyed elsewhere, as near as I could tell from what I was forced to listen to, were all along hedonistic or vicious lines.
Then I met Seth. And he introduced me to power metal. Specifically, Sabaton, which he introduced to me because he knew I was a history freak. New and glorious vistas opened up before me as I listened to bunch of guys from Sweden sing about Gallipoli, the Warsaw Uprising, the Battle of Bastogne, the stopping of Norwegian heavy water shipments to Germany, and World War One trench warfare. These songs told stories, stories that were worthy of the emotion being poured into them. They were well written, and they conveyed ideas that were worth the conveying–honor, loyalty, bravery, and violence in the service of ending violence.
I was in love with this genre from that moment. It understood that the world was broken, and understood that something could be done, and needed to be done, to fix that–and that sometimes this involved fighting and warfare. It was a call to fight the likes of which I’d never heard before. Now, I had heard some of Demon Hunter’s stuff, but I found it to be something of an outlier in the Christian music community–and I also found it difficult to understand what they were saying. Sabaton did not have this problem. It was around a year after this that I was introduced to Josh Garrels, who had a lot of the same themes, in an explicitly Christian style, but also sang of the things that we should fight to preserve.
Then, a little bit later, my dad introduced me to some of his music, and I found it, and some of the things I found as a result, to be excellent as well–and it was also when I finally came to accept some of the themes I once found uninteresting, because it was good to be reminded of what the wars were for. It was songs about life, and living it–if not always particularly well, at least with some kind of purpose to it that didn’t involve trampling other people or indulging in every vice known to man. (Also, hiking) Throw in a good dose of worship music and such, especially from the Glory Revealed tour, and you’ve got a decent handle on my musical tastes.
There is an underlying theme to all this, though. Something I’ve understood for a long time is that the world is not a fine place, and that fighting, be it with fire and sword or pen and word, is necessary to preserve what is good and true–but that those efforts will sometimes bear no apparent fruit whatsoever. A call to battle, therefore, is necessary–Sabaton, within Temptation, Nightwish. The worship, and some of the other, softer CCM I’ve got–Third Day, Glory Revealed, Building 429–reminds me of the overarching point of the whole thing, and the God who makes it all have a point beyond some existential cry of defiance at the forces of entropy. Aaron Copeland and some selections from a fellow name of Jay Nash remind me of the little things, while some songs just serve as memory–and a few are purely for fun. And some things cross multiple genres–Demon Hunter goes under one and two, while Sabaton falls under one and four.
There’s not a lot of music you can dance to. There’s plenty you can plan a battle to, and plenty here to live your life by–although I don’t recommend following Jay Nash or Sabaton at all times in the latter regard. However, I think pulling a life philosophy from Demon Hunter would be a pretty decent idea.
Not as good as from the Bible itself, but better than most of the other stuff out there.
Also, buy these people’s music, if you like it. Help ’em keep producing the good stuff.
‘Til next time,
Lowell Van Ness
PS: If something here confused you, comment. Of, if you don’t want to do that, wait awhile. I’ll probably talk about music again.