Christian music has come a long way over the years. Not everybody is doing just praise songs anymore. The genre of Christian music has been diversified into many sub-genres, including rock, metal, punk, pop, rap, etc. Sometimes this can make Christian bands and artists seem a little more mainstream, but they're still able to keep their faith and keep themselves separate from the non-Christian artists. There are a whole bunch of bands that have captured my attention (and, more importantly, my ears), all of them being mingled into the rock/metal sub-genre, with some containing a bit of pop and what-have-you. I just want to share with you some of my favorites. I'll say how I found them, why I like them, and what songs are my favorite. Heck, I'll even do it in alphabetical order. Let's get this show on the road.
DECYFER DOWN: Decyfer Down has a harder, post-metal sound to them. Though they can sound really heavy musical wise, Decyfer Down is one of the few bands I listen to that doesn't rock it hard vocally. They only have two albums out so far, "End of Grey" and "Crash", and I own both, receiving one as a birthday present and the other for Christmas. The cool thing about both of these is that they're both MP3 downloads. As stated before, while these guys can lay down a fairly heavy beat when they want to, they don't do any of the throat-shredding other bands I listen to do. "End of Grey" seems to be an album that talks about our fall from grace and our lives in sin, especially with tracks such as "Break Free," "Fight Like This," and "Vanity." "Crash" sounds like a album dedicated to the message of the fight for survival despite opposition. Interestingly, Decyfer Down had a lead singer switch after "End of Grey," so there's a second vocalist on "Crash." Luckily, though, T.J. Harris doesn't sound too different from his predecessor, so the change does little to draw attention away from the music. My favorite song of theirs is "Fight Like This" from "End of Grey." With a powerful opener and really good lyrics, "Fight Like This" is a call for arms that drives home the message of the CD.
DISCIPLE: Disciple is Christian metal. They've been around for a while, but I've only gotten interested in them recently. The only album I have of theirs is "Horseshoes and Handgrenades," which I received as a Christmas present this year. The CD describes spiritual warfare as a battlefield. It goes through the inner struggle we suffer inside. Songs such as "Battle Lines" give images of a real war going on. For all those war shooters, such as Call of Duty and Modern Warfare, this would be the perfect accompanying soundtrack. With lead singer Kevin Young leading the charge, Disciple smashes their way with heavy guitars, drums, and lyrics. My favorite song has to be "Battle Lines." It's a song that basically says that it's time to draw lines and choose sides for the war being fought between the forces of the light and the armies of darkness. With heavy beats backing the tracks, "Horseshoes and Handgrenades" is an album from a veteran band that knows that they're doing.
PILLAR: This is a Christian band that can be classified as pop and rock combined. I found them while I was listening to the radio. I heard a song I liked, but I didn't know who performed it. After a bit of Facebooking (great way to look for music, FYI), I'd found them. I listened to a few previews of their songs and my attention was grabbed. I added their latest release "Confessions" onto my Christmas list last year, and-lo and behold-I got it. Since then, I have also received their albums "For The Love of The Game" and "Where Do We Go From Here." "Confessions" achieves that rare opportunity of being a CD where I like nearly every track. The other two albums are good, but I like "Confessions" the best. Pillar is a fun band to listen to because they're not just a rock band, but they're not just all pop either. They do a good job of combining those two elements, and even add great guitars and drums, plus Rob Beckley's wonderful voice. My favorite Pillar song has got to be "Frontline" from "Where Do We Go From Here." With a hit of an opener, a fun chorus, and a cool break-down, "Frontline" speaks like the band in on a battlefield, right on the front. A total fist-pumper that gets your blood going.
RED: Red can be considered Christian metal. I found them like I did Pillar, through radio and Facebook. Though, whereas I have only one Pillar CD, I have three for Red, all of which I bought, which was a rather new for me to do. I heard their song "Faceless" on the radio, and soon bought the CD it was on. Being a fan of Christian rock and metal, Red fits right into what type of music I was looking for. "Until We Have Faces," (released this year and named off the C.S. Lewis book)"Innocence and Instinct," and "End of Silence" are three great CDs, the first describing the need to find one's true identity, the second being focused upon the struggle man's soul endures, and the third speaking about redemption. One of the harder bands I listen to, Red is good because they have wonderful lyrics and great music, many of their tracks satisfying my urge to find songs that have both a dramatic opening and an awesome chorus. Michael Barnes' vocals put a fiery passion (if not just fire) into their songs, followed by hard-hitting drums and blasting guitar rifs. My favorite song has to be "Feed The Machine" from "Until We Have Faces." Interestingly enough, it's a song that doesn't fit what you would typically find from a Christian band. It's about how the world wants to suck us in, but, instead of trying to pull us away, Red sarcastically urges "Go ahead. See what happens" like some sort of a dare. At the end, however, the song switches gears and tells us to fight against the world before fading away into a slow melody of violin strings. Backed with a great, rocking opener and intense lyrics that get your heart pumping, "Feed the Machine" is one of Red's best.
RELIENT K: These guys may be one of the very first Christian rock bands I ever listened to. It all began when my dad started accumulating CDs of theirs, which we would listen to in the car. When I finally purchased my own music player, these guys went straight on. For a long time Relient K was my favorite band, until they were booted down a notch or two by Skillet. That still doesn't mean they're any less of an awesome band than they are. Having produced many CDs, Relient K have kept listeners entertained for years. The cool thing about Relient K is that they're just fun to listen to. Never too hard, never too soft, Relient K achieves a certain balance with many of their songs. Many of their tracks can be just plain funny, with songs from talking about the TV show Thundercats to about the lead singer Matthew Thiessen losing his cell phone on a roller coaster. The other thing that makes these guys fun to listen to is the fact that Matt is just such a great songwriter. The words and rhymes he comes up with are ingenious and make for smooth and flowing lyrics. When added to enjoyable music, Relient K is definitely a band to listen to again and again. My favorite song of theirs has to be "Be My Escape" from their "Mmhmm" CD. "Mmhmm" is actually another one of those CDs were practically every song is a great classic, but I like "Be My Escape" the best. It's basically a song of how we're trapped and how we need God to help us get out. With that great message behind it and (once again) a hit of an opener, Relient K created a song I will listen to over and over.
SENT BY RAVENS: Sent By Ravens is a post-metal band. The most recent band I've found, I heard Sent By Ravens on the radio and liked their stuff, so I bought their only two albums, "Our Graceful Words" and "Mean What You Say," off of Amazon. They seem to be made up of some younger guys, but they have really good talent. Zach Riner has one of the better voices I've heard in a while. Maybe it's an age thing. Not afraid to rock out with both guitars and vocals, Sent By Ravens is talented and both of their albums have very great songs. "Our Graceful Words" is an album really about faith in different areas of our lives, whether to God or to those we love. "Mean What You Say" is about the power of words, which is emphasized is tracks such as "Mean What You Say" and "We're All Liars." My favorite song is "New Fire" from "Our Graceful Words." After wrenching out an awesome, head-banger of an intro, it heads right into having a new fire of faith within us, following the vein of the overarcing message of the CD.
SKILLET: Now, we get to the really good stuff. Skillet may be my favorite rock band ever. The way I found them is rather interesting too. I had recorded one of their songs on my MP3 player, and I played it in the car one night. That was it. Around comes my birthday, 2009, and, to my surprise, I get the "Awake" CD with the song on it. Happy Birthday to me. That song I recorded, "Hero," has gone on to be one of my favorite songs of all time, if not my favorite song ever. I would put Skillet's level of rock between Red and Pillar. One of the reasons I like them is because Skillet was probably the first "adult" band I got into. Before, my MP3 player had only Relient K and Wedding songs, and these bands have younger members. Skillet's members are older, and, as such, this provides music with better experience and better sounds. Their three CDs I own-"Awake," "Comatose," and "Collide"-are some of my favorites of all time and are full of both rocking tracks and slower ones, both types being equally enjoyable to listen. While I've heard it said that "Awake" is much like "Comatose," I believe that each CD has its own identity as the band has grown. My favorite song is, no surprise, "Hero." Once again, the beginning is intense and great to hear, so much so that it has driven me to teach myself how to play it on our piano. The chorus is great and the words put a tune in your head that's hard to let go of. It explains the need for a hero to save us, a hero I believe is God. A great song for both Christian music listeners and mainstream listeners alike and one of the greatest tracks that will ever be on my MP3 player.
THE WEDDING: At first glance, a band called "The Wedding" might mot be the title you would think a rock band would take on. But if you hear their music, it should erase all doubt. Though some of their songs add in elements of trumpets, bagpipes, and other sounds, their main label is rock. This band's first lead singer was actually my cousin, Kevin Kiehn (yes, Wikipedia, it's "Kiehn" and not "Keihn"), and his song-writing ability is impressive. Their first two CDs are "The Wedding" and "Polarity." Both are full of fun tracks that include soft songs, rock songs, and some harder, louder tracks. The band does a good job at making a blend of different styles of music and different types of singing. This is what makes them fun to listen to. They're able to balance it out and not use too much of either soft rock or hard rock. They won't lull you to sleep, but they won't make your ears ring for hours on end either. It's hard for me to select a favorite song with these guys, which is good. That just means that they have so many great songs. And they do. I think, if I had to choose, it would probably have to be "Move This City" from their first CD "The Wedding." The song is like a call out to us to get up and do something. The chorus is intriguing because it mingles words and "whoas" and "yeahs" together. And it say that, even if we fail, we get back up and keep on trying until we accomplish something. A great song that tells us to keep persevering.
THOUSAND FOOT KRUTCH: Last but not least is Thousand Foot Krutch. One of the most recent band I've run into, I bought their newest CD-"Welcome to the Masquerade"-because of, believe it or not, two soft songs, "Already Home" and "Look Away." I heard them on the radio and got them in my head, especially the first one. After previewing some of their other songs (again, on Facebook), I was inclined to purchase the CD. Since then, I purchased an album titled "Deja Vu: The TFK Anthology," which takes three of their albums and smashes them all together into one, large CD. What makes Thousand Foot Krutch good is that they aren't a total rock band. Like Pillar, there are elements of pop and rap inside. The message in the CD "Welcome To The Masquerade" is breaking away from what the world says, much like the message in "Feed the Machine" I would say. My favorite song of theirs is definitely "Already Home." This may sound strange, since I am mostly a guy driven to like more harder songs, such as the ones listed above for the other bands. Yet, like I said before, this song got caught in my head. Though the opening is a little slow and long (50-some seconds), the words and singing of Trevor McNevan makes this song worthwhile to listen to again and again. It's a song of being at your lowest point and falling before God and seeing just how broken you are and how you mess things up so badly. A wonderful message that makes this song even better. If I were to list a favorite slow song, this would most likely be it.
That's my world of music, mostly. Those are the only bands I listen to, at least. Some of them are harder than others, some are slower. Some are better sung than others, and some can write songs better. I still like listening to each and every one of them. I hope these bands put out even betters CDs in the future and I hope to get some of the ones I don't have. While I like some bands better than others, all of them are great...and I hope to keep on listening to them in the future.