Tampa, Florida's Underoath have been at the forefront of a Christian metalcore explosion over the past decade, releasing seven albums since 1999 and establishing themselves as one of the most successful Christian metal acts of all time. The band has never been big on proselytizing or outright "worship music." Instead, they simply write songs with generally positive messages and don't shy away from their faith when asked about it. Call it the "soft sell" approach.
Suffolk, England's Cradle of Filth, on the other hand, have made a habit of mocking Christianity at nearly every opportunity. While direct references to Satanism in their music are few and far between, the corpse-painted, symphonic black metal band has delighted in taking frequent jabs at holy rollers over the course of their two-decade, nine-album career. To wit: an infamous Cradle of Filth T-shirt featuring a masturbating nun on the front with the phrase "Jesus is a cunt" emblazoned in large letters on the back has been banned in New Zealand and has allegedly earned fines and court appearances for some fans ballsy enough to wear it in public.
Coincidentally, the bands' latest albums - Cradle of Filth's Darkly, Darkly, Venus Aversa and Underoath's Ø (Disambiguation) - were released within a week of each other last November and their subsequent tours have seen the bands playing gigs in the same towns (in the Valley's case, the same venue) within days of each other. With Underoath stopping at the Marquee Theatre this week and Cradle of Filth playing the same venue 10 days later, we decided to ask a member of each band the same five questions about religion and music. Here are the results:
New Times: What role should religion play in popular music? Do you think bands have an obligation to express their religious beliefs (or lack thereof) through their music?
Daniel Davison (drummer, Underoath): I don't think so. I think it's pretty personal. It differs from person to person and from band to band. Even within those bands, there's gonna be differing views and differing opinions. I don't think there's an obligation by any means, coming from any religious point of view. I think it's totally a personal thing, and it depends on what that particular person in that particular band feels, you know.
Paul Allender (lead guitarist, Cradle of Filth): Music is for everyone and should be enjoyed by everyone, but personally, I think that if anyone expresses or pushes their religious beliefs through music, it's wrong.
NT: Why do you think heavy metal in particular has seen such a dramatic increase in Christian bands over the past decade or so?
DD: I don't know. That's a good question. I think that in the early 2000s, there were a handful of Christian bands, or kind of like a whole scene of Christian bands that rose to the forefront of heavy music in general. When that happened, I think it kind of opened up a lot of doors for other Christian bands to be like "Oh, okay, we don't have to just stay in this scene. We can just be a band that happens to be affiliated with Christian music." So I think they were probably there all along. Or maybe not. I don't know. When that scene of bands kinda got big and broke out into just being in the regular, normal scene of bands, that probably helped the influx of those style of bands. I think it happened with other genres too, but yeah, it does seem like in the heavy music scene, it is a little more prevalent.
PA: It has? I haven't noticed to be honest, because I'm not religious. I haven't looked for such things, but back in the '80s there were bands like Stryper who sang about such things.
NT: How important are lyrical themes to you when you listen to music? Would you listen to a band that plays great music but writes lyrics that contradict your beliefs?
DD: Yeah, I mean, I don't listen to a band or not listen to band based on lyrical content, but I can definitely appreciate good lyrics - like thought-out, smart lyrics - no matter what the content, really. I can just appreciate when people put time and thought into their lyrics.
PA: I don't listen to vocals when I'm listening to music. I'm more into the music that's going on. If I did listen to the vocals, I wouldn't be so narrow-minded to not to listen to something that is "against my beliefs." (Laughs) If it's good then its good!
NT: What's the worst thing someone has said or written about you or your band because of your stance on Christianity?
DD: As far as Underoath goes, I've only been in the band for about 10 months I guess, so less than a year. I think Underoath is kind of established enough to where that's not really a main issue anymore. I don't think that they've received a lot of flak about it. And then in my previous band, Norma Jean, who was a Christian band, it was kind of the same. I think both of those bands are not the kind of band that's trying to force anything on anybody, but just kind of like "Hey, this is kinda who we are." So I don't think there's been much negative feedback about that, as far as I can tell.
PA: (Laughs) What stance on Christianity? Everyone is entitled to their own opinions. No one has ever said anything about us in this vein.
NT: What's your opinion of the other band in this story? Do you listen to them? Is there anything you'd like to say to them?
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DD: (Laughs) I honestly don't really have much of an opinion on them. I don't listen to a whole lot of death metal or black metal or whatever they're considered, so no, I don't think I'd have anything to say to them, but I definitely don't have anything against them or anything negative to say.
PA: I have no idea who they are. Never heard of them. Who are they?
Underoath is scheduled to perform on Tuesday, January 25, at the Marquee Theatre in Tempe.