By Carl C. Sundberg
In a day and age where metal music has fractioned off into an evergrowing assortment of sub genres and cliques, it’s hard to keep track of all the mutations. But there is one breed of metal that stands out amongst the heard like a pink sheep: Christian death metal.
There may not be three words that raise more eyebrows in the metal world than these, especially when pieced together to describe a band. To the common person, it seems like an easy target of ridicule. Amongst death metal fans, the criticism is even sharper. But In the Midst of Lions, a young band from St. Louis, have gone through this on more than one occasion. “I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard, ‘Christian death metal’, that doesn’t make any sense,” says drummer Alex Livingston.
With a name taken from a verse in the bible, In The Midst of Lions seems beyond brave to attempt to play, with a straight face, “vicious deathcore in the service of a higher power.” Christians could easily take offense to using violent death metal to promote god, and death metal fans could easily take offense that ‘their’ music is being used to promote god. Either way, it seems like an oxymoron. But Livingston has heard from both sides of the aisle. “Especially the older crowd, they usually seem to not get the point,” says Livingston. “But we’ve played with god-hating bands and everything’s fine and everyone gets along. That’s the great thing about it, we can give our testimony and share the gospel with kids who are never going to go to a church, are never going to open their ear to god, so it makes a lot more sense to me to do this than to just be a praise band, where the only people you’re going to attract are Christians.”
And with their over the top deathcore fury, In the Midst of Lions just might reach beyond the church aisles. With their debut album, Out of the Darkness, they seem to embody all the thunderous fury and technical stunt trickiness of modern death metal, ala Meshuggah, Born of Osiris and Emmure. There is no mistaking the intensity of this Christian band. “Our vocalist Matt is really into old-school, heavy death metal,” says Livingston, “and our guitarist has been a metal head all his life, that’s all he’s ever listened to, so that’s where our roots are.” Their breed of sinister-sounding, down-tuned deathcore quickly gained attention from Faceless Records, who signed the band less than a year after they formed. “It happened pretty fast,” Livinston says, “It’s still unreal to all of us, I still don’t consider myself in a signed band or any kind of big band, I look at us like a bunch of guys playing in a local band. I kind of forget sometimes.”
What Livingston does not forget, however, is that he is Christian first and foremost and his music is ultimately the mechanism of his message. But it wasn’t always this way. “We actually come from very terrible backgrounds,” says Livingston, “Sam and I always claimed to be Christian, but I was a drug abuser, I was a sex addict, I got kicked out school stealing laptops, I was a real bad kid. I never really knew Christ. Sam was the same way. He was addicted to coke, he was a sex addict, he robbed houses. He’s from New Mexico and him and his friends just wreaked terror. Matt and Ryan were actually atheists up until two years ago. So we all came from drug-using, sex-abusing backgrounds, we were very bad people.” The band then found God and decided they wanted their band to be Christian from the start. And believe it or not, the furious death howls and mosh-ready riffs are the sound of a band whose faith was strengthened by making this music. “I’ve become so much stronger with God just from being in the band and going out and playing shows and talking to kids and ministering,” Livingston says. Because they are all on the same page with their faith, the guys feel accountable to each other’s standards, thus making a brotherhood that becomes more powerful with every show. Because with each show there is another opportunity to spread their gospel, another chance to chat with fans about the good word of Christ onstage and after the show. “We try to give at least two testimonials every night,” Livingston says. “And they’re pretty long testimonies and we encourage kids that if they want to talk to please come talk to us if their having problems, or if you want a prayer or if you just don’t believe in God at all. We’re trying to be there for the kids, we’re not just giving them a show, but we’re there as friends as well.” Which is something rare in this day and age: A band that wants to be your friend, a band that genuinely cares about their fans. Beneath the head-snapping riffs and demon-beast vocals is a band of brothers who are just trying to do the right thing. And you can’t fault a band for that, Christian or otherwise.
Originally published on 101d.com