Roughly 15 years after the Jesus Movement began on the West Coast and moved steadily east, Christian metal became “a thing.” There were hints on the radio that Christian music was no longer relegated to sanctuaries – – a nun sang “The Lord’s Prayer,” The Doobie Brothers declared that “Jesus is Just Alright” are just two examples. In the meantime, heavy metal began to evolve and by the middle of the 1980s, the two ideas that seemed most disparate in all of Western culture, heavy metal and Christianity, came together in the work of numerous bands. Among them were Saint and Bloodgood. The two stand out because the examples of their work to be discussed sound nothing like what a large number of audiences thought Christian metal should sound like. Bloodgood and Saint performed music that was decidedly heavy, but also unapologetically Christian.
Bloodgood and Saint, and the compilation cassette that brought them together
For listeners who lived in smaller markets, particularly those who resided in places where heavy metal was under heavy scrutiny, recordings found in unexpected places, such as discount department stores, could be untapped sources of inspiration.
In the late 1980s, a cassette (and perhaps an album, too) began to quietly make its way onto store shelves. There was little in the way of fanfare and promotion, not even, if memory serves, ads in popular heavy metal magazines, no radio spots, nothing. It was as though the recordings were simply placed on shelves for the right customers to find.
What was most impressive for youth contingents that wanted to mix their faith with the music they loved, was that there were several bands, even for a true compilation. In addition to Petra, there were two heavy-sounding bands, Bloodgood and Saint. The songs they had on the compilation (whose title eludes research efforts) did not disappoint.
“Crucify” by Bloodgood
A throbbing bass line runs throughout this pounder of a track. That, coupled with thundering drums, makes the essential story of Easter sound different. The lyrics are from the perspective of Pontius Pilate, who, according to the song, feels pressured into declaring that Jesus must be crucified. The backing vocals take on the qualities of a Grecian chorus, and the persistent cry of “Crucify!” makes listeners understand the point of view of a much-disliked figure from the Bible. Audiences are made privy to the leader’s thought process “I have the power to free him,” Pilate considers. Finally, the pressure is too much, “Ahh! Take him!” he screams in the end.
The song allows the vocalist to use the high notes present in so much of heavy metal singing to illustrate the mental anguish of Pilate. The line, “I wash my hands of this man’s blood,” further draws his character.
“Time’s End” by Saint
Saint is another band from the Pacific Northwest (Salem, Oregon) that showed that there were harder approaches to Christian metal than the ones made popular by big labels. (Bloodgood was from Seattle, Washington).
The song is about what a person would observe after the end of the world. It illustrates the teaching that the world will end and unpleasantries will reign. The lyrics aren’t always clear, but there is an obvious discussion of scurrying, and the gruff vocals over a relentless metal soundtrack make the song a proper Christian metal tune. Here, just like with Bloodgood, high notes are used to punctuate an idea in the lyrics. The song doesn’t relent until the end, and even then, it consists mostly of a key change and a guitar playing a chugging riff, as opposed to all the instrumentation creating an orchestra of metal.
Christian metal proves that there are always variants in subgenres. It encourages listeners to learn that Christian metal doesn’t embody just one sound. The disappointing aspect was that the audiences weren’t bigger. But given the almost secretive nature of the releases, it is a wonder the audiences for bands like Bloodgood and Saint existed at all.