Music From Hell

One radio station calls it "Heavy Metal From Hell." It's a new style of music that glorifies death, blood, and satanism. And it's called "death metal." The bands sport names like Megadeth, Slayer, Carcass. They decorate the stage with upside-down crosses and satanic pentagrams. The audience greets them with index finger and pinky raised--in the devil's horn salute. The music features fast guitar runs and pounding rhythms, but no melody. Instead, the vocals are a low, growling sound. And no wonder, given what they're singing about. Listen to these titles: "Under the Rotted Flesh," "Covered with Sores," "Raining Blood." A band called Cannibal Corpse sings about babies being torn apart. It frightens me how fast our culture is deteriorating. Only 3 decades ago, the Beatles were all the rage singing, "I wanna hold your hand." Death metal bands would be more likely to sing, "I wanna chop off your hand." Fortunately, most commercial radio stations are refusing to carry death metal music. And retailers objected when an album came out entitled "Butchered at Birth," with graphic pictures of mutilated babies. Still, death metal albums are selling by the hundreds of thousands. Concert halls are packed. Why do some teenagers like this music? Defenders of death metal say it helps kids let off steam. Megadeth says their music gives kids "an outlet to vent their frustrations, their anxieties, and their hostilities." A record producer says, "Kids are angry. They want to go out and kill people. This way, they can get it out in a civilized manner." This is what's known as catharsis theory--the idea that art gives people a harmless way to get hostility out of their system. Unfortunately, it doesn't work that way. Recently a TV talk show ran a program about children who had committed murder. Every one of them said they listened to death metal. It sure didn't get rid of their hostility. And several court cases have been brought by parents who say their children committed suicide after listening to lyrics that exalted death. No, art is not catharsis. Just the opposite: art is rehearsal. Watching or listening to other people doing something is a way of mentally rehearsing it--which makes it easier for us to do it. That's why advertisers spend untold millions of dollars every year. They know that if we see an actor using Product X, we're more likely to use it ourselves. Well, Product X may be harmless enough. But what death metal is selling is gore and destruction. When those words and images take hold in the mind of a young person, the impact is not so harmless. So when it comes to psychology, the Bible is right. It tells us that sin gets a foothold in our minds through the things we see, hear, and talk about. Like Job says, we need to make a covenant with our eyes--and with our ears--not to indulge in things that could cause us to sin. And that surely includes music glorifying blood and violence and satanism. Music that even non-Christians call "music from hell."


Chuck Colson



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