I bet you weren’t expecting that title. Here’s the thing: I’ve always “enjoyed” hardcore/screamo/rapcore/metal music, but it’s always been a guilty pleasure. You’re not likely to finish a Tool album feeling uplifted.
More recently, however, I have done some reflecting on why I resonate with hardcore music, and I’m convinced that there’s something to it. My goal is not to convince you to start listening to Metallica, but everything is worthy of theological reflection, so this should be beneficial for you Yanni fans as well.
I’m not a very angry person. Most things slide off my back. Plus I don’t have a very difficult life. So why is it that when I listen to Rage Against the Machine shouting out the injustices of working on “Maggie’s Farm,” I’m ready track down Maggie and take her farm by storm? I mean, really. Something about the pent up aggression in the music of Tool, Deftones, Rage, and other bands gets me riled up.
So here’s the question: is that necessarily bad?
There are a few things to consider here. First of all, if anger is always evil, then we can rule out most hardcore music right away. But here’s the thing: anger isn’t always bad. Paul tells us: “Be angry and do not sin” (Eph. 4:26). Now, I think it’s very difficult for us to be angry without sinning, and that’s why Paul follows this with a warning to not let the sun go down on our anger. But he is not condemning all anger. As a matter of fact, God himself is described as angry. When his people sin and reject him, God gets angry.
If we live in a world that has been twisted by sin (and we do), then we will find plenty of injustices to be angry about. Anger is the appropriate response to many of the things that happen in the world. Of course, we need to be careful about how we respond to that anger, but the anger itself is a right response to injustice (coupled with things like sadness and longing).
Let’s take Rage Against the Machine as an example. They were definitely angry. And their form of anger aligned closely with Marxism. Karl Marx was angry because he looked at the fruit of the Industrial Revolution and saw injustice. Here were people taking good means of production and perverting them by pursuing obscene profits at any cost. The cost was overworked men, women, and children who were being treated as less than human. Marx’s solution was overly optimistic about mankind’s ability to govern himself, but he was right to be angry at these injustices.
So with Rage Against the Machine. Much of their yelling stems from anger over exploitation and a misuse of power. So we can yell along with them. I’m not saying that everything they yell about is right on, or that yelling is necessarily the right response (it certainly can’t be the sum total of our response), but I think we can safely affirm the outcry over injustice.
Not every hardcore band is legitimately concerned with injustice. Even Rage Against the Machine yelled about a lot of things besides injustice, including how amazing they were. So it’s not that yelling in itself is a good thing. But I think this type of music taps into a side of the world that we all experience. Something is horribly wrong, and the proper response is to cry out. I think that Edvard Munch’s famous painting “The Scream” captures this well. The world is not what it ought to be. Screaming is appropriate.
So let’s affirm the yelling, at least in some respects. But let’s not pretend that everything in every hardcore song is worth affirming. Let’s still stand against those aspects of hardcore music that represent idolatry. But when we find ourselves resonating with the outrage in hardcore music, let’s remember that there is indeed something wrong with the world, this “something wrong” must be opposed, and the solution is found in Jesus Christ alone.