Black metal has evolved a lot since the early nineties. An album called Body of Christ would have caused an outrage in the early days of the genre when there was such a strong focus on the ideological identity of it. I think it is safe to say that openly Christian black metal bands (if you want to call them “Christian bands”) still aren’t fully accepted by a majority of black metal fans and musicians, but there is definitely a positive development going on with the genre becoming more open and open-minded in regards to both the musical style and the lyrical content and ideologies of the bands involved. As a Christian and a black metal enthusiast myself, I am always happy to see bands who make high-quality black metal with a strong Christian message, thus staying true to both the genre and their faith, proving that black metal isn’t necessarily connected to one specific ideology but is a medium that can basically convey whatever message you want.
Body of Christ is an ambitious split album by three Christian underground black metal projects, namely TIMŌRĀTUS (USA), Symphony of Heaven (USA) and Bismoth (South Africa). The album clocks in at 38 minutes, spread over six tracks, two by each of the three artists. Each band plays a different style of black metal, from TIMŌRĀTUS’ ethereal, melodic post-black metal, through Symphony of Heaven’s more aggressive, riff-focused blackened death metal and Bismoth’s contemplative, atmospheric and raw blackgaze approach, resulting in an album that from a stylistic perspective alone, is a very interesting and varied work.
One thing that immediately caught my attention on the album’s opening track, “Brothers, You Are not Alone” by TIMŌRĀTUS, was the multi-facetted vocal performance. What I didn’t realize was that that track alone contains guest vocals by not one, not two or even three, but eleven(!) singers, including members of renowned underground bands such as Taking the Head of Goliath, Shadow Puncher, Abated Mass of Flesh and Mystic Winter. The second track, “The Root of Unity” by TIMŌRĀTUS, features an equally impressive vocal extravaganza courtesy of three female singers besides TIMŌRĀTUS’ very own Courtney Napier. With lyrics focusing on the unity of Christians in the body of Christ, it seems only appropriate that these tracks are the result of a collaboration of so many artists who are united not only by their love of music, but also, and on a much deeper level, by the blood of Christ. Both of the TIMŌRĀTUS tracks, especially “The Root of Unity”, radiate a certain atmosphere of comfort, they are uplifting and beautiful and truly edifying to listen to.
The mood certainly changes with the next two tracks by Symphony of Heaven. They are not only a lot darker in tone, but also much more agressive stylistically. Lyrically, too, these tracks talk about the darker side of the Christian experience. The aptly titled “Death of Denomination” criticizes the tendency of many Christians to attack each other over different opinions regarding theological questions instead of focusing on what unites us – Jesus’ sacrifice that saves us from damnation. “For Glory” talks about martyrdom, about Christians suffering and dying for their faith – and for the glory of God. Both tracks are powerful and gripping, dark and intense, with riffs that are as kvlt as it gets.
The two final tracks of the album are the most raw ones production-wise, while stylistically being the most calm, contemplative ones. Bismoth plays beautiful post-black metal/blackgaze with a clear focus on atmosphere. “Anguish and Agape” has a strong Vials of Wrath or Deafest vibe to it, alternating between sound-of-wall style blast beat sections and clean airy, melancholic guitar melodies. Album closer “In Christ Together” is a rather simple song that rounds the album up nicely.
As a whole, Body of Christ is an amazing and powerful record, both musically and lyrically. It is the result of an ambitious and passionate collaboration of some of the best artists in the Christian extreme metal underground that absolutely succeeds in transporting an important message to Christians all around the world: “Let His light grow us together / May our branches intertwine / With each other, through Him”, for we are one in Christ.
Body of Christ will be released digitally on March 19th and will be available at Bandcamp. A physical release, including a bonus track, is planned for this summer.
Watch an album teaser here:
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