Heavy Metal Is Taking Over Your Churches and Schools

Classic thrash/doom metal band Seventh Angel. Guess what? One of these guys is teaching Sunday school.
Chances are, if you're a weekly reader of Metal Mondays here at Up on the Sun, you don't think of metalheads as thickheaded, grotesque, and crude Neanderthals. You know metal fans can be smart, erudite, and witty. Still, among the pop masses, there's a prevailing attitude that metal listeners are capital D dumb. But guess what, folks? Metalheads are smart and sly, and we're invading your colleges and churches.

The metal sphere is spinning a little bit faster all over the world. Recently, it's even made international news. Damn straight. Metalheads are taking over, minions.
We've finally made our way into two of the most difficult environments: education and religion. That's right. There are churches that mix Christian worship with live speed metal, and a 200-level college course that hails Ozzy Osbourne's "You Can't Kill Rock n' Roll" as its fight song.

At West Texas A&M University, linguistics specialist Martin Jacobsen is teaching a new English course called "Introduction to Literature: Heavy Metal as a Literary Genre," using Sound of the Beast: The Complete Headbanging History of Heavy Metal by Ian Christe as its textbook.

Believe it or not, some of metal's most influential bands featured bookworms. Blind Guardian based an entire album on J.R.R. Tolkien's The Silmarillion, while Led Zeppelin gave Gollum and Mordor a shout-out in "Ramble On" on Led Zeppelin II, as well as "Misty Mountain Hop" and "Battle of Evermore" on Led Zeppelin IV. It's not just early pioneers, either: Mastodon's Blood and Thunder is a concept album based on Moby Dick -- their "White! Whale! Holy! Grail!" chorus will be stuck in your head all day long.

The class was born out of an English course exercise for students to brush up on diagramming sentences. To illustrate phrase and sentence structure, Jacobsen diagrammed the lyrics of Iron Maiden's "Out of Silent Planet" and played the song along with it. (No coincidence: the song shares a title with the first installment of author/theologian C.S. Lewis' space saga.)

It was a huge hit with the students, and the idea for the course grew organically from there. Jacobsen came to learn that students want to express their interaction with the world, and metal does just that. The class includes lectures, using songs to validate the thesis of the evolution of metal and the literature value of each subgenre of metal.

"I would say that the thematic content of heavy metal lends itself to the same kind of thought processes that reading literature would bring up," said Jacobsen to the Amarillo Globe-News. "It talks about things in ways that you have to unlock your mind to understand, just like reading classical literature or any other kind of literature."

That same article created worldwide buzz, translated into at least nine languages, including Spanish, Portuguese, Russian, and Hungarian. This class gradually has become recognized as a true humanities course. Heavy metal encompasses being human.

When it comes to humanities studies, usually the next topic up is religion. Oh, yes. Heavy metal is taking over there, as well. While incorporating religion in metal is one of the most prominent and oldest themes in the music -- one of my favorites is the balls-out "Creeping Death" by Metallica, which examines the Bible story about the Plague of the First Born from Exodus 12:29.

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Brett Giles
Brett Giles

And all thanks to Bart Simpson, "remember when we used to make out to this hymn?"

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