Year of Publication


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation


Fine Arts



First Advisor

Dr. Ronald A. Pen


In 1984, Stryper released its first album The Yellow and Black Attack and introduced audiences to a different kind of heavy metal. Instead of lyrics about sex, alcohol, and Satan, Stryper sang about Jesus, salvation, and God. While there were a number of fans ready for this change more were not. Members of the Church as well as members of the metal subculture were in agreement that Christianity and heavy metal were incompatible. Despite these objections, however, more bands emerged, and Christian metal became a significant genre within the Christian music industry. These bands presented Christian-oriented lyrics within the full spectrum of metal subgenres.

This dissertation examines the ways in which Christian metal bands create an intersection between Christianity and the heavy metal subculture, infusing Christianity within the textual, visual, and musical structures of heavy metal. The author employs Deena Weinstein’s “metal code” to frame the analysis. The metal code includes the textual elements (band names, album and song titles, and song lyrics); the visual elements (band logos; album covers; and the various elements of the concert experience including the bands’ appearances, the staging, the interactions with the fans, and music videos); and the musical elements (timbre, modality, formal structure, and production of the songs and albums) that set metal apart from other musical genres. The dissertation also examines the concept of bands as “metal missionaries” that immerse themselves within the heavy metal subculture for the purpose of bringing the Christian message of hope and salvation. The author concludes that even though Christian metal bands modify aspects of elements that are otherwise incompatible with their Christian beliefs and message, they still maintain a sense of stylistic integrity that gives them credibility within the heavy metal subculture and allows them to fulfill their mission.