This is us: Multimodal online self-representation of Christian metal bands
University of Jyväskylä
In today’s imagocentric world, increasing attention is paid to the visual aspects of communication
(Stocchetti and Sumiala-Seppänen 2007: 10). This also shows in how Christian metal (CM) bands feature in online media. Theoretically anchored in the emerging field of sociology of language and religion (Fishman 2006, Omoniyi 2010), this paper studies the ways CM bands represent themselves in online media, such as band homepages, Myspace, Facebook, and Twitter, which provide them with a market place for self-promotion. With a particular reference to their uses of emblems, the analysis seeks to understand how the subcultural performance of two specific bands, helps them to connect Christianity with metal music culture – an incoherent and contradictory fusion for many.
For today’s bands, social media and the Internet provide a valuable channel of promotion, advertising and finding an audience. Official band website URLs, together with Facebook, YouTube and Myspace addresses, among others, have become something like a business card to give to potential clients. Online appearances need to attract attention, be it through the use of special fonts, colours, symbols, or something else – in Kellner’s (2007: 28) words, “it is necessary to present oneself as a spectacle.” Aiming to attract audiences on various websites, some CM bands tend to stress the Christian aspect over metal, while others do the opposite. This relates to the essence of the whole scene: CM is the child of both Christian religion and of metal music culture.
As such, CM has been met with both criticism and appraisal since its very beginning in California, USA, in the early 1980s. Metal music fans, critiques, and artists tend to view CM as inauthentic in that CM wipes off the rebellion towards authorities (e.g. parents, church, society) traditionally involved in metal music (e.g. Luhr 2005: 118–120). Neither have all Christians approved of the music style they associate with anti-Christian topics and practices being put into the service of the evangelical Christian mission (e.g. Luhr 2005: 106–107, 115–116, 120–124). After decades, CM has grown into a big business especially in the US and it also has a fairly established institutional and fan base in Brazil, Mexico, the Netherlands, Germany, and Northern Europe (Moberg 2009: 172–175). How, then, do these bands balance between the two ideological terrains to find their way in representing themselves online? Relatedly, what do such practices tell us about the ideological and musical identification of the bands? In this paper, these questions are approached from an ethnographic-sociolinguistic perspective on discourse as multimodal.
2. Visuality in metal music culture
From its beginning, Christian metal was to a great extent a visual effort. Similarly to mainstream metal music groups of the 1980s, such as Aerosmith, Bon Jovi and Poison, CM bands such as the North American Stryper became known as rocking high and loud with distorted guitar sounds and as performing with appearances that involved long hair, leather wear, excessive make-up and accessories such as bandanas, wrist strings and chunky jewellery. Two issues bothered the Christian community: whether metal was an acceptable musical style for Christian youth, and whether metal style wear and gear were suitable for Christian men. (Luhr 2005: 106, 120–123; Weinstein 2000: 39). Even today, according to Moberg (2009: 3–4), CM is very much about adopting the specific ways of doing CM through the musical style as well as certain types of rhetoric, style and aesthetics. Following Gormly (2003), it can thus be said that CM appropriates from secular metal the subcultural codes of performativity: playing, singing, and being. For CM, these are the gates through which an ideological and cultural dialogue becomes possible with other musical subgenres, worldviews and ideologies (Jousmäki 2013).
The general visual dimension of metal music culture has been described by Weinstein (2000: 27). According to her, the visuality of metal music genre involves a spectrum of subcultural commodities such as T-shirts, badges, album covers, magazine artwork, band logos, and so on. Moreover, visuality in performances includes costumes, lighting, stage set, choreography, and music video images. (Weinstein 2000: 27). Further, Weinstein argues,
the colors and imagery on the album covers enhance the power conveyed by the logos. The dominant color is black, used especially as the background for the other artwork. Red is the second most important color. The color scheme is not gentle, relaxing, or merely neutral. Rather, it is intense, exciting, or ominous. Whereas the code for pop and country albums mandates photographs of the faces of the performers, the fronts of heavy metal albums are not graced with close-ups of band members. The heavy metal code specifies that what is depicted must be somewhat ominous, threatening, and unsettling, suggesting chaos and bordering on the grotesque. (Weinstein 2000: 29.)
Although Weinstein’s comment, originally published in 1991, gives us some idea of the basic elements of the visual design of the metal music genre, it may have become slightly out-dated, due to the more recent diversification of metal genres, and to metal music having become more mainstream, instead of or not as obviously “ominous, threatening, and unsettling, suggesting chaos and bordering on the grotesque”. In contrast to Weinstein’s categorical description of metal, today’s metal music is more varied in its visual expression (symphonic metal, for instance, embraces nature and fantasy as visual themes) and it is no longer the music of white working-class males exclusively (cf. Hjelm 2013, Larkin 1992: 21; Promised Land of Heavy Metal 2008, Rossi and Jervell 2013).
3. Theoretical background
The theoretical standpoint of this paper is located at the crossroads of sociology of language and sociology of religion, a point that that has recently evolved into its own branch of research of: sociology of language and religion (SLR). The way has been paved by Omoniyi and Fishman (2006), with Omoniyi (2010) continuing the effort. According to Fishman (2006), SLR starts off with the assumption that both language and religiosity (vis-à-vis secularism) vary within societies and between them, as well as across time. From the perspective of language, this simply means that religious ways of speaking and religious registers and discourses are but some of the ones available for the members of any socioculture. Moreover, the language of religion is open to change in line with changes and transformations in the surrounding socio-cultural context, “including religious change per se. Language spread itself is, of course, the most common carrier of sociocultural change.” (Fishman 2006: 18, emphasis original.) However, social change is a long process and not evenly spread, which is why multiple religious varieties may co-exist within the same religious community. (Fishman 2006: 14–24.)
Fishman’s ideas make up a fruitful framework for scholars studying the use(s) of language(s) in religious settings as well as religious discourse in general. It is a framework which, similarly to the sociology of language and to the sociology of religion, analyses and describes macro-level phenomena related to the interconnectedness between language and religion. To elaborate on a good example where SLR is of relevance, provided originally in the introduction to Omoniyi and Fishman (2006: 3–4), many Western, Protestant societies have witnessed the entrance of women into the clergy, a space previously only available to men. In countries with languages that mark gender differences with distinct pronouns, this change of a sociocultural practice resulted in a reformed sociolinguistic practice – a social practice of using language in a certain way – in some churches: instead of referring to ‘him’ (for example), the choice was now to be made between ‘him’ or ‘her’ when referring to the minister. As the masculine pronoun lost its default value at the pulpit, religion changed as well: the time of the Church Fathers (understood in a loose sense, i.e. male authorities) was indeed beginning to pass.
Although Fishman’s framework is mostly concerned with macro-level, societal issues, it also provides a good starting point and a reflective base for bottom-up approaches (e.g. Darquennes and Vandenbussche 2011, Omoniyi 2010), such as the ethnographic-sociolinguistic discourse analysis conducted in this paper (see below). As an example of a (possibly) transformative sociocultural practice, CM invites one to look at its sociolinguistic (or, in this case, socio-semiotic) repertoire to understand the dialectic relationship of language and reality: through language use, CM can both reproduce and transform existing social, cultural, and religious categories (cf. Fairclough 1992). Since the linguistic dimension of religious movements, together with other aspects of its discursive realization, such as texts and images, is not eternally fixed but instead involves processes of change (Fishman 2006: 22–23), a look into CM websites provides information of how Christianity manifests itself in the digital era. This will also serve the interests of future scholars analysing more long-term processes, perhaps looking back to the beginning of the 21st century.
The ethnographic-sociolinguistic discourse approach adopted in this paper draws on Blommaert (2005) and Kress and van Leeuwen (2006), asking what the textual and visual features of band websites tell us about the practices of self-representation among CM bands. In other words, this type of an approach is not happy with presuming that CM bands draw on Christianity and metal music culture on their websites (although this may well be the case); instead, it is crucial to explore, at the grassroots level of multimodal discourse, whether the “drawing on” in fact takes place – and if so, how. Only on the basis of those observations is it possible to draw conclusions of a more general kind, and indeed, in this line of research, discursive details are taken as indexical of wider practices and invested with meaning potential (e.g. Blommaert and Rampton 2011: 5–6). This does not mean that existing societal, cultural, or religious tendencies are neglected but it does require the analyst not to take their impact for granted so that they are simply seen as imperial machines that produce CM in a one-way, top-down fashion. Instead, this paper sets out to investigate how CM bands make themselves into being. As Thomas (2007) argues,
in the digital world… the performance of identity… relies upon the texts we create in the virtual worlds we inhabit. These texts are multiple layers through which we mediate the self and include the words we speak, the graphical images… and the codes and other linguistic variations on language we use to create a full digital presence. (Thomas 2007: 5).
Therefore, the analysis of self-representation in the virtual worlds inhabited by CM groups begins with looking at the textual and visual resources they utilize. A key issue here is the prefix ‘re’ in ‘representation’: CM websites convey a certain picture, one aspect, of the band, according to bands’ (or the record companys’) wishes. (Cf. Cheung 2000, Deumert 2014, Hall 1997, Lee 2014, Schau and Gilly 2003, Schwämmlein and Wodzicki 2012, Thurlow et al. 2004: 97–102.)
4. Aims, approach and data
The core interest of this paper is in discourse, understood as every semiotic act of producing information about who we are or who or what we aspire to be (Blommaert 2005: 203). The websites analysed in this paper include written text as well as illustrations of different kinds, and attention will here be paid especially to the interrelationship between the text and the visuals. Following Blommaert (2005: 116–117), the analysis begins by looking at text before reading it. This method is particularly suitable when analysing digital material, often packed with multimodality (cf. Peuronen, this volume). The analysis will focus on the main, index site where the visitor first encounters the band, or, better, a representation that is consciously textured perhaps by a professional web page designer and approved by the band as if to say, “This is us.” For conducting the analysis, Kress and van Leeuwen’s (2006 ) work on visual representation is helpful in determining the specific points of attention as well as in explaining their influence for representation. (See also Kress 2010, Machin and van Leeuwen 2007, van Leeuwen 2012, Pauwels 2012.)
As CM is not a phenomenon that solely exists online but, rather, utilizes the Internet to expand its terrain, this paper is not a study on computer-mediated communication in a strict sense. However, as it is the case that websites provide bands with means to link up with their audiences, representation, the focal issue in this paper, ties up closely with interaction (Kress and van Leeuwen 2006: ch. 4). Therefore, the following analysis focuses on the interactive meanings created between the viewer and the social actor(s) represented, for example through adopting a certain angle, shot size, and direction of gaze (Kress and van Leeuwen 2006: 114–153). Second, the analysis studies the composition of images, that is, the information value, salience and framing of different elements in an image (Kress and van Leeuwen 2006: 175–214). The interest is in the practices of using text, graphics, symbols, colour, and font on CM websites for the purposes of self-representation. These are, finally, discussed as constitutional in the construction of (sub)cultural identities or identifications (cf. Leppänen et al. 2014; Peuronen, this volume; Seargeant and Tagg 2014).
The data come from four different “virtual worlds” (see the quote from Thomas (2007) above), so the term ‘band websites’ is used to refer to band homepages, Myspace, Facebook and Twitter. These sites are often but not always similar to each other, and bands may use only one of them or more. The homepage typically involves a main (index) page, biographical information of the band and its members, releases (often also including sound clips and lyrics to be read), a list of upcoming and past gigs, photos, and merchandise. Some homepages also feature a guestbook where users can leave comments to which band members may react (or not). Myspace, Twitter and Facebook, on the other hand, are sites for social networking. For example, Myspace “creates a creative community of people who connect around mutual affinity and inspiration for the purpose of shaping, sharing, and discovering what’s next” (Myspace About page 2014). The sites allow for different degrees of intimacy and privacy between different users, ranging from open to everyone (Twitter updates) to private messaging (as in Facebook). Myspace additionally features Myspace Music, which allows artists at various phases of their careers to publish and disseminate their music for worldwide audiences. The purpose of ‘connecting’ people makes Myspace, Twitter and Facebook somewhat different from the more traditional official homepages of bands which tend to allow for less social interaction than the newer forms of social media.
The data presented in this paper were collected and analyzed in connection with my doctoral project. The overall data pool consists of 23 Christian metal band websites and 202 song lyrics. In the following sections, two bands are examined: the North American Oh, Sleeper and Renascent from Finland. As to their musical styles, in Myspace, Oh, Sleeper classifies itself as playing Metal/Rock and Renascent as playing Death Metal/Metal/Thrash. Although metal bands, together with rock journalists and fans, are often eager to use such specific terms for drawing lines between different sub-categories of metal, to an amateur listener, such as myself, the two bands sound roughly the same – for academics, the style could be classified simply (and unofficially) as ultra-heavy metal with rough sounds and incomprehensible vocals.
As to the two bands’ religious backgrounds, they are not explicitly revealed on their respective band websites. However, we learn from Moberg (2009: 179) that CM band members mainly belong to Evangelical Christian congregations. Moberg also points out that border crossing is common: many CM adherents are simultaneously affiliated with more than one denomination. This relates to the different prominence of the two bands within the music industry and to the different national and cultural backgrounds of the bands: in the United States, the market for Christian popular music (Contemporary Christian Music) is much wider than in Finland where religious artists still struggle to find success among people outside Christian congregations (and, if they do, it may easily happen that they lose their religious supporters; see Moberg 2009: 137; Könönen and Huvi 2005: 155–156). That said, CM has evolved into a fairly active genre in Finland and, according to Moberg (2009: 176–178), more active than in many other countries apart from the USA. This means that in the USA, the bands’ association with the Evangelical Christian movement gives them both possibilities (i.e. money) and responsibility (i.e. a missionary agenda), whereas the Finnish bands may more freely express themselves as artists although with less time and money.
Based on my analysis of the data collected for my larger project, CM band websites seem to have several typical features in common. The most prominent of these is the use of band photographs and especially the ways in which these are used to represent a band: band members are typically standing side by side, looking intensely at the camera without smiling. The choices of colours and the uses of specific types of graphics on the sites also seem to be fairly established, in favour of black together with other dark shades. In addition, the contents of CM band websites are fairly conventional in featuring current issues related to the bands, such as upcoming gigs, latest releases, and so on, and in providing information on the bands’ history, musical samples for listening and, importantly, lyrics for the visitors to read. However, the bands differ from one another in the extent to which they incorporate spirituality on their websites: while some are open about their Christian agenda (e.g. Luotettava todistus ‘reliable witness’, Venia), others favour representing themselves as musicians over anything else (e.g. August Burns Red, Sotahuuto ‘war cry’). The following analysis is two-fold: it starts with investigating the uses of one particular symbol by a CM band in online environments, and proceeds to analyze one specific band homepage from the perspective of self-representation.
5.1 Symbols and self-representation
For different types of communities and groups, logos work as self-representative tools that enhance recognition and help to create a sense of communality and status. In rock and metal music especially, they play an important role in the creation of bands’ brands: well-known examples include the Rolling Stones, Bad Religion, Metallica, and HIM (see e.g. Karjalainen et al. 2009; The Art of the Band Logo 2012). Some of these combine text with graphics while some use symbols alone. Across times, symbols have also played a central role in many religions, which is why it is no surprise that CM bands also utilize emblems for their self-representation.
The analysis of the first case begins with a look at a 2011 album cover (Figure 1) by the band Oh, Sleeper. The picture of the album cover was published online although the album cover is not, as such, to be understood as online media. Rather, different forms of online media became sites for marketing and celebrating this product.
Figure 1. The album cover of Children of Fire (2011) by Oh, Sleeper. ©SolidState Records. (Free use for press purposes.)
Figure 2. The cover of Son of the Morning (2009) by Oh, Sleeper. ©SolidState Records. (Free use for press purposes.)
Figure 3a. The Pentagram.
Figure 3b. The Pentagram with the goat.
On the album cover, the central figure, a woman with a long, brown hair is standing barefoot in the sand with some grass growing here and there. She is wearing a longish dress that used to be white but is now soaked with rain pouring from the night sky and stained brown. The salience of the woman is emphasized by the fact that she is located in the middle of a circular symbol carved on the ground, and it is this symbol that I will now pay closer attention to.
The circular symbol is something Oh Sleeper also uses elsewhere beside this album cover. In fact, the symbol had made its first appearance two years earlier as the cover art of their previous album (Figure 2). Since then, the symbol has been found in a lot of the band’s merchandise. More recently, it has also been incorporated into the band’s profile picture both on Twitter and Facebook as well as into a mobile phone game application Oh Sleeper – Stand your ground where it functions as a key emblem for the player. Moreover, all of the 2011 album cover (Figure 1), rather than the mere symbol, was circulated elsewhere in the Web: first, it remained as the sole substance of the band’s homepage for an entire year after its release, where it was complemented with the release date of the album. Similarly, on Myspace the image was adopted as the background image on the band’s profile, which is where it remained for years before being substituted with new visuals.
The symbol seems thus to play an important role for the band and for how they wish to be recognized by the audience. The question is, “Why?” According to the former record company of Oh, Sleeper,
the broken pentagram symbol made its first appearance on the bold cover for Son of the Morning. The graphic quite literally subverts [an] “evil” symbol by breaking off the top points, in direct reference to the line “I’ll cut off your horns!” which Kinard screams while posturing as the voice of God against the devil. Many fans have connected with the purpose associated with this new symbol and have tattooed it upon their bodies. (Solid State Records | Artist | Oh, Sleeper 2012.)
In the quotation above, the record company labels the symbol reproduced in Figures 1 and 2 as a “broken pentagram”. They acknowledge the modification of the pentagram (Figure 3a), a symbol that usually in the context of rock music is associated with anti-Christian ideologies expressed particularly by some black metal groups. The appropriation of this non-Christian symbol by Oh, Sleeper shows how the band performs a subcultural act through which it relates to other bands in the metal music scene. Importantly however, the band also modifies the symbol by “breaking off the top points” of the goat’s head, which some interpret as the Devil’s horns (Figure 3b). They do this to challenge the values put forth by the pentagram and to comment on them. Thus, by removing some of the power conveyed through the original symbol, the band brings in its own values and beliefs – the Devil’s defeat – in order to represent itself as both a Christian and a metal band. As the symbol is used in merchandising across online and offline media, and as it is also being used by fans, this example does not illustrate the nature of online media discourse per se. Instead, observing the uses of the symbol sheds light on the ways in which a CM band represents itself by drawing on multimodal resources associated closely with Christian religion on the one hand and metal music culture on the other. (See also Jousmäki 2012: 220; Leppänen et al. 2014: 120–123.)
5.2 Band’s home on the web
Whereas the previous section looked at the circulation of one specific symbol on various forms of online media, this section studies one specific website from different aspects. The analysis involves a detailed look into textual and visual organization on the official homepage of Renascent for the purposes of the band’s self-representation. [Ed. note: An image of the Renascent homepage under discussion is available via the Internet Archive's Wayback Machine: https://web.archive.org/web/20100130151955/http://www.renascent.net/. Viewing the image this way ensures that it remains accessible. The link will open in a new tab.]
On the main page, the overall tone is dark and most of it colored black. Two imposing images stand out from the black background to greet the visitor on the site. Looking at the top banner, first, it conveys the piece of information that this is the official homepage of Renascent. The pictures at the top are somewhat intimidating: the pictures of a foetus at the centre and a skull on the left give a harsh impression and they are certainly not what most Christian artists (not even CM) include on their homepage. It is also crucial to note that the band name is lettered in a specific way. Although specific to this band, the font that Renascent uses to letter its name closely resembles the font used to letter many other metal bands’ names (Jousmäki 2012: 220). Written on red and placed next to a foetus, the rhizomatic edges of the letters bring to mind flesh, blood, and the intestines, which certainly resonates with Weinstein’s (2000: 29) description of the heavy metal code which “specifies that what is depicted must be somewhat ominous, threatening, and unsettling, suggesting chaos and bordering on the grotesque.” Therefore, the Renascent homepage shows that the band resorts to the standard semiotic practices of metal music culture, which is exactly what makes this band Christian metal.
According to Kress and van Leeuwen (2006: 186–187), the information placed on top of a page is often used to illustrate the ideal, whereas what follows in the horizontal dimension gives a more realistic picture of the issue. On the Renascent homepage, the banner at the top can thus be taken as a symbolic summary of the band’s self-representation. The themes put forward at the top – the visual imagery and the band’s name – are all developed further on the main page, below a thin, white horizontal line that separates the top banner from the rest of the site. Below this disconnecting line (Kress and van Leeuwen 2006: 210), we find two vertical columns: on the left, a band photograph and writing in red, and on the right, a section for the band’s latest interests. the left side is typically the place reserved for sharing information that the audience is already familiar with, whereas the right-hand side is typically used to portray the new issues (Kress and van Leeuwen 2006: 179–185). Here, however, the band photograph on the left is made more salient because of its relative size. By contrast, the text in the right-hand column is in small, white font, which already weakens the salience of what in fact is the News of this band. As Kress and van Leeuwen (2006: 181) argue, the placing of given and new information is an ideological act as it neutralizes the fact that what is represented as given may not in fact be so; by contrast, it may entail and hide problematic issues. The Renascent homepage thus neutralizes the distinction between given and new: although both share roughly the same amount of vertical space, the left is made more salient because of the large size of the image especially when compared with the tiny letters used to convey the news on the right.
As to the interaction built in and through the image, the band is looking down on the viewer in the stairway as if ‘demanding’ the viewer’s attention (Kress and van Leeuwen 2006: 118). Moreover, as it is shot from a low angle, the photograph constructs the band as a threatening superior, which, by contrast, makes the viewer feel small. A personal bond is created between the viewer and the lead singer who is placed a little further ahead than the others and shot close, but the distance between the others and the viewer is not too far, either, not least because of the eye contact and frontal angle which index the crew’s involvement with the viewer. (See Kress and van Leeuwen 2006: 114–149; Chandler 2007: 193). In the group shot, the longhaired band members (some with tattoos visible on their arms) are dressed in black and red, thus matching the colour code of metal as described by Weinstein (2000: 29). So the represented participants are connected to each other, which constructs the band as a united group of metal heads (cf. Kress and van Leeuwen 2006: 210).
Below the group shot, there are two textual passages divided into two small columns. The red writing against the black background (again, the colours of metal music culture) juxtaposes two genres, the Bible and the dictionary:
||Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold all things are become new. 2 Cor. 5:7
||Renascent (a.) Springing or rising again into being; being born again, or reproduced.
Above, we see how Renascent quotes a passage from the Second Letter to the Corinthians in the New Testament of the Holy Bible talking about becoming born-again (‘a new creature’) and also clarifies the everyday meaning of their name – again, becoming born again – in the manner of a dictionary (a. standing for ‘adjective’). Thus, as a band, Renascent indexes to be a Christian metal band by relocating the Bible extract as part of what they are about (cf. Jousmäki 2012). These are therefore the syntagmatic cues (Kress and van Leeuwen 2006: 191) for understanding the visuality used in the banner at the top of the page: the skull signifies death of the ‘old’ which is replaced with a ‘new-born’ associated with ‘becoming born anew’. Similarly, while the connotation of the band’s name is Christian, the way it is lettered brings metal into the picture. Renascent thus shows it is a part of the Christian community through identifying with Bible-based spirituality and, also, a part of the musical community of metal heads through using the visual forms specific to metal music culture. The latter also becomes evident when one listens to the musical samples on the website – a topic that deserves more attention in future research.
This paper has addressed the sociocultural curiosity of Christian metal (CM) and looked into how it is textually and visually manifested online, and into the consequences of these choices. The two case studies have helped to show that CM bands represent themselves, to varying extents, as both Christians and musicians by using language, graphics and symbols in certain ways. With regard to the sociology of language and religion (SLR), Christian metal, as a source of sociocultural change, affects the discourse (text and visuals) used within the metal music genre as well as the ways of Christians’ religious expression. First, CM transforms the visual practices of metal music through giving new meaning to traditional metal images, such as a skull. For instance, while secular metal imagery favours the skull as a subcultural motif of celebrating death, the Finnish Renascent goes beyond this and celebrates the death of ‘old life’ and brings in an image of a child as an index of new life in Christ. Similarly, the North American Oh, Sleeper modifies the well-known subcultural symbol of the pentagram to disidentify with some parts of metal music culture and to identify with the Christian community instead. In fact, the reversal of metal imagery also marks a homecoming, since a lot of metal imagery is about the rebuttal of originally Judeo-Christian ideas and values (as shown, for example, in placing the cross upside down). Second, CM bands also challenge the more established ways of practicing Christian faith and they certainly clash with religious ideals in Renascent’s home country: according to a 2010 survey conducted in the mostly Lutheran Finland (Ketola et al. 2011), these include modesty and privacy. Instead, Renascent, together with the North American Oh, Sleeper, can be seen as reproducing Evangelical Christian religiosity in emphasizing becoming born-again (also see Jousmäki 2013). However, Christian metal is a heterogeneous constellation: whereas some bands tend to emphasize the spiritual aspect, others let the sounds and symbols speak for themselves. The latter type of a practice often results in mixed feelings among the audience – another topic that deserves more attention in future research – which shows that Christian metal, and especially its ways of representing the spiritual aspect, is, for many, open to debate. With reference to SLR, CM provides an example of how religious discourse is undergoing change that is neither evenly spread nor accepted in terms of people’s age and their geographical place but that is nevertheless happening at the grassroots level. This illustrates some of the more general processes taking place today, such as diversification and translocalization of religious movements, which are being accelerated by the use of new media technologies.
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