Metallica, Rage, and the Holy Spirit

by | 23 Aug, 2018 | 3 comments

I love hymns. I love singing Scripture.

I love gangster (gangsta?) rap.

Garage Days, revisited

I likewise love to lift. I hate to run. That about sums it up.

After my second knee surgery, I ceded anything outside a 10 meter radius. Inside 10 meters, I desire the ability to close with and destroy as rapidly as possible. Outside that distance, we’ll save for another day.

I’ve always associated music with lifting. Always.

In my early garage days, I used to blast the Rocky IV soundtrack. The “Training Montage” that accompanied Ivan (pronounced ee-van’’ not eye’-van) Drago and Rocky’s inevitable confrontation became my theme as I clanged (sort of) sand-filled plastic weights.

I became Rocky Balboa.

In my high school years, I affiliated with some bodybuilders who loved to lift to heavy metal music. I was hooked. I made Motley Crue’s “Kickstart My Heart” my anthem. Tony Mandarich inspired me with a blend of Guns N’ Roses and obscene amounts of iron.

At some point, I discovered Metallica.

And Public Enemy.

And NWA.

I fed off the anger, the intensity. It inspired me, generated power, induced adrenaline, equipping me to move the maximum amount of weight possible.

God gave us music that we might glorify Him. (Psalm 95:1, Hebrews 2:12, Colossians 3:16, Ephesians 5:19)

          Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth;

               break forth into joyous song and sing praises! (Psalm 98:4)

Seek & Destroy

Then came the Animal House.

In college, I joined the powerlifting team, a gang of jacked rebels who eschewed most matters of a military college in favor of iron…and heavy metal music. They dwelt in the Animal House, their domain.

Imagine descending into the bowels of an aged stone building. As you descend a darkened and worn staircase, the temperature steadily climbs and at some point, you hear it, heavy metal music. It steadily increases, culminating in a full-out sonic assault as you peer down a dimly-lit corridor at a worn and darkened wooden door. Enter the Animal House at your own peril.

The powerlifting team favored screamo-type heavy metal, not something I was a fan of, and Manowar, a fantasy metal-type band that sang about swords and gods and dragons. Again, not something I was a fan of, but there was the ever-present standbys: Black Sabbath, Pantera, Judas Priest, and of course, Metallica.

At some point, the Army officers who taught in the facility descended into the Animal House and painted a black line on the volume knob, seeking to restrict the reverberations. Still, the music remained ear splitting, prohibiting all but shouted conversation.

And I loved it.

Creeping Death

After coming to faith in Christ, I backed off heavy metal music and Metallica. I started listening to praise and worship music while lifting and to my surprise, found no corresponding drop-off in my lifts.

I was lifting overseas once and as “In Christ Alone” came on, I raised my hands in praise. I turned to see four curious SEALs giving me an odd look. Yet I persisted. Working out became closely associated with worship until…it happened.

I don’t know what (who) led me, but a year or so ago, I created a new Pandora station…
…Rage Against the Machine.

RATM was, in my mind, the pinnacle of lifting music. They combined angry leftist rantings laid over top heavy, driving guitar in a metal-rap blend of power and anger. I loved it.

I became Zack de la Rocha.

And as I listened, others re-emerged from the recesses…Black Sabbath, Public Enemy, and of course, Metallica.

The believer should seek to glorify God in all that he does. (1 Corinthians 10:23-24, Colossians 3:17, Colossians 3:23

          So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. (1 Corinthians 10:31)

Trapped Under Ice

This time, something was different.

The Holy Spirit tugged on my ear, whispering, convicting, chiding…God hates this. You know that, right?

In my first published book, Scourge, I quoted from the movie Gran Torino, a movie that I thoroughly enjoyed when I first saw it. A brother that reviewed my book before publication, among some other comments, asked why I chose to quote this movie.

“You know God hates that movie, right?”

He was right, of course. In addition to vulgar language, Gran Torino is rife with idolatry, outright blasphemy, and even a false, works-based Gospel. Of course God hates this work but hey, it’s Clint Eastwood, and Clint hates liberals, so it must be good and godly, right? Sheesh.

What could I do? After about a year, I deleted my Pandora channel, turned off RATM forever and all the others that accompanied it.

How could I listen to things that God hates?

Disposable Heroes

Music is powerful, insanely powerful.

Music has the ability to drive the emotions of men, to mold hearts, to generate passion. Music has the ability to motivate and inspire, to galvanize and embolden.

And it is not neutral. Biblically speaking, nothing is truly neutral.

It’s doing something.

A friend of mine was saved as a young man but as a teenager, started listening to heavy metal music. Before long, he was attending concerts, rebelling against his parents, smoking weed which turned into coke which turned into whatever he could get his hands on. His life descended into decades of chaos and destruction and though the Lord eventually delivered Him, the consequences of a life spent in rebellion against God resonate and will continue to resonate.

And it started with the allure of angry music.

Leave it to Satan to twist that which God has given us to glorify Him into something wicked.


This year I made a re-discovery.

Searching for music to accompany my lift I had an epiphany and quickly created a “Rocky” Pandora channel. The “Training Montage” greeted my ears. Instantly, I was transported to my primitive garage gym of yesteryear and my sand-filled weights and my dreams of glory and power. I added a ten pound plate to each side of the bar and as the adrenaline surged…

I became Rocky Balboa yet again.

When “Eye of the Tiger” followed the montage, my heart practically burst right out of my chest. I added more weight…

This was it! The “Rocky” channel.

But what about Metallica? No RATM, the Spirit had firmly trounced that leaning, but could I listen to Metallica? Black Sabbath, obviously evil. Public Enemy, wicked. Judas Priest, don’t ask…but Metallica.

I dare you to find a better album than And Justice For All.

Not gonna happen.

In Metallica, I find a perfect blend of intensity, skill, anger, and passion. When “Harvester of Sorrow” comes on, or “Welcome Home (Sanitarium)” or “Wherever I May Roam” or “For Whom the Bell Tolls”, stand clear. One note, and I’m jacked, ready to move some steel.

I love all classic Metallica but And Justice For All surpasses them all. The Black Album is pretty good. Did they even do anything after that?

The Shortest Straw

The things we consume delineate the front lines between our new nature as believers and the sarx, the flesh, the old man, as Paul calls our sinful human nature. As believers, God gives us the desires of our hearts, that is, he implants His desires into us. Our desires become His desires.

God desires that He be glorified in all things and in progressive sanctification, a believer ought to increasingly desire the same.

As we continually examine our hearts for things not of God, as we continually allow the Lord and Scripture to examine our hearts for things not of Him, He draws us ever closer. The closer we get, the less we can tolerate of the world. To do otherwise is to violate the new nature given us.

My prayer is for holiness, personal holiness, that God would continually conform me into the image of Christ…

…and that the Holy Spirit would not convict my heart on Metallica…but I have a feeling.


  1. Burt Stanley

    Good article via SBF&T post. At face value I agree with you, even though I cannot relate at all with your passion for lifting and the emotions it generates along with the music. I’m pretty much the Steady Eddie type. No ups and downs to any degree. More like gently rolling seas ILO steep mountains and deep valleys.

  2. David

    Wow, funny how I came across this article. I spent so much time listening to Metallica and RATM but I really knew it was completely contrary to the Lord… I just listen to talk radio or podcasts during the gym.


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Bradford Smith

Bradford Smith

Author - Founder

Soldier, Pastor, Author – Bradford stays busy, with his wife Ami, raising their 9 children, serving the nation, pastoring, preaching, and writing books (#3 is due out October ’17).


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