There was a time, not so long ago, when I didn’t consider myself to be a fan of Christian music. I liked the hymns they played in church, of course, and Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat has always been one of my favorite musicals, but contemporary Christian rock music? I just was not a fan.
And then I moved away from the Bay Area, land of the radio stations I’d grown up with, to the Midwest, where the radio seemed to be populated solely with hip hop and country, meaning that there wasn’t very much that I wanted to listen to. One day, though, I was playing channel roulette, and I heard this song and it had a catchy beat, and a chorus that I knew could get stuck in my head for days, and I thought, This! This is what I’ve been missing! I really enjoyed the next song that came on, and the next, and then the station went to commercial break and I quickly realized that I’d just spent the last ten minutes listening a Christian radio station-and that I’d been loving it. Which meant, suddenly, that I had to re-evaluate 28 years of calling myself ‘not a fan’ of contemporary Christian music. And two years later, I am oh-so-glad that I did.
What follows is a list of five bands that made me rethink my pre-conceived notions of what Christian rock was, bands that I would recommend to any rock fan who thinks that Christian rock is just not for them.
1) Skillet: Skillet is a four-person band from Memphis, Tennessee. They weren’t the first band that I heard on that radio station two years ago, but they were one of the first whose music I fell completely in love with. The band consists of John Cooper (lead singer, guitar), his wife Kory (piano, guitar, vocals), Ben Kasika (lead guitar), and Jen Ledger (drums, vocals). Since 1996, the band has released 7 albums, with their most recent, Awake, debuting at #2 on the Billboard charts, entering a three-way tie for the highest debut by a Christian artist. Their early records have a very grunge rock edge to them, sounding just a bit like Nirvana. Their later records have embraced the stadium rock vibe, where you want to sing (and maybe scream) along at the top of your lungs. They have developed into a well-rounded band, producing consistently catchy tunes that will be stuck in your head for days. And you’ll love every minute of it.
Download these:Monster; It’s Not Me It’s You; Those Nights.
2) Chasen: In the beginning, Chasen was a one-man band. As in: lead singer Chasen Callahan assembled several temporary bands during the summer months to play at camps and conferences, which then disbanded at the start of the school year. Eventually, after releasing two CDs (a self-titled album in 2004 and Another Way of Life in 2006) Callahan teamed with Evan Silver and Aaron Lord to create a more permanent band. In 2008, the group released Shine Through the Stars, which All Music Guide called “the best indie album of 2008,” and their career took off. They have a more alt-rock sound to them, one that reminds me of Vertical Horizon or Lifehouse, and the song “Drown” has made it onto the list of my very favorite songs ever.
Download these:Drown; Crazy/Beautiful.
3) The Afters: The Afters are a four-piece band, originally from Mesquite, Texas. The two original founders, Josh Havens and Matt Fuqua, met while working at a Starbucks, and, after entertaining their customers with their music, decided to form a band. They added two more Starbucks employees, Brad Wigg and Marc Dodd (both of whom have since departed the band), and began playing at venues around the Dallas area. They were signed to INO Records, and in 2005 released their major label debut, I Wish We All Could Win. In 2008 they released Never Going Back To Okay, with the single of the same name eventually becoming the most played song on Christian CHR radio that year. In 2010, they released Light Up the Sky, which has also taken the Christian rock radio charts by storm. The Afters create music with a beat so infectious it is hard not to want to sing along at the top of your lungs. The song “Never Going Back to Okay” was the first Christian rock song that I downloaded from iTunes, simply because I couldn’t get it out of my head.
Download these:Never Going Back To Okay; Light Up the Sky.
4) Fee: While it appears that Fee, whose members are originally from Georgia, may have disbanded, the albums that they did release are truly must-haves. The members of the band are: Steve Fee (lead vocals), Matt Adkins (guitar), Heath Balltzglier (bass), and Brandon Coker (drums). They are billed as being contemporary worship music, but their song “We Shine” is as close to a Christian stadium anthem-style rock song as I’ve heard. They’ve released four albums over the course of their career. Sacred Space (2005) and Burn For You (2007) were both released independently. In 2007, they were signed to INO Records, where they released We Shine (2007) and Hope Rising (2009). Hope Rising reached 101 on the Billboard 200 chart, and 46 on Billboard‘s Top Rock Albums chart.
Download these:We Shine; All Because of Jesus.
5) FM Static: FM Static is a two-person band from Toronto, Canada. The band was founded in 2003 by Thousand Foot Krutch front man Trevor McNevan, with Steve Augustine on the drums. At one time, the band also featured brothers Justin (guitar) and Jeremy Smith (bass), however they departed the band in 2005. They have released three albums through Christian label Tooth & Nail Records: What Are You Waiting For? (2003), Critically Ashamed (2006), and Dear Diary (2009). They are in the process of producing their fourth album, although no release date has yet been set. FM Static’s song “Take Me As I Am” is just about a perfect alt rock song, in my opinion, and is one that I could easily listen to on repeat for hours at a time.
Download these:Take Me As I Am; Tonight.
The Afters (Wikipedia)
FM Static (Wikipedia)Skillet (Wikipedia)