1. Stryper – Pioneers of Christian Metal
Stryper deserves the top spot on this list, not necessarily because they are the best, but because their impact on Christian metal is comparable to that of Black Sabbath, Iron Maiden, and Judas Priest in the secular metal world. Although their bee-inspired outfits were a bit baffling, there’s no denying that Stryper’s musicianship brought Christian metal to the forefront in the 1980s.
Founded in southern California in 1983, Stryper remains a multi-platinum crossover Christian metal band. They continue to spread their positive message and captivate audiences worldwide. Throughout their 30-year journey, the band has stayed true to their convictions, embracing love, respect, and nonconformity to worldly ways.
Stryper’s album sales have exceeded 10 million worldwide, with hits like “Calling On You,” “Free,” “Honestly,” and “Always There For You.” Their 1986 release, “To Hell With The Devil,” is one of the most successful Christian rock albums ever. Stryper also made history as the first band to have two songs in MTV’s Top 10 with “Free” and “Honestly.” Despite evolving their sound over the years, they will always be the godfathers of Christian Metal.
2. Barren Cross – A Heavy Metal Revelation
Formed in Los Angeles in 1983, Barren Cross emerged when lead guitarist Ray Parris and drummer Steve Whitaker answered each other’s ads in search of bandmates. Joined by lead singer Michael Drive and bassist Jim LaVerde, Barren Cross quickly gained recognition. Their sound leaned towards the heavier side compared to their peers, such as Stryper.
Barren Cross found success with their albums “Atomic Arena” and “State Of Control.” The former even received airplay on MTV. While they may not have achieved widespread fame, their impact on the Christian metal movement cannot be denied.
3. Holy Soldier – Embracing Glam Metal
When glam metal took the world by storm in the ’80s, many Christian metal bands followed suit. Holy Soldier initially embraced the glam metal sound, releasing two commendable albums. However, the band underwent a lineup change and transitioned into a more acoustic-based alternative sound.
Holy Soldier left an indelible mark on Christian rock and roll history. The band, formed in Los Angeles in 1985, exerted a significant influence on subsequent artists. Though they faded away like many bands from the era, their impact on the genre should not be overlooked.
4. Guardian – From Traditional Metal to Hard Rock
Originally a traditional metal band, Guardian made a significant shift when they changed vocalists and adopted a more hard rock sound. Drawing inspiration from bands like Tesla, Guardian’s slightly glam image and sound appealed to a broad audience.
Formed in 1982 under the name Fusion, Guardian soon sought out a Christian-focused record label. Their decision led to an evolution in their sound. With hits like “Power of Love” and “Shoeshine Johnny,” Guardian carved their place in Christian music history.
5. Bloodgood – Spreading the Good News
Bloodgood played a crucial role in kickstarting the Christian metal movement. Throughout their career, they prioritized spreading the Gospel through their music. Although they never aimed for mainstream success, Bloodgood gathered a dedicated fan base, both in the heavy metal and Christian rock scenes.
With a discography rooted in biblical themes, Bloodgood always emphasized reaching the lost with the Good News of Jesus Christ. Their unique blend of music and message resonated with fans worldwide.
6. Bride – A Journey of Sound
Bride began their journey with a heavier sound compared to their contemporaries. However, they continuously evolved their sound to appeal to the hair metal crowd. “Kinetic Faith,” an album recorded in Nashville, showcased a departure from their earlier music. Mixing rock ‘n’ roll with a twist, Bride gained recognition and even won a DOVE Award for their song, “Everybody Knows My Name.”
While Bride’s sound went through multiple changes, they remained a staple in the Christian metal scene.
7. Whitecross – The Christian Equivalent of Ratt
Founded in 1985 by singer Scott Wenzel and guitarist Rex Carroll, Whitecross achieved popularity by adopting a sound akin to secular bands like Ratt. Their ability to provide a Christian alternative to the mainstream glam metal scene resonated with fans looking for faith-based music.
Despite their success within the Christian market, Whitecross never quite broke into the mainstream. Nevertheless, their impact as a Christian metal band cannot be underestimated.
8. Deliverance – Delivering Heavy Metal
For the fans of heavier music, Deliverance emerged in 1985 as a band that provided a harder edge. Their sound drew comparisons to bands like Anthrax, Testament, and Slayer. While they achieved some recognition with MTV airplay on “The Headbanger’s Ball,” they remained primarily focused on the Christian market.
Deliverance’s dedication to producing quality albums showcased their musical prowess and commitment to their genre.
9. Tourniquet – Beethoven Meets Frankenstein
Tourniquet, formed in Los Angeles in 1990 (a bit over the ’80s timeline), stood out among Christian metal bands for their unique sound. Drummer Ted Kirkpatrick’s passion for classical music and technical metal heavily influenced their music, leading to a description of “Beethoven Meets Frankenstein.”
With a blend of melody and originality, Tourniquet earned recognition as a band that appealed to musicians and listeners seeking intense music. Their appearances in various musicians’ magazines underscored their reputation as a “musician’s band.”
10. Sacred Warrior – Melodic and Progressive Hard Rock/Metal
Sacred Warrior played melodic, progressive hard rock/metal reminiscent of bands like Queensryche and Iron Maiden. The band’s formation stemmed from the conversion of guitarist Bruce Swift to Christianity. Led by Tony Velasquez, Rey Parra, and Rick Macias, the band solidified its lineup and created memorable music.
Despite their talent and dedication, Sacred Warrior never achieved significant mainstream success. Nevertheless, their contribution to the Christian metal scene remains noteworthy.
11. X-Sinner – The AC/DC-Inspired Christian Alternative
X-Sinner carved their niche by capturing the AC/DC sound, providing a Christian alternative to the iconic band’s music. Their album “Get It” garnered critical acclaim and spawned several chart-topping singles.
While X-Sinner achieved recognition within the Christian market, their sound didn’t translate as effectively to a broader audience. Nevertheless, their commitment to creating hard-hitting music with a Christian message resonated with fans.
12. Saint – Early Pioneers of Christian Metal
Saint burst onto the scene with their EP “Warriors Of The Son” in 1984. Signing with Pure Metal Records, they released their first full-length album, “Time’s End.” With a sound reminiscent of Judas Priest, Saint made their mark in the Christian metal realm, albeit with weaker production on their early albums.
Despite their potential, Saint never gained widespread acclaim and, like many bands from the era, became known mainly within the Christian Metal market.
13. Leviticus – Swedish Symphonic Metal
Leviticus, a Swedish band, burst onto the scene with a symphonic metal sound. However, due to geographical challenges and touring costs, they remained primarily known as a Christian bookstore metal band. Over time, Leviticus transitioned to a different sound and made their final live appearance in 2003.
While they may not have achieved considerable commercial success, Leviticus left their mark on the Christian metal genre.
14. Angelica – Chasing the Guitar Slingers
Angelica attempted to capture the essence of guitar slingers like Van Halen and George Lynch. With a touch of glam and the addition of Rob Rock as their vocalist, Angelica catered to power ballad fans and those seeking skillful guitar work. However, their popularity remained limited to the Christian metal market.
15. Shout – Hitting the Hair Band Scene
Shout, founded in 1987 by Ken Tamplin, embraced the hair band look and sound. Their debut album, “It Won’t Be Long,” featured notable session musicians, and the band made waves within the Christian market. However, they struggled to break into the mainstream, limiting their reach outside of the Christian metal scene.
Remember to check out Ratingperson for more music content like this!