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To Hell With the Devil

Can't figure out how Christian black metal could possibly exist? Read this fast, because FaithFest SC is here.

By Mike Connor

'People are stuck in the Stone Age," says Kevin James Stover, creator, promoter and organizer of Santa Cruz's first-ever Christian hardcore music festival. "I'm not being rude by saying that, I'm just telling the truth, because people think rock should not be associated with Christian music--never mind hardcore and metalcore and stuff like that."

Stover says that Christians are quickly incorporating the musical styles that the kids love, including emo, punk, rock and even some grind.

"It's great that it's becoming that style," says Stover. "There's even Christian death metal and Christian black metal, which is so rad. Death metal, Christian. Do they mix? Yes."

Indeed, these days, a Christian death metal band sounds a lot like a satanic death metal band, except instead of singing songs with names like "Father of Lies" filled with brutal screaming vocals, heavy, chugging guitars, galloping drums and sinister rumbling bass lines, all glorifying the devil, they sing songs with names like "Father of Lies" filled with brutal screaming vocals, heavy, chugging guitars, galloping drums and sinister rumbling bass lines, all vilifying the devil.

"You look at the names of these bands and, no, they're not worship bands," says Stover of the 11-band lineup set to play in San Lorenzo Park on Labor Day. "We might have one acoustic worship band later in the day because we can't have amplification after 5, but everything else is music that you would hear on the radio, or music that's similar on the underground hardcore scene or punk scene or emo scene. What I see with this is that good overcomes evil, and good is actually trying to put itself in the eyes or in the shadows of an evil style of music to bring positivity to that music."

Stover, a self-described "hardcore kid," is clad in familiar surfer garb: flip-flops, jeans, T-shirt, cowery-shell necklace and a trucker hat with a flipped-up visor, plus a little silver chain with a cross on it hanging around his neck. He reps skate and surfboard products at his day job, but he's quickly making headway into the local music scene, both with his association with GotLocalMusic.com and a community TV show called Posi-Mosh in the works. He's also looking into starting an all-ages venue in town, all in hopes of spreading a positive, though not necessarily (or at least not explicitly) Christian message.

Loosely modeling his event on others like "Spirit West Coast" and "Cornerstone" in Ohio, Stover is assembling all sorts of "bands with Christian members," as they like to call themselves, leaving behind the "Christian insert-genre-here band" moniker that instantly limits a band's potential audience.

Headlining the event is Next in Line--originally from Santa Cruz--a hard melodic rock band a la Bush that recently landed some big shows with Papa Roach, Sugarcult and Smashmouth. San Diego-based In Reverent Fear will dissolve any last preconceptions of what a Christian band should sound like. In addition, there will be a "battle of the bands" element, a hardcore dance contest, a pie-eating contest, a magician, a raffle and food/merch vendors.


FaithFest SC: Next in Line, Tsunami, In Reverent Fear, Promising Tomorrow, Ria, Treachery's Wake, Shadow Bride, Life in Vain and others perform at San Lorenzo Park on Monday, Sept. 6, 10am-5pm. Advance tickets are $8, available at Streetlight Records, Graceland Bookstore and Linda's Bible Bookstore; $10 at the event. For info, contact faithfestsc@yahoo.com.

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From the September 1-8, 2004 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

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