Christian metal takes a lot of flak from those who say religious themes have no place in metal. Bands like For Today, however, stand as a testament that some Christian metal can, in fact, rock as hard as the rest of them. This past Saturday at the Blue Moose Tap House, they played with a swath of bands that included Like Moths To Flames, Stray From The Path and The Plot In You as part of their ongoing Fight The Silence Tour.
Maybe it’s because people identify with the religious elements in their music, or simply because the group hails from Sioux City, but For Today has a massive fanbase in Iowa City.
I showed up Saturday around 3:45 p.m., 15 minutes before doors opened and 45 minutes before Noah kicked off the show. The line went a whole block down the street — in the midst of a 10 degree blizzard.
Freezing fans acknowledged that their beloved headliner wouldn’t take the stage until about 9 p.m., but they didn’t want to run the risk of being stuck in the back of the venue, or worse yet, not getting in at all. The result was a full house four hours before For Today would even take the stage.
Right away, I could tell there was a division among the crowd. On one extreme, there was the guy wearing a shirt covered in Bible verses, with a crucifix and “Straight Edge” tattooed on his arm. On the other extreme, there was the guy whose shirt said “I don’t need a fucking saviour.” But my single favorite audience member was a 10 year old boy, just excited to hear some good music, without any concern at all over what the music stands for.
It’s hard to ignore their religious themes, however. Frontman Mattie Montgomery, who spends his time away from the band as a traveling evangelist preacher, actually enunciates his screaming vocals quite well, at least in comparison to other metalcore bands. This makes it easier to comprehend their lyrics, of course, which are blatantly Christian. Take look at the lyrics for “Devastator,” for instance.
Montgomery takes time in between songs to discuss the groups’ faith. In fact, when I saw them at Blue Moose Tap House two years ago, they had a table in the back giving out Bibles. As he puts it, serving his saviour Jesus Christ is his only priority, and music is his way of spreading his ideals with others. These mini-sermons further divided the crowd. About half would cheer “amen,” while others felt estranged by their “holier than thou” impression.
But this is nothing new for the band. They have always followed their religion first, even if that means alienating some fans. Two founding members have actually left the band to pursue religious endeavors — Drummer David Morrison left to do missionary work in South America, and rhythm guitarist Mike Reynolds left so he and his wife could work to become missionaries in the Middle East. Reynolds’ departure came shortly after a controversial tweet in which he wrote, “There was no such thing as a homosexual Christian.” In response, Montgomery posted a YouTube video including his personal phone number for anyone wishing to talk about the flub, or about religion in general.
Christianity may be their main emphasis, but their performance was captivating in its own right. Songs like the infectiously anthemic “Fearless,” or Montgomery demanding as many stage-dives as humanly possible during “Fight the Silence” (which impressively amassed 64), brought people of all creeds together. You don’t have to be a devoted Christian to throw up the horns and headbang to For Today.
The first four bands were fairly straightforward metalcore bands. Stray From The Path brought some variety with their semi-rapped vocals and Tom Morello-esque guitar-play, portraying their strong Rage Against The Machine influence. The penultimate performance, Like Moths To Flames, is one of the more promising up-and-coming bands in metalcore. In a genre overwhelmed with aggression, their catchy melodies help set them apart.