UTG INTERVIEW: I Built The Cross

ibtc

I Built The Cross is about as heavy as it gets and they’re not only a technical death metal outfit, but theological mentors as well. The band was formed in 2008 by Reed Mitchell and Garrett McGeein (formerly of Disfiguring The Goddess) and have since gained an impressive standing in the metal scene. Their newest effort, Banish The Disconnect will be one of the most prized EPs of the year for fans of Impending Doom, Whitechapel, and The Faceless.

One thing I know for sure is that they sent me Yu-Gi-Oh! cards and a signed poster with their EP, so they’re beyond cool in my diary.

UTG had the chance to speak with IBTC about Christianity in metal music, some upcoming plans for the band, and their survival in the forthcoming apocalypse. Read through and get enlightened with I Built The Cross!

You’ve proclaimed yourself as not only a band, but as a ministry committed to evangelism. What do you feel is the importance of incorporating faith in your music in regards to your listeners?
Faith, being our perpetually growing trust and hope in God’s providence and purpose, is not only incorporated into our music and ministry but is the only reason it exists at all. As a band, we’ve endured several demoralizing struggles ranging from finances to personal shortcomings. If it were not for a deeply ingrained hope in God’s purposes, we would have called it quits years ago.
We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again: for us, music is second. First and foremost, we are a band committed to the Gospel. It’s not our primary concern whether or not this or that breakdown is heavy, or this or that part is technically proficient – our primary concern is whether or not the gospel of Jesus Christ is being heard. Jesus said “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”

Are you worried that your prominent representation of Christ could deter listeners and prevent a larger fan base? 
We’ve often had to check our hearts on this issue. It’s difficult not to get wrapped up in the pursuit of an acclaimed, huge musical status. We have to continually refocus ourselves and remember why we’re doing this music thing in the first place; exposing the audience to an authentic preaching of the gospel message. As a result, “worried” is perhaps not the best term to express our emotional position towards our fan count. Corporately, people refusing to listen to our music based on our lyrical content has been a constant experience; the phenomenon is bizarre, to say the least. It’s funny, really – half of the people that disparage our band because we’re Christians are the same people that harp on Christianity for being intolerant. At any rate, we’re mostly confused that people can’t just listen to our music for what it is! Most of our favorite bands are secular. While we may wholeheartedly disagree with their message, we feel at liberty to enjoy their music despite our disagreements. For instance, Reed and Garret have written volumes on the self-defeating, judgmental, partisan nature of the relativists’ world-view, yet still we’re big fans of The Faceless, who have represented a relativistic perspective on more than one occasion. 

For someone to not listen to us just because of our lyrics is downright silly.

What are your thoughts on the phrase, “Christian death metal is an oxymoron?”
To all appearances, the phrase is more of a misunderstanding of the title “death-metal” than anything more substantive – a sort of semantic miscommunication. People take the word “death” in “death metal” to define the lyrical content of the music, continuing on to take the word “Christian” and use that to define what they think the “sound” or “feel” of the music should be. This is just completely backwards. A proper understanding of the phrase “Christian death metal” would entail taking the word “Christian” as the defining quality in the lyrical content, and the words “death metal” to define the “sound” or “feel” of the music itself. With this understanding, I don’t see anything oxymoronic about the two at all – it is completely coherent to have music with a deep Christian message as well as a heavy, dark, and aggressive vibe inherent to the death metal genre.

In short, music is defined by the individuals playing it, not the other way around.

Who are some of your personal favorite Christian metal bands?
Unfortunately, there aren’t too many Christian metal bands for which we care (musically, at least…we’re a little picky). Among the bands we do care for, the following are of note: old Impending Doom (The Sin and Doom of Godless Men), In the Midst of Lions, As They Sleep.  

For fans that haven’t had the opportunity to hear the entirety of the new EP, what can they expect that differs from your older material?
The biggest difference is that this one doesn’t suck (laughs).

Plans for a full-length after the EP?
Oh, certainly. Though, no time frame as of yet. That whole enterprise is sort of contingent on whether or not we find a suitable record label.

I’ve seen a lot of Christian death metal bands tour with bands that represent Satanism or “God-free” views. What are you feelings about this? Would you be comfortable touring with bands like Behemoth or Deicide?
We would feel comfortable touring with literally anyone as long as they wouldn’t be personally hostile or mean to us. I have a hard time imagining that Deicide would be a very friendly band to tour with. However, we would be flattered to tour with bands such as Whitechapel, The Faceless, Beneath the Massacre, etc. The main thing to understand about these bands is that their “Satanic” lyrics are more of a publicity stunt than anything – that is – this is an unfortunate fact – things like “god-free” are simply trendy in this music scene. The vast majority of these bands are more likely to be individually apathetic towards Christianity than hateful. 

Any touring plans in the works?
We’ve definitely got some plans in the works; details will be released as they’re confirmed!

Are there any bands that claim to represent Christ that you feel are a shame to the cause?
Absolutely. We won’t name any in particular, because we’re not children and we  don’t want to start any “internet wars” between bands or fans. We will, however, offer some points of critique on the genre of Christian metal at large. One of the most popular trends in Christian metal culture today is the aggressive and hostile “repent or perish” type of mentality. While we’re not calling into question the Christian doctrine of Hell (unpalatable or otherwise), we do find it difficult to understand the sincerity or the effectiveness of a group’s ministry when their only ‘outreach’ as a band is screaming at the top of their lungs “You will rot in Hell you filthy sinner”. We feel like we’re listening to “Fire and Brimstone” church messages voiced over a breakdown. We know that if we were individually not Christians, having some guy almost brag about our personal condemnation (or try to threaten us out of it), would not really welcome a positive response to my disbelief. Why would a person even dream of listening to what that angry preacher had to say with any degree of respect or seriousness?
 
There is, on the opposite end, a sort of washed-down, Christianity without the Christianity project a lot of ‘Christian’ bands are really buying. You can read our thoughts on that issue on our Facebook.

As far as a personal connection, what are you hoping listeners will receive when listening to your music? 
As far as the music proper goes, we hope the listeners receive whatever they want out of it. If they just want something heavy and technical to listen to then I hope it satisfies their cravings. If, on the other hand, they can worship God through listening to our music, then we hope that they achieve that as well. The message that we would like people to get from our music is that one can be a Christian and yet still be intelligent and talented. The lyrics however are completely different. When someone reads through the lyrics to our songs we hope that they either begin to question their beliefs and research them more thoroughly, or  that they feel enlightened and encouraged by them. We tend to focus more on the intellectual side of Christianity than the emotional; we hope that people realize that it is completely possible to have a deep relationship with God without having to put your brain on shelf in order to do it. 

To piggy-back off of that, how would you describe your lyrical content?
Our lyrics are gospel-centered, evangelical, and hard-hitting. We focus on issues such as the teleological argument for the existence of God, the philosophical implications of the absurdity of life, the misrepresentation of Christianity in the public square, and the freedom Jesus’ death and subsequent resurrection gives to believers. 
 
We make allusions to philosophers such as Bertrand Russel, Descarte, and William Lane Craig. We also draw a lot of content from particularly impactful sermons.

If the world, as rumored, were to end this year, would the band survive?
Trust us, we’ve played so many post-apocalyptic video games that we almost welcome the end of the world. Once “The Last of Us” is released for PS3 we will be almost entirely prepared for any “End world” scenario you could imagine! Also, we live in Nevada. Zak alone has like five guns (laughs)!

Written and conducted by: Brian Lion

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