"You take offense in what I say/Can't have it any other way/We're all subject to the altar that we bow/And to those who disagree/And still believe they can be free/You're just clinging to a rotten sacred cow"
— from "Left for Dead"

Tribe of Judah is the latest artistic endeavor of Gary Cherone, the lead singer of the defunct heavy metal band Extreme, who later recorded one album as the lead vocalist of Van Halen. He also happens to be an outspoken Christian, and if you have doubts (like U2's Bono, he's occasionally prone to profanity), listen closely to the content of the songs he's written. Extreme's 1991 hit, "Hole Hearted," is about the search for fulfillment, and in Gary's case, the hole was God–shaped.

The new album re–teams Gary with Extreme bandmates Pat Badger on bass and Mike Mangini on drums, along with guitarist Leo Mellace and keyboardist Steve Ferlazzo. The result is a blend of Extreme's pop–metal bombast with modern industrial electronica — Van Halen or Def Leppard meets Nine Inch Nails. Even more intriguing than the sound, however, is the album's theme.

If you "read behind the lyrics" in the album's liner notes, you'll find a quote by Fyodor Dostoevsky: "If there is no God, then all things are permissible." Pair that phrase with the Apostle Paul's words from 1 Corinthians chapters 6 and 10 ("'Everything is permissible for me' — but not everything is beneficial.") and then listen to Exit Elvis. The opening song, "Left for Dead" (quoted above), argues over man's free will and essentially concludes that there is no room for both God's will and ours. In Rolling Stone magazine, Gary says: "If there is a God, an absolute law, then ultimately man has to be subject to that … in order for man to be free, he would have to put God to death."

From that statement one could view Exit Elvis as a darker It's a Wonderful Life, imagining a world without God, completely run by man — it's not a pretty picture. "Ambiguous Headdress" challenges those who believe that all religions are equal and faith is arbitrary. "Suspension of Disbelief" cynically takes the atheist point of view, declaring that, "heaven's only just a state of mind." A similar theme is expressed in "My Utopia," which is subtitled "anthropolemic" — one who worships human beings.

Fortunately, Exit Elvis is not completely devoid of faith and hope. "East of Paradise" is a strong song of surrender to the Lord: "Take me to another time and place me down upon the water's edge/Tell me that I'm not the only one who fell in over my head/Baptized me in your water/Wash iniquity aside, or sacrifice me at the altar." From the other side of the relationship, "Celibate" seems to be a lonely plea from God for us to return to a relationship with him: "Love me again/Rise from your fall from grace … Return from whence you came/Thirst for this cup again."

If you think these themes would pass over the heads of the average listener or concertgoer, you'd probably be correct. Likewise, most Christian listeners probably won't grasp the cynicism and hypothetical themes. Most, in fact, will have a hard time getting past the intense album cover that sequentially shows a handgun being shoved hard against Gary's neck. The controversial image is an attempt to illustrate the theme of free will and man being the measure of all things. A song of grace that clearly points to the cross would have made for a stronger and more meaningful ending to this seemingly bleak and sometimes (ahem) extreme album, but this is nevertheless challenging and creative music written from a faith–based perspective that recalls the convicting works of Christian artists like Steve Taylor and Mike Roe.

Unless specified clearly, we are not implying whether this artist is or is not a Christian. The views expressed are simply the author's. For a more complete description of our Glimpses of God articles, click here.