Christian metal, also known as white metal, Jesus metal or heavenly metal, is a form of heavy metal music usually defined by its message using song lyrics as well as the dedication of the band members to Christianity. Christian metal is typically performed by professed Christians principally for Christians who listen to heavy metal music and often produced and distributed through various Christian networks.
Christian metal bands exist in most of the subgenres of heavy metal music, and the only common link among most Christian metal bands are the lyrics. The Christian themes are often melded with the subjects of the genre the band is rooted in, regularly providing a Christian take on the subject matter. It has been argued that the marginal yet transnational Christian metal subculture provides its core members an alternative religious expression and Christian identity, and that the music serves the purpose of offering a positive message through lyrical content. This may not necessarily show a direct connection or reference to the Christian faith but often it does.
Christian metal is not a solitary style of music, but rather an ideological umbrella term that comprises almost every subgenre of heavy metal music. The musicians within Christian metal bands typically base their lyrics on Judeo-Christian traditions. The lyrical approach of Christian metal bands is somewhat varied, as some emphasize the positive aspects of faith matters while others iterate the teachings of Christ. Some bands keep their message hidden in metaphors. Only a minority take an aggressive attitude towards those who speak against Christianity, "preaching full-on fire and brimstone and Old Testament style God's wrath back at extreme Satanists". References to eschatology and apocalyptic themes, particularly the ongoing spiritual warfare between good and evil as well as the Last Judgment and fall from grace are typical.
The lyrical style varies depending on culture, denomination, and country. For example, in Northern Europe the bands with Lutheran members usually prefer a personal lyrical approach, which is seldom meant to "convert" in an aggressive manner, since evangelism has been more typical among American bands. Christian bands never deny their conviction but typically avoid preaching, and sometimes the matter is left unexpressed, leaving religion as a private issue of the listener. Certain bands choose to deal with everyday life experiences from a Christian perspective in order to draw both Christian and non-Christian listeners. In such cases, identifying a "Christian band" can be difficult. Secular bands that occasionally deal with Christian topics are a different matter altogether. Defining a Christian band is a much debated issue on Christian metal forums. A Christian band is expected to have either professed Christian members or a Christian message, preferably both.