Over the course of time, we at AudioInferno have received a lot of material from various people and groups. They sometimes come with the tag ‘gospel rock’. This term has become a thing of debate or confusion in many circles. This has made me decided to write an opinion piece addressing the subject matter.
I would like to state right off the bat that this is an opinion piece and as much as I have put a lot of research into the subject matter, everything you’re about to read is simply the way I view things. On that note, let’s get right to it then.
First off, there is no such thing as gospel rock neither is there anything like a gospel rock band. If you’re reading and you belong to a gospel rock band, you need to stop calling yourselves that; and if you know anyone who belongs to a gospel rock band please send him/her a link to this piece.
Gospel rock does not exist, Christian Rock however does. What’s the difference you ask?
This brings me to my second argument. A band needs two major elements to fit into the Christian Rock tag.
- You must be able to define the band by a specific subgenre(s) of Rock Music. Christian Rock is not a subgenre; however, Christian Rock bands belong to a subgenre of rock music the defining actor being the lyrical content. Examples include; Switchfoot (Alternative Rock), Jars Of Clay (Alternative Rock/Indie Rock), Flyleaf (Alternative Metal/Alternative Rock), Gungor (Indie Folk/Indie Rock), Red (Alternative Metal), For Today (Metalcore). These bands mentioned are tagged Christian Rock but they also belong to their specific Rock subgenres
- The band should function as any other rock band should (Band dynamics, Tours, Album releases, Sales etc.)
Church Music (which can be divided broadly into Christian Contemporary Music, Gospel and Praise & Worship) has evolved beautifully over the years and with the advent of genre fusion, we see lot of Christian artists and worship collectives (particularly Hillsong United, Jesus Culture, Bethel Music, Elevation Worship etc.) incorporating strong Rock elements into their music.
Still, these groups do not tag themselves as Rock bands, They are tagged as ‘Praise and Worship’ mostly because their main objective is to lead people in congregational worship. Most of their albums are recorded live as worship concerts, which is usually accompanied by various seminars and conferences, organised for Christian youths.
In plain terms, as much as to a large extent they fulfil the first criteria, they do not fulfil the second because they do not function as a band. You would not find Hillsong or Jesus Culture headlining Winter Jam, however, you would find Skillet playing at the event constantly.
Bringing this back home, a lot of people particularly my Christian friends who are into rock music have fought me on this until they gave me a chance to explain this to them in detail.
I am a Christian and I remind them that I listen to all these worship groups practically every day because I love them. However, I’m also an avid rocker and I can’t stand for anything that contradicts what rock music stands for.
In conclusion, if you’re in a group and you pattern your sound after any of the worship groups listed below, you’re NOT a rock band irrespective of what you think. This doesn’t mean you don’t create great music and I’ll definitely listen to your stuff as long as you don’t call it “Gospel Rock”.