By Mark Ellis and Hasset Anteneh, Special to ASSIST News Service
SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA (ANS – September 30, 2015) — In Finland, where heavy metal is mainstream, a movement melding the lyrics of traditional hymns with the snarl of hard rocking ‘Metal Mass’ is drawing sinners through churches’ doors.
In 2006, Haka Kekäläinen, a pastor with the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland, decided with four other heavy metal aficionados to do the unthinkable: wedding their passion for rock with their love for the Rock.
“We didn’t change the lyrics of the hymns,” says Kekäläinen, a 50-year-old with a ponytail who drops his leather clothes for priestly garb on Sundays. “We only changed the musical arrangements to fit the rhythms of metal music. The hymns contain some very cruel words. It fits with metal music.”
The first “mass” where metal hymns were played was packed by 1,300 in the Temppeliaukio Church of Helsinki, Kekäläinen, according to the website This is Finland. More than 100 similar Metal Masses have been offered throughout Finland since then, and all 8,000 copies of the subsequent album Metallimessu were snapped up. The recording hit #12 on Finnish billboard charts and stayed in the top 40 for three weeks.
“It was really good,” Akseli Inkinen, a 17-year-old with long, messy hair, told The Washington Times. The pews get packed with teens who pump the air with fists while the lead singers mosh around the stage.
Mika Mäkinen, a 30-something man with his blond hair in a ponytail, eschews normal church services. But since his first Metal Mass, he’s become a regular to the services, the rock and hearing the Word of God. “This is my ninth time,” he told This is Finland.
Finland’s state Evangelical Lutheran Church, has been largely silent about the mixing of the sanctity of the mass with a music genre that was once widely seen as “the devil’s music.”
Maybe it’s no surprise that Metal Mass would hatch in Finland. In 2006, the ambiguously-Christian band Lordi took Eurovision’s Song Contest by storm with its “Hard Rock Hallelujah.” It was the first time the prestigious award was won for Finland.
Lordi, which also sings “Devil is a Loser,” are not tie-wearing Christians for sure, but band leader Tomi
Putaansuu in an interview with Blabbermouth.net disavowed any links to the devil: “We have nothing to do with Satanism.”
Meanwhile, the unchurched are going back to church, drawn by the music they love. “It’s nice that there are slightly different church services compared to the usual ones,” 15-year-old Teea Pallaskari told The Washington Times.
Kimmo Kuusniemi, who produced a documentary about heavy metal in Finland, considered Metallimessu important enough to conclude: “For me, Metal Mass was a surprise. Metal music and church did not fit in the same room.”
Not only metalheads attend these masses. “We show them that it is possible to have fun in church,” Kekalainen said.
Photo captions: 1) The man behind metal mass: Pastor Haka Kekäläinen combines his love of God with his enthusiasm for heavy metal. (Photo: Tim Bird) 2) Metalimessu. 3) Messuporissa.
About the writer: Mark Ellis is senior correspondent for the ASSIST News Service and also the founder of www.Godreports.com, a website that shares stories, testimonies and videos from the church around the world to build interest and involvement in world missions.
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