Headbanging in the house of God: Rio congregation worships with heavy metal

Jan 22, 2016

Photo credit: REUTERS/Denis Balibouse

By Jonathan Watts

Of the many macabre ways in which the Metanóia chapel differs from its counterparts around the world, perhaps the most revealing is its noticeboard.

As well as the usual updates on services, baptisms and weddings, it includes a host of blood-curdling advertisements for upcoming events.

“Night of the Massacre”, “Into the Infernal” and “Blood Fest” scream the headlines that might, at first sight, leave a visitor to a Catholic chapel alarmed or, at least, perplexed.

Given the chapel’s location in Maré – a huge favela complex in Rio de Janeiro that is so difficult for the authorities to control that it was recently occupied by the Brazilian military – some might wrongly assume the signs refer to conflict between police and gangs.

In fact, they are gig notices that testify to a small but growing heavy metal evangelical movement that is upturning Brazilian stereotypes of Catholicism, samba and favela violence.

Metanóia, a second-floor church that attracts a small but dedicated group of followers, is testimony to the diversity and complexity of Brazil’s pick ‘n’ mix culture.

The setting is studiously gothic. In one corner a skeletal grim reaper peers out from an open coffin. In another, a skull is chained above a dusty Bible. The walls are decorated with spiders, bats and saw blades. Black crucifixes dangle from the ceiling. On the altar, between a tabernacle and a sword, sits a goat skull pierced by a jewelled dagger. Behind it, a giant banner declares, “Jesus Christ is Lord of the Underground.”

The message is underscored by the founding pastor Enok Galvão. “Here in the underground, in our own way, we welcome God into our hearts,” the tattooed preacher declares to his congregation, who raise their fists to the heavens and declare, “Praise be to the Lord.”

Once his sermon is over, the music – and the moshing – begins. Four bands, ranging from soft evangelical rock to hardcore Christian death metal, take the mood as far from a traditional church choir as can be imagined.

One of the vocalists Joab Farias, a bank employee with a long beard and a black ear stud, specialises in the guttural growls of death metal.

“To me it’s really natural. I see no reason not to use this kind of voice for worship,” he explains. “Music is a realm of complete freedom.”

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9 comments on “Headbanging in the house of God: Rio congregation worships with heavy metal

  • Well, truth be told, I’d rather attend one of these parties than sit in the vapid, happy clappy UU church or the deadly dull Methodist services. I never object to a little heavy metal now and again. Fercrissakes at least this bunch won’t bore the bejeezis out of me. Hmmm. I wonder if I can still squeeze into my black leather pants and matching bodice…

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  • … along with people from other metal churches, claim to have had visions (three times) of a angel in the form of a head-banger

    Given the small groups feeding off each other, plus the power of music aiding and abetting, not surprising.

    Wish to witness first hand, explore my feeling (if any) of enticement in a “closed” room situation.

    three times


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  • 8
    NearlyNakedApe says:

    Wow! This is great material for a parody… I hope SNL or Bill Maher get a hold of this. I can see it from here…. rows of angel statues on the church columns coiffed with long-haired wigs bobbing their heads to the beat of heavy metal… each with an arm extended doing the “devil horns” hand gesture.

    Mass is nothing more than the celebration of ridiculous beliefs. And the way those people are celebrating is in fact no more ridiculous than the traditional rites of regular Catholic mass… the bells, the incense, the long boring pointless sermons, the mumbling over the cracker, the annoying crunching sounds of the priest while he’s eating it in front of his microphone. At least those “worshippers” are having a whoppin’ good time.

    But that’s the whole thing isn’t it? Are they really doing it as an act of divine worship?… Or is it just an excuse to get together and throw a head-bobbing, body-slamming, throat-scorching party? The only thing missing is pyrotechnics and Gene Simmons in full Kiss regalia complete with 12-inch tall shoes.

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  • @OP – As well as the usual updates on services, baptisms and weddings, it includes a host of blood-curdling advertisements for upcoming events.

    Perhaps there will be more of such events, as churches are forced by diminishing congregations and funds, to rent out their building as entertainment venues!


    Almost two-thirds of those running England’s Anglican cathedrals are concerned about their finances, a BBC survey suggests.

    Of the 38 cathedrals who responded fully, 26 said they were “worried” or “very worried” about the future.

    Last year, the Church of England gave £8.3m to the historic buildings but the cash does not cover all of their needs.

    Some cathedrals are now looking to new ways of fundraising including hiring the buildings out as venues.

    Of the 42 Anglican cathedrals in England, 38 are Grade I listed and expensive to maintain – with some absorbing daily running costs of £4,000.

    The challenge lies in maintaining a balance between needing to raise large sums of money and keeping the building as a spiritual space.

    But cathedrals are often also the largest building available for public use in their area and are increasingly being used as places for concerts, lectures and even banquets.

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