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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