Interview with Patrick Best
Christian heavy metal (also referred to as white metal) began in the mid 1980s with bands like Stryper and Trouble. How widespread has the genre become in thirty-plus years? What do you think accounts for its growth in popularity?
As far as its growth in popularity, we are very new to the whole CM scene. I can't speak for the band in general, but in my opinion and from what I have seen, it has been in a decline since the late 90's. Christian metal was much more marketable and widespread in the 80's and early 90's from what I have researched because there was no internet and people supported live music way more. I think more so however that its steady decline has been from artists watering down their lyrics and focusing on God's wrath of the Old Testament more than faith, renewal and Christ's love for all. Due to this I think fans have crossed over to the Christian Rock, Contemporary and Worship music genre, which is mainstream and huge right now. People have been in struggle over the moral decay and depravity of this fallen world and are in need of so much love and hope right now and those genres in that scene inspire that in the lyrics and music. Sadly so much hate and violence has been generated and associated with metal that a lot of CM fans have gravitated towards a more positive and peaceful musical atmosphere and left the metal world.
I’ve noticed how often religion in general is used an excuse to control and propagate fear and hatred, especially in the last ten years. Does this contribute to the social decay in the U.S. and the world in general? What is Ritual Servant’s role in reaction to this?
I think pride and power overall lead to this type of fear and corruption which rallies hate. As far as religion, I personally believe true Christianity as Christ's teachings demonstrate, to be a relationship, not a religion. Religion seeks to control and manipulate, but Christ presents freewill; the ability to choose your own path for every person, and on the flip side His unconditional love for all, where none are unworthy. No matter what we may think we have done or not done, we are all still welcome at God's table. Sadly because all belief systems are exercised by humans and we are all flawed, none will ever get it right, but that's the whole reason Christ died for us and took our place on the cross. He knew we would never get it right, but with Christ living in us and through us, we can truly live and accomplish His work and our purpose while we are here on earth.
Christ is also said to have said something along the lines of “my father’s mansion has many halls.” Would you say this applies to belief systems other than Christianity?
The actual verses are John 14:2-3 and Jesus speaks of rooms not halls. As far as other belief systems, my answer is best explained by what Jesus said to Thomas and the disciples in John 14. "In my Father’s house there are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to Myself, so that where I am, there you may be also." -John 14: 2-3 "Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me." -John 14:6
What are the worst examples of religion used to manipulate and control? One example I thought of is the intolerance practiced by the Westboro Baptist Church. Do you consider them a religious group or a cult? What is your view toward religious cults?
As a Christian I am not out to talk negatively about any group or religious cult. Sadly some use fear as a way to control or spark hate. We will all be judged one day for every idle word that we have ever spoken and only God is allowed to judge the hearts of others. I think this verse says it best referring to the woman that was about to be stoned for adultery by the scribes and Pharisees in the book of John. "And as they continued to ask Him, He stood up and said to them, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” -John 8:7
Some people think Christian metal is wrong because the lyrics are at odds with what is termed ‘the devil’s music.’
Personally I think music is an art and expression of feelings. There's no definitive sound, "Christian" or "Devil" by the music alone. To me the lyrics personify and embody the content and message suggestion of the music. The lyrics lead way to the labeling of the music created and what message it's trying to convey. Without lyrics how would anyone know what music was specifically branded when it came to "Christian" or "Devil" music? These days even the lyrics of some are so watered down and hidden behind the music it’s hard to determine even what the band has labeled themselves. I think artists are worried about pigeon-holing themselves into a corner and limiting their audience so most leave it open to listener interpretation. As the vocalist, I specifically wanted the Christian label because that is my heart and the music is completely Scripture-based so there's no misinterpreting the allegiance to Christ. Even the back of our shirts say, "Scripture-based - Christ Exalted - Metal Gospel." Personally to me being lukewarm is a waste of time. You are either hot or cold in your beliefs. Believers have become so obsessed with John 3:16 that they forget or don't know about Revelations 3:16.... "So, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spew you out of my mouth."
When did you discover Christian themed metal and what about it inspired you? What led you to start a band of your own?
I actually didn't really discover Christian metal until after I started Ritual Servant. It was then after a couple of months of releasing our first two tracks did the labels start taking an interest in what we were doing and contacted us about releasing a full record. I began to do some research on the labels and started checking out their rosters and what bands were sounding like on their respected labels. I started Ritual Servant not because of Christian metal, but because I had decided to lay down my secular lifestyle with the band I was in previously and totally surrender and re-dedicate my life to Christ, but this time fully, meaning my music too. I wanted to give back the gifts the Holy Spirit had given me and one of them was influence and teaching through music.
Was it relatively easy to find band members to work with after you started? What is the lineup at this point?
Finding band members kinda fell right into place. I first asked Seth, my drummer, to join because we both had felt in the past we would work together on something in the future because of our styles and personalities. He, ironically, was leaving the band he was in so it was totally set up by God. Then when we were recording the first two tracks, our producer Brian asked to play bass on the project, so there again it fell into place. Then I thought of Charley because he's such an incredible guitarist and I had met and become friends with him a few years back when I lived in North Carolina. I knew his style would fit perfect with the sound and writing Seth and I were doing and as a true blessing, it was a spot on match. My other friend Johnny, who also lives in North Carolina, was a musician and producer and with a studio and has been recording all of Charley's solos on the songs we've collaborated on.
Is Ritual Servant the first band you all have worked in together? How long were you musicians before the lineup solidified and how well do you function as a band?
Ritual Servant is our first band collaboration together. We are all seasoned-musicians. So far the writing process has been extremely productive and satisfying. Let’s hope and pray for more!
How many labels expressed interest in helping promote Ritual Servant after you released your earliest material?
We had three labels contact us after the first two songs were on Bandcamp and had been made to lyric videos on our Youtube channel. Then four more hit us up after our EP - 777 - was released.
Who were the labels that contacted the band after the release of your two songs and debut EP? Which of them had a release and distribution deal that would benefit all involved? How many labels have you heard of that support Christian metal?
Due to professionalism and the good chance we will work with one or more of these labels, until we announce our partnership, we would like to keep things quiet. From what I have come across not too many. I would say there are about maybe ten I know by name. That's not to say other independent labels wouldn't support a Christian act. We were asked by a label in Italy that was secular to sign as a Christian act so I think it all depends on if they like your presentation and feel you are marketable.
How long was it before you began corresponding with members of other Christian bands? From your experience writing other bands, is the community generally accepting of Ritual Servant?
We had immediate response from other members of Christian and secular bands when our first single SEVEN TRUMPETS was released back in fall of 2016. Since then we have had steady support from many artists and members of bands. It has been a real blessing for us so far to be backed and stood behind the way we have from our fans. All glory to God.
What were the lyrics of Seven Trumpets written about? Where did the inspiration come from? How much have your lyrics improved from the release of Seven Trumpets to the release of 777?
All RS lyrics are Scripture-based. SEVEN TRUMPETS is based on the book of Revelations and the Second Coming of Christ. It was the second song I wrote when I decided to start a CM band back in December of 2016. I wrote the SACRIFICE first right before Christmas and SEVEN TRUMPETS right before New Year’s. Seth and I decided however to release SEVEN TRUMPETS first because we felt it was a song that would grab everyone right out of the opening.....and it did. It’s our most watched lyric video so far...
Name some of the bands who got in touch with you and have extended support to Ritual Servant. Do you see any collaborations such as split releases happening between you and those bands?
We haven't reached out to many bands for help or to do split releases etc. We have purely concentrated on getting God's word out by releasing a single at a time and focused on writing and recording the full eight songs to put out a physical copy hopefully this summer. After we sign and release, we would love to collaborate with different metal bands interested and do some live festival gigs.
How much has releasing material independently helped the band get word around so far? What social media sites have been most beneficial?
So far, releasing the music a song at a time has really been incredible. At first we released digitally and with lyric videos the first two tracks - THE SACRIFICE and SEVEN TRUMPETS. We knew we wanted to do an EP and we needed a third track so 4 months later we released THE JUST and did the lyric video for it. We then 2 months later released all 3 as an EP titled 777.
We were asked by a label to sign and release the EP as a physical copy, but we felt it would be a better choice to wait until we had a full album together for the physical copy. Later, I started becoming convinced by the Holy Spirit to release each song as a single as we finished them so that we could continue to get God's word out and at the same time give our audience something to look forward to instead of having them wait a year or so for the full album and lose our momentum and contact with the fans. This choice has worked out incredibly well for us.
Our four sites are Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Bandcamp. Bandcamp has been a great digital platform for us to share the music with people and had been very successful so far. We have been very blessed from our listeners and audience's support. Thank you everyone and all glory to God.
Name some of the metal fests held near you, where you have considered making appearances. Are there local venues where the band have performed of late?
We haven't talked about fests or concentrated on anything other than recording and releasing the music. All of us have been very busy in our personal lives and we feel if God wants us to tour or play live, once this record is done and out, He will make it happen. Right now we just feel blessed that we are able to write, record and release music for His glory and whatever plan He has for it will be revealed to us when He is ready. Get ready for more music and the full album! All glory to our Lord.
How soon does the band plan to start writing material for a new release?
We released digitally our debut EP - 777 - in June of 2017. We then have released 2 singles since then digitally and plan on releasing more as we get them recorded as individual singles. Then when we have all eight songs released digitally on our Bandcamp platform, we will release a physical copy for all the fans that have been asking, hopefully through a label with overseas distribution, since our biggest fan base is in Brazil and Ecuador.