I listen to a wide variety of music: classical, jazz, industrial, different types of metal (thrash metal, death metal, black metal, industrial metal, progressive metal, sludge metal, stoner metal, metalcore, doom metal etc) , experimental electronic, different types of rock (hard rock, classic rock, progressive rock, industrial rock, etc). I also listen to Orthodox chants.
The question of listening to the darker stuff (the darker metal, particularly black/death/doom metal) has been on my mind as I have been delving deeper into Orthodoxy. In my experience, in my past, I have found that many of these artists have gnostic undertones in their messages and lyrics.
When I was in my quest for truth, I have been through basic Protestantism, Hindu philosophy (hare krishna focused), Hermetic esoteric sciences, Neuro-Linguistic Programming and New Age metaphysics, before arriving to Orthodoxy, during the more esoteric times, I have found many many parallels of the lyrics of the artists to their esoteric state, built off their gnostic beliefs. Very frequently you would hear references to the "sun", mirror and other esoteric elements in their messages.
Now, I have been listening to metal music since I was 10 years old, gradually over the years delving deeper and deeper, and now my library includes some of the heaviest music, in genres such as Technical Death Metal and others. My whole life I have been avoiding connecting to the lyrics of the music which I listened to, until I reached deeper levels of my esoteric Hermetic and New Age practices, and in that time I smoked weed nearly every day, studying these things (yet I remained hanging on Christ throughout all of this, who pulled me out of the depths later on). I've found that those things - altered state of consciousness, esoteric practices and esoteric lyrics were used as tools by the demons to try to convert me to Gnosticism, or magickal beliefs.
When I stopped researching the esoteric arts, stopping taking drugs and smoking weed, and delved head-first into Orthodoxy, over time I have found the lyrics lost their power over me. However, at times I have found some bands, especially in black metal and some death metal, giving me an uneasy feeling when I could understand the lyrics, a slight recall to the anxiety of my darker times. However, as time went by, this feeling started to become less and less.
Now, I am a fan of music, very many types of music, but I have a special sweet spot for metal. There is something about the movements, the textures of the guitars, and the rhythms, to me is like a dance of sound, and almost like a structure built of Lego bricks in my mind. The last problem that remains is when I understand lyrics which are contrary to my faith.
I genuinely enjoy the music of a lot of these genres. I don't enjoy ALL metal, but neither do I enjoy ALL classical, etc. Whenever I feel I am listening to music to where the message of the singers is contrary to my faith, or is being used as a tool to break my spirit or faith in Christ, I pray to Christ to protect me from the message, and label the lyrics and message of the music in my mind as "inferior garbage" and not hidden messages or knowledge like they once seemed to me. The more I begin to see these rubbish lyrics as simply garbage inspired by teachings of demons, the less power they have over me.
This allows me to rejoice in the Truth of my faith, the ultimate Truth of Christ, and His victory over anything demonic. The actual music and instrumentals were composed by individual musicians who had a passion for playing their instruments, be it technical guitaring or amazing drumming, rather than composing a piece of music specifically to implant it with a Satanic or Anti-Christian, or even secular message. It is very rare that a musician would create a piece of music with that intent.
As a musician, I appreciate the God-given talents these musicians express. All human beings should be viewed as Icons of God, Images of God, and should be respected. As Christ commanded us to love our enemies, so we must respect these human beings and their talents given to them by Christ, even if they are doing things which are against our faith, we must still love them and pray for them regardless. Rather than condemning them, we are commanded by Christ not to judge others, and so we must still see them as creations of God.
As a musician, I find it incredibly important to differentiate actual music from lyrics. I hate the messages expressed by a lot of these bands, but surely if these same musicians were not deceived by our true enemy, Satan, and if they were fully aware of and understood the Glory and Goodness of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ, Son of God (Have mercy on us sinners), if they truly understood this, they would not be singing or promoting the messages that they do.
But as human beings creating music, so do I too appreciate the incredible God-given talents of some of these musicians, no matter what the beliefs or the message of some of these bands may be, if the band is musically satisfying to hear, we can train ourselves and pray to Christ to protect us and separate us from the message of the lyrics, to allow us to experience the music, and glorify God for creating the faculties to allow us to hear the wonderful sounds, and for giving these people the talents to be able to play and create the music. This has been the approach I have been taking, and I have found myself being able to enjoy such music much more, with the Glory of Christ triumphantly taking away the power of the message. As for the people propagating the message, we should pray for them and their salvation, rather than condemn them.
Now, I understand I am completely unworthy to deliver my understanding as a valid genuine spiritual instruction, and I am still learning a great deal myself, and changing as my knowledge of Orthodoxy grows, so please take my words as a grain of salt. I believe music is a gift from God, and any music that we enjoy, we should do our best to iron out Satan's poison out of the music (which is generally the message of the lyrics) and pray to Christ to guard our hearts from the lyrics, and allow us to glorify him through the actual music.
As far as the question of how can anyone enjoy this music? My answer would be to compare it to spicy food. It is an acquired taste. Many people hate spicy food because for them, there is no flavour, or it is too harsh and destroys the rest of the meal. However, others have grown into it, and find great enjoyment in it, in some cases even moreso than non-spicy food!
Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, Your wretched and unworthy servant.