Texas metal band Flyleaf’s self-titled 2005 debut didn’t make much of a splash when it first landed. But over the next couple of years, sales started to catch fire, and the album eventually moved more than a million copies.
Credit intense riffage and fierce (fiercely personal) lyrics delivered by frontwoman Lacey Mosley. The diminutive singer is simply fearless when it comes to talking about her faith. And her passionate, unapologetic stance on life, death and spiritual truth has connected with a wide audience.
"Bride" is a straight-up metal adaptation of 1 Corinthians 12, as Flyleaf paraphrases the Apostle Paul’s teachings about the body of Christ: "Unified diversity/Functioning as one body/Every part encouraged by the other/Beautiful body of Christ/One flesh abiding/Strong and unifying."
"Again" offers encouragement from God to a struggling follower to keep believing. "Wait and know that I understand you," we hear. "I love you/Please see and believe again." "Chasm" may be written from the perspective of the thief on the cross as he warns people not to spit in Jesus’ face. "This Close" finds a non-believer ruminating about her desire for spiritual truth. "In the Dark" contrasts the shadowy spots in our souls with Jesus’ healing power ("Those in the light know we die in the dark/ … Jesus heal me inside/ … Raise me up to live again/Like You did").
"Set Apart This Dream" explores the beauty of Jesus’ forgiveness and restoration ("Precious and priceless/You’re so much more than you know/Heart of purest gold"). Similar sentiments show up on "Treasure" and "Arise."
Even lines that normally—in this genre—would be quite negative get turned on their heads and used for good: "The snow on your face/And your razor blades/The twilight is bruised and there you lie" morphs into "Hold on to the world we all remember dying for/There’s still hope left in it yet/And sing/Sing/Arise/Arise and be/All that you dreamed."
Some musical acts describe themselves as Christian bands, but you’d be hard-pressed to find any spiritual messages lurking in their lyrics. Conversely, Flyleaf ducks the Christian band label, but I’m hard-pressed to think of any other act that professes its faith so boldly.
"His beautiful arm is bloody and cut off/His heart ripped out to show me He loved me," Mosley sings on "Circle." Indeed, throughout Memento Mori—a Latin phrase that means "Remember, you will die"—Flyleaf belts out spiritual truth with a searing, plaintive urgency. And the band simultaneously "damns" the darkness and its evil deeds. The result is an album full of pounding, prophetic calls to get right with God.
A postscript: Anyone looking closely at the CD’s liner notes will find an interesting set of "journal entries" from "The Commander" of the "Passerby Army." In a style reminiscent of C.S. Lewis in The Screwtape Letters are reflections that flesh out the spiritual ideas embedded in each song. In the entry for "Beautiful Bride," for example, we read, "The Passerby Army’s mission is to bring peace, faith, hope, freedom, and above all love to the entire world. Our mantra is ’Memento Mori.’ These words remind us that our mission is urgent, and that when death comes to anyone 18 or 80, a mortal life proves to be short."