How is it that many of the following bands on this list- who are anything but religious- seem more Catholic in their imagination than many Christians who likewise select religious band names? To put it another way, why is it that artists who seem least inclined to religion can come up with names that are remarkably theological, while those with far more of a taste for it come up with impotent names like "One Thousand Foot Crutch" or "Blessed Union of Souls"? It is an interesting question and it demands a response. In part, I think the answer has something to do with the overall genericization of the Christian message, the sacramental gutting, if you will, of the deeply rooted theological language of the historical Faith. In place of this language, one receives a far more vague and bland contemporary vocabulary. However, what many of the bands below demonstrate is that while Christians have been spending their time tossing out these traditional concepts, non-believing artists have been recouping them. In fact, many of these musicians not only have chosen band names that are theological, but have done likewise with album titles and songs. But beware- as you will see below, when you are careless with the things of God, you may not be pleased with how they are used by the one who sees it only as a fashionable accessory.
When the founding band members were attempting to come up with a name for the group, they initially tossed out the name "Gabriel's Angels" (an obvious allusion to the lead singer's name). Ultimately they chose to go in a different direction, but apparently they still wanted a band name with Biblical implications. Thus, they settled on the name "Genesis" because they liked the fact that the name suggested the beginning of something important. And indeed they were right, for they (and a few other bands) were at the forefront of what came to be called 70s "Prog-Rock".
If you are going to begin a list of theological band names with Genesis, then it is only logical that #2 should be "Exodus". Nothing like the former, founding thrash metal band member Kirk Hammett (now in the Metallica) came across this name when he saw a novel of the same title. Generally associated with the "Exodus" of the Israelites from slavery in Egypt, the word nevertheless carries with it all of the gigantic implications of the Biblical event itself; "a journey", "a departure"; "an escape"; "a mass exit"; the image of two voluminous walls of water making a pathway to freedom. Clearly such a word makes one think of the Hebrew Scriptures, but it also apparently possesses a literary force all its own (as the novel above suggests). This may help explain why a band which has very little in common with religion would choose to give themselves this name, while simultaneously making music for the past thirty years that has very little to do with anything religious.
3. Lamb of God
Initially this band went by the delightful name "Burn the Priest". However, not wanting to be regarded as a Satanic group (I can't imagine why anyone would think that), they changed their name to "Lamb of God". Continuing with the prior Exodus theme, we find here a further reference to the Passover of the Israelites, which included a ritual meal wherein those present would consume the flesh of the lamb, and place it's blood on the "lintels" of their doorposts. This meal, they believed, would preserve and protect them from the so called "Angel of Death" (which I'm pretty sure is another thrash metal band), who was given leave to kill every firstborn of the Egyptians. The only ones who were spared were those shielded by the "blood of the lamb". Moreover, this lamb, according to Christian theology, was a figure and a foreshadowing of the "true Lamb of God", the one who, as St. John the Baptist put it, "takes away the sins of the world."
4. Testament and Ministry
5. Black Sabbath
6. Our Lady Peace
7. Judas Priest
8. The Church
9. The Jesus and Mary Chain
Nirvana got their name when front man Kurt Cobain decided that in spite of the fact that his original demo was called "fecal matter", he did not want his band name to be crass or ugly. To the contrary, he wanted it sound beautiful and utterly sublime. Thus, he and fellow bandmates settled on the term "Nirvana". Used mostly in Buddhism (though some Hindus use it as well) to refer to a blissful state that exists beyond the realm of the senses, it is not quite what Christians regard as heaven. In Buddhism the goal is not to be in communion with God in a perfect and intimate bond for all of eternity, but rather to extinguish the flame of desire, annihilate the self (there is no "I" in I), and thus fall back into that unconscious, undisturbed, and utterly blissful state of non-being. Why must we go to the trouble of extinguishing all attachment to self and the world? Because, as Billy Corgan once said; "The world is a vampire..." Just as the band Creed represented angst that was in search of meaning, so conversely Nirvana (and grunge) quite often represented pessimism about the world, coupled with a pessimism about the next life-"I don't want heaven, I just want the light/flame to be permanently extinguished." In the Christian faith, the "light shines in the darkness, but the darkness fails to overcome it. In Buddhism the light is the darkness; "All in all is all we are… All in all is all we are… All in all is all we are…" In the end I suppose it is more than a little appropriate that while Cobain was trying to come up with a "heavenly" band name, what he settled on was anything but, preferring a pessimistic paradise where "nothing" is literally sacred, and where everything else (which is everything) is evil.
12. Avenged Sevenfold
Honorable Mentions: Nazareth; Peter, Paul, and Mary; Jars of Clay (this is a reference to St. Paul's assertion that Christians have an immortal treasure which is placed in "jars of clay/earthen vessels"); Sodom; Faith No More; Mercyful Fate, and Sacred Rite.