The imagery comes straight from a nightmare.
As Paul Hedrick takes the stage, he wears a hooded black cape, a horrifying mask of scarred, stitched skin and a glove with faux finger blades, á la Freddy Krueger.
But for the devilish look, Hedrick’s music aims to enlighten people to a higher truth. The mask and outfit is a nod to his musical influences, such as Mushroomhead and Slipknot.
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“I make it about my personal faith and my relationship with Christ. The goal is to present hell to the listeners: this is where you could go. That’s why we wear the masks and everything, but it’s to scare people,” he said.
The 19-year-old Franklin resident has blended his Christian faith with hardcore metal music. His songs carry the dark themes common in most metal music, but also are infused with the hope of what living through God can achieve.
He writes and performs this music not just to show others a path to salvation, but to soothe his own demons — anxiety, depression and aggression.
“It’s a healthier way to get my aggression out. It’s a way to purge the feelings that I have,” he said. “When I discovered metal music, it changed my whole outlook on life. And the Christian metal really changed everything.”
Christian death metal may seem like an oxymoron, but the genre had amassed a niche following in the mid-1980s. Bands such as Mortification and Crimson Thorn performed with the precision and bombast of other hardcore acts, but used their faith as the basis of their lyrics.
Though few bands fall into that style today, the music spoke to Hedrick.
“It’s making a little bit of a comeback. My goal is to kind of bring back that style, and do what I love to do,” he said. “The beautiful thing about music is that you can make it so personal. That’s what Christian death metal is to me.”
As a teen, Hedrick struggled with addiction. In his lowest moments, he would cut himself. At his lowest, as he and his mother searched for answers, they turned to their faith.
“Ultimately, I’m not in this for the money. I’m in it so that people can be reached.”
“I give full credit to God to helping me beat my addiction. Metal helped, but it was ultimately God who took it away from me,” he said.
Hedrick was 14 when his dream of performing himself first crystallized. He was listening to one of his favorite bands, Killswitch Engage. He was smitten by that style of music, and wanted to do what they were doing.
Initially, he was a solo artist.
He would write the lyrics, accounts of his own personal feelings and struggles. With the words in hand, he could put together riffs and other elements of the songs to match.
Since he started performing under the name For the Fallen, he has enlisted other musicians to help with that aspect of the songs. He still does the lyrics himself, but works with a musician named Viktor von Horror from Columbus to get the guitar, drums and bass to give it heft.
“I work with it for about a week, and if I like it, I record it. If not, then I try different lyrical setups,” he said.
His first album is titled “Suffering for Salvation.” The songs work together to tell the story of a character based on Hedrick’s own personal experiences.
“The difficult part about it is getting my emotions to make sense on paper. It’s very difficult to write a song about something you’ve experienced, because you don’t know if it will make sense to the listener, and that’s the main goal, to make something the listener will relate to.”
Hedrick has performed live shows at venues throughout Indiana. The first For the Fallen show was held at the Hoosier Dome in Indianapolis in late September.
He has done some pop-up shows, including one at his Franklin home. He also took part in a panel discussion and concert at StoneTree Studios in Fishers revolving around depression.
Hedrick has closed a deal with Vision of God Records to distribute “Suffering for Salvation.” The album will be released on Nov. 10, with a release party in Osgood.
In addition to streaming it on Soundcloud, Hedrick is excited that his music will be able to reach a larger audience.
“Ultimately, I’m not in this for the money. I’m in it so that people can be reached,” he said.
For the Fallen
What: A Franklin-based Christian death metal band, combining spiritual lyrics with powerful and aggressive music.
Who: Formed by Franklin resident Paul Hedrick
Debut album: “Suffering for Salvation” is due out in early November, and will be distributed by Vision of God Records. It will also be available on Soundcloud.
7 p.m. Saturday, the Rumble Dome, 9374 W. CR 1400 S., Westport; For the Fallen will share a bill with Blurry Vision, Von Horror, Galactic Forever
7 to 10 p.m. Nov. 3, 730 Hamilton Ave., Franklin; the bill features Von Horror, who will be playing his last show of 2017, For the Fallen and Calebb Dewayne.