During the summer of 2021, as live shows hadn't really started up again that much in southern Ontario, Canada, my band decided to record a performance at home, and use it as a livestream "concert" of sorts, as a way to connect to our listeners. We also collaborated with a number of artists from our area to add some fresh perspective and depth to some of our songs. You can check out the final product here:
I thought about whether or not to adopt a third-person voice for this article, seeing as how this is my band I'm writing about, and I decided that it would feel more natural and make more sense to just write this in first person, as I would normally talk.
My band, KOZEN (taken from my middle name, 広善) is a Prog Rock / Melodic Metal band based in Toronto, Canada. We've been active in our scene since about 2016 or so, which feels crazy to say. The last couple years, 2020-2021, have been pretty strict for us here in Ontario. Live music has only recently begun to make something resembling a significant comeback, and there are still a number of limitations that make it difficult for some bands to book shows.
In light of those difficulties, we finally jumped on the "livestream concert" bandwagon. Over the course of 2021, we filmed and prepared a performance video of eight songs, which was streamed at the end of August. We decided that it would also be good to let these live versions exist not only on YouTube, but also as a live album that people could stream without the video component. And so, we have just released "DOMICILE," a not-quite-but-basically-live album recorded at home during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
From Heaven (featuring Sarah Gribeauval)
With Open Eyes
Summer Never Ends (featuring Newan)
Jitterthink (featuring Nick Young)
To The Wind (featuring Jason from Nightwell)
Red Sky (featuring Sid Harris)
We also had some changes to our lineup, with some former band members stepping away from KOZEN to pursue other projects. We're all still great friends, but it has meant that this has been a period of readjusting and figuring out how to operate as a three-piece band, at least for now. On the flip side of that, a shortage of band members opened us up to the possibility of collaborating with other artists, and so this live album features numerous other performers from the Toronto music scene. The result is that some of these rough around the edges "live" versions of the songs (really it's semi-live because of how we recorded it), sound cooler in some ways than some of our studio recordings.
Over the time I've been writing for The Haystack, I've been hesitant. to write about my own band at all. For starters, even though I am the lead singer and primary lyricist in the band, I'm the only Seventh-day Adventist in the group. All of our other band members have been Christians of various backgrounds. We've had musicians from Pentecostal, Baptist, independent Charismatic, and Salvation Army backgrounds in the band over the course of our journey, and while faith has always been a part of our public presentation, we don't collectively push any particular brand of theology.
I've also hesitated to include many references to our music, or to put us on Adventist playlists, in part because our music isn't really particularly geared towards a church audience. Because we are essentially a metal band, and located in Canada, there is no alternate "Christian scene" for us to be a part of, and frankly I'm not sure that it's something I would want. We are already part of the general Canadian music scene, and that's where it feels like we belong. So it has always felt like my band doesn't quite belong in the conversation about Adventist music. By most definitions, it's probably not that.
And over the last 5 years or so, I've found that I have consistently encountered and formed relationships with people of various faiths, or of no faith at all, who have all challenged and stretched me as a person, while also giving me the space to share myself, my beliefs, and my experiences with them. There has been something inherently and infectiously life-giving about that. Having spent a sizeable portion of the last few years of my life on the campus of Andrews University for Seminary, it has felt like I've been diving deeper and deeper into a secluded Adventist cultural bubble. If it had not been for road trips back home for shows in Toronto, I would probably feel pretty disconnected from the broader world right now.
But another interesting thing has happened. Through a number of avenues, especially my work on the ReFrame Adventist Worship series, as well as podcasts, social media interactions, and a feature a couple years ago in Humans of Adventism, I've come into contact with a small but meaningful handful of young Seventh-day Adventists who are, to some extent or another, either passionate Metal fans or even actively involved in their local alternative and/or extreme music scenes. It has been a fascinating experience for me - talking to people who share my same faith and a cultural connection that is often looked down on by that faith. It has been a reminder to me that God has his people in all kinds of places.
Just as our Adventist Hip-Hop playlist seems to generate a little bit of a heated reaction from more conservative brothers and sisters on social media, the mention of Metal music seems to draw a particularly strong amount of ire by merely being mentioned. I know that I have personally been told that I couldn't ever be involved in this particular music scene and also work for the church. But for the time being, that's exactly what I'm doing. In fact, I basically launched my band officially right before I started Seminary. To me, that just drives home the point that neither my art nor my Adventism are separable from me, and by extension they are not separable from each other. My band may not make "Adventist music" in any strict of definite sense, but I would also be lying if I said my Adventism has never affected my songwriting. In fact, I would say that my songwriting choices are an extension and expression of my faith - and I think that's how it's supposed to be.
So I share this, however hesitantly, because I recognize that ultimately I bring my whole self to my art and to my particular brand of ministry. I don't think that my music is something I should feel I have to hide from the church, and I really believe that should be true for all SDA musicians and creatives.
So as long as I have the option to do so, I will continue to highlight the art and creativity of young people in my faith tradition. Our voices are valuable, and our creations are legitimate expressions of our theological and spiritual commitments. I truly believe that the sooner the church at large wakes up to the enormous potential that exists in this space, the better.
More about KOZEN:
Genre: Progressive Rock / Metal
Location: Toronto, Canada