"Black Sabbath speaks to our time in ways few other bands can. They deploy apocalyptic imagery to capture the destruction of the planet by despotic superpowers, and they pronounce a prophetic indictment on agents of injustice.”

Hands of Doom: The Apocalyptic Imagination of Black Sabbath

Author: Jack Holloway
Publisher: Wipf & Stock
Date: June 27, 2022

""The world today is such a wicked place," Black Sabbath declared in 1969, when they recorded their debut album, set against a backdrop of war, assassinations, social unrest, and disillusionment. Cries for justice from the Civil Rights Movement, and for peace and love from the culture of "flower power," had been met with violent backlash from the ruling class. It was on this stage that Black Sabbath entered--the heaviest rock band the world had yet known. This band was shaped by a working class upbringing in Birmingham, England, where actual metal defined the small town existence of factories, bombed-out buildings, and little else. With their music, Sabbath captured the dread and the burgeoning pessimism that was haunting the minds of young people in the sixties and seventies.

Today, we are in a similar age of crisis: climate disaster, extreme inequality, police brutality, mass incarceration, and now, pandemic. Black Sabbath speaks to our time in ways few other bands can. They deploy apocalyptic imagery to capture the destruction of the planet by despotic superpowers, and they pronounce a prophetic indictment on agents of injustice. In this book, theologian and cultural critic Jack Holloway explores Black Sabbath's music and lyrics, and what they had to say to their historical context. From this analysis, Holloway outlines a Black Sabbath theology which carries significant import for modern life, reminding us of our deep responsibility to transform a broken world.”


“Who knew Black Sabbath could be mined for such theological gems! Jack Holloway makes connections I would have missed, and the result is a stellar exploration of theology Black Sabbath style! Fantastic read!”

—Thomas Jay Oord, Northwind Theological Seminary

“Jack Holloway clearly knows his way around both metal music and radical Christianity. Readers of this book will hear, feel, and, most of all, live the uplifting spiritual experiences that Holloway finds in the terrifying music of Black Sabbath. Hands of Doom is a hell of a book in every way.”

—Gregory Erickson, New York University

“Jack Holloway’s powerful book is a call to revolutionary justice. He traces a theological thread through Black Sabbath’s music that begins with doom and ends with a call to radical application of the only force that can possibly address the fear and upheaval of our times: yes, this book about Black Sabbath is ultimately a book about love. Brimming with insight and innate musicality, Hands of Doom is an essential guide to the true meaning of faith.”

—Elizabeth M. Edman, author of Queer Virtue: What LGBTQ People Know about Life and Love and How It Can Revitalize Christianity 

“The black clothes, the upside-down crucifixes, the bat—it’s strange to think that Black Sabbath can have anything to say about theology, and yet Jack Holloway brilliantly explains how this seminal heavy metal band illuminates divinity, precisely because they took the darkness as seriously as the light. An incantatory elucidation of an overlooked aspect of a group that changed rock music forever, and a devilishly delightful reading of pop culture’s transcendent appeal.”

—Ed Simon, author of Pandemonium: A Visual History of Demonology

“To read Jack Holloway’s theological account on the music of Black Sabbath was to discover a treasure I never thought existed. As a theologian and a musician, Holloway shows how Black Sabbath carries a theology of gloom and doom that can take us into places of transformation. . . . More than ever, we need art that makes us imagine a new world. In this absolutely brilliant book, Holloway show us musical ways to do it.”

—Cláudio Carvalhaes, Union Theological Seminary

Order a Copy

B&N • Bookshop.org • Bandcamp

Excerpts from Amazon Reviews

8/23/22 “You don't have to like Black Sabbath or Christianity to enjoy this book”

“This is a book not the least bit afraid to wrestle with major issues. It does not compromise. It is not concerned with alienating either Christians or metalheads, yet it is confident it has something to offer both. An easy 5 stars from me.”

8/10/22 “This book ROCKS”

“The subject matter is specific- theology and Black Sabbath- but I can assure you that this book is for everyone. … Holloway’s thought-provoking ideas, interpretations and beautifully woven sentences make this book un-put-downable.”

8/15/22 “Hands of Doom offers a new vision of what revolutionary imagination can bring.”

“… This book isn’t a conversion attempt. … It offers a unique look into the lyrical and thematic inspiration lurking underneath of the aesthetic your parents always told you was “satanic.” Jack’s voice on this subject matter is authoritative and humorous, rebellious and soothing. … You needn’t be a Christian or a die-hard Sabbath fan to glean gold from this book.
Don’t sleep on this!”

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