EXTREME: An Extremely Fascinating Worldview

An Extremely Fascinating Worldview

Boston has given us a few pretty good rock bands over the years. There is The Cars, J Geils Band, The Pixies, Aerosmith, and of course, Boston. But one stands out for their musical creativity, sheer technical ability, and the variety of styles they have demonstrated over their multi-decade career. Extreme, like the name of the band, also describes their musical acumen and performance ability.

Founded in 1985 when Nuno Bettencourt (guitars, keyboards, and vocals) and Gary Cherone (vocals) found their mutual love for the band Queen, Extreme went on to release their first album in 1989 and found superstardom with their 1990 acoustic ballad, More Than Words. Over the intervening years, they have released a total of 6 albums with their latest, SIX, dropping this year. Their current lineup consists of Nuno, Gary, Pat Badger (bass and vocals), and Kevin Figueiredo (drums). Previous lineups have included founding drummer Paul Geary and stellar percussionist and current Dream Theater drummer Mike Mangini.

Gary Cherone, the main lyricist, writes many introspective songs and has never been afraid to sing about his deep catholic faith. This spiritual bent also shines through in his other projects like Hurtsmile and Tribe of Judah. As far back as the very first album (Extreme, 1989) we find the song Watching, Waiting describing the crucifixion of Christ:

Hanging above the ground

All my limbs are bound

You’re on the right hand

With your head down

Tears from eyes that cannot see

He took the blame from me

So shall it be written

So shall it be done

Watching, waiting

Staring at the Son

Not even knowing

Who you are

Three hours have gone by

We start to question why

Darkness falls in finding out

Why you must die

We can no longer see the Son

The three unite into one

Please forgive us Father

We know not what we’ve done

The Christian worldview is all over their breakthrough release, Pornograffitti. The entire album is a loose concept about an innocent tempted by the decadence in the world. Songs like Money (In God We Trust) explore the emptiness of money worship and the track Stop the World is a modern retelling of Ecclesiastes Chapter 1. This theme of the emptiness of the world continues into their third album, III Sides to Every Story. God Isn’t Dead? Laments the pain in the world and the search for a loving God:

I look at all the lonely people

Losing faith

In a world full of despair no one who cares

Wondering where God disappeared

I see the pain in everybody’s faces

Asking why

The God up in the sky

Didn’t say goodbye please tell me

God didn’t die

Please tell me God isn’t dead

Please tell me God isn’t dead

Please tell me God isn’t

I wanna know if He’s

Please tell me God isn’t

Tell me God isn’t dead

The very next song on III Sides to Every Story is a creative amalgamation of the book of Daniel’s prophecies and another look at Ecclesiastes. No, nothing under the sun is new but hope is free and a new day is coming:

I had a dream, not unlike the one from old

Of a man king, whose head was made of gold

Stand castles of sand

Weather sundials rise ‘n fall

Chasing wind through your hands

‘Til water runs dry the well

Dream, Daniel dream

For what’s yet to come

See, Daniel see

For every thing’s under the sun

And in the west, a cloud appears

For shadows of a coming shower near

Oh, so near


You analyze the earth and the sky

I ask you why you can’t analyze the signs

Of the present time?


Yes, all is vanity


Yes, all is futility

For one that dies, another’s born

Where laughter’s heard, comforters mourn

There’s a time for everything

A song for love, even abhor

An olive branch or a winter’s war

There’s a time for everything

Under the sun

Under the sun

Rise, rise ‘n shine

A new day is coming

Rise, rise in time

For every thing’s under the sun

(Rise) A new day is coming

When there’s the time for everything under the sun

You know a time for everything under the sun

Because a new day is gonna be begun

Gary’s most introspective lyric comes from the III Sides song, Am I Ever Gonna Change. The lyrical theme is lifted straight from Romans 7 and looks at a man who is tired of doing what he knows is wrong and wants to change:

I’m tired of being me,

And I don’t like what I see,

I’m not who I appear to be

So I start off every day,

Down on my knees I will pray,

For a change in any way

But as the day goes by,

I live through another lie,

If it’s any wonder why

Am I ever gonna change

Will I always stay the same

If I say one thing,

Then I do the other

It’s the same old song,

That goes on forever

Am I ever gonna change

I’m the only one to blame

When I think I’m right,

I wind up wrong

It’s a futile fight,

Gone on too long

Please tell me if it’s true,

Am I too old to start anew,

‘Cause that’s what I want to do

But time and time again,

When I think I can,

I fall short in the end

So why do I even try,

Will it matter when I die,

Can anyone hear my cry?

Am I ever gonna change

Take it day by day

My will is weak

And my flesh too strong

This peace I seek

Till thy kingdom comes

The III Sides final song, Who Cares?, shows Gary asking Jesus himself if he is angry at him for being a sheep gone astray. As he slips further from Christ, the brightness of God’s glory fades: 

Tell me, Jesus, are you angry?

One more sheep has just gone astray

A hardening of hearts, turning to stone

Wandering off so far from home

So many children losing time

Walk in darkness, looking for a sign

Chasing their rainbows, the future looks so bright

Slowly we’re losing sight of the light

Who cares?

Who cares?

Who cares?

Tell me who cares?

Who cares?

All alone out in the cold

Can’t look back, am I growing old?

I chose a path, is this my fate?

Am I finding out the truth too late?

Who cares?

Who cares?

Who cares?

Tell me who cares?

Here I am, a naked man

Nothing to hide with empty hands

Remember me, I am the one

Who lost his way, your Prodigal Son

Am I ever gonna change?

Will I always stay the same?

Say one thing, then I do the other

Same old song goes on forever

(Who cares? Who cares? Who cares?

Tell me who cares? Who cares?)

Rise, rise and shine

A new day is coming, yes, it is

III Sides closes on the promise of a new day and the stripped down Waiting for the Punchline album opens by seemingly declaring that God doesn’t exist. But upon further examination of There Is No God, Cherone is saying the opposite:

Confused, they talk in parables

Accused, they walk in parallels

A simple game of Simon says

This month’s flavor sciences

Today’s fact, tomorrow’s fiction

Leave the rest to superstition

If knowledge comes from learning books

Wisdom comes from discerning looks

A fool that says there is no God

Don’t feel for that sorry sod

Who needs proof then he’ll believe

I wonder if he’s been deceived

The Waiting for the Punchline album also tackles the subject of cults (Evilangelist) and shallow faith (Fair Weather Faith). And where Fair Weather Faith looks at the empty prayers of the non-believer, the next album, Saudades de Rock, employs us to turn to prayer when life suffocating:

Heavy is the burden

That brings you

To your knees

Lost in the confusion

Of life’s uncertainties

Feel you’re suffocating

With every breath you take

Moment left remaining

Time for you to pray

Time for you to pray

Pray for peace

Extreme’s latest offering SIX brings back Extreme’s ferocious biting examination of society’s obsession with image and tribalism. The song The Mask does not mince words:

We’re all sinners we’re all saints

We’re all the people we say we ain’t

We’re all winners and we’re all cheats

We’re all the things that we want to defeat

We’re all innocent and we’re all pure

We’re all deceased and we’re all the cure

We’re all living and we’re already dead

We’re everything that we need to pretend

Rip of your mask and show me who you are

Show me who you are, show me who you are

Rip of my mask show you who I am

Show you who I am, show you who I am…

We’re all doubters and we’re all faith

We’re all the things that we want to replace

We’re all fiction and we’re all fact

We’re all the good and we’re all the bad

I’ll take the blame for all my sins

But I won’t take the hate

For what you imagine…

And neither does Thicker Than Blood:

Transcending space and time

Boundary or borderline

No nationality

Tribe or ethnicity

No link or lineage

Bloodline nor heritage

No genealogy

Fruit from a family

Love is all, all you need

Love is all, let it bleed

Does not discriminate

With color creed or race

No substitution

Or blood transfusion

Blood running through your vain

(Blood) taking thy name in vain

(Blood) faith hope and charity

(Blood) blood has no guarantee

Just take a look around

There’s so much to be found

Open your heart and you’ll find in you

Romans 7 makes another appearance in Save Me:

Save me from myself

Save me from this hell

Help me heaven I’m forsaken

Lay me down to die

Cleanse me of these lies

I’ve become what I despise

Take me undertaker take me

Lay me down to die

Take me as I am

This exploration of the spiritual side of Extremes lyrics ends with the song X OUT from Six. Gary seamlessly merges the parables of the prodigal son and the rich man and Lazarus. The wayward son is also the rich man who fell from grace and finds himself in torment. He looks across the great divide and sees Lazarus in paradise. He realizes that had he practiced Faith, Hope and Love, his eternity might look very different:

One man suffering forever damned

The other in the bosom of Abraham

Looking on beyond the great divide…

Darkness drapes both sun and moon

After the rain storm clouds return

Strong men bow and the house keeper’s quake…

Severed is the silver chord

Broken like the golden gourd

Dust returns to death from whence it came…

X Out X Out, Faith

X Out X Out, Hope

X Out X Out, Love

So, is Extreme a “Christian” band? No, they have never claimed to be. Is Extreme a band that displays a decidedly Christian world view? In many of their songs, yes. Gary Cherone is outspoken about his beliefs and is not ashamed to sing about spiritual matters. Nuno Bettencourt is a fantastic player (one of the best) but he keeps his personal beliefs close and seemingly wants to talk music only. His interviews are very entertaining as his enthusiasm for music is contagious. They are sprinkled liberally with profanity though, so beware! The other two members do not give many interviews but none of the band seem to have a problem with Gary’s incredible lyrics. 

Prayer for this band is warranted as their new album is bringing new found fame and a new audience. Gary has welcomed his platform as a chance to challenge and speak out about his deeply held pro-life views. His two open letters to Eddie Vedder are incredibly poetic treatises on the value of all human life:

An Open Letter to Eddie Vedder

When is a woman not a woman?

Therein lies the only clear refutation of a woman’s rights.

A woman’s rights —

seems a mere tautology, a redundant catch phrase.

Are not rights self evident?

Intrinsic assumptions of the inalienable?

So, when is a woman not a woman,

a right not a right?

When she doesn’t exist.

When does a woman become a woman?

Is it when

her first ballot has been cast?

Or when

she graduates from her class?

Is it when

she makes a wish on her sweet sixteenth?

Would I be amiss if it were her first kiss?

Is it when

she’s diagnosed by the boy next door?

Or as ambiguous as the cutting of the cord?

Is it the time

it takes to travel the distance through the canal?

Or when

she’s kicking and becomes viable?

Is it when

her sex is discovered by a sonogram?

Or after eight weeks when

the changes in her body will be mainly in dimension?

Is it when

her brain waves are detected after 40 days?

Or is it around three weeks when

her primitive heart beats?

Can there be only one true line of demarcation?

One finite measurable point in time that differentiates

life from non-life?

Womanhood from non-womanhood?

Rights from no right?

Is it the moment of conception —

that point when all of the above is set in motion?

That precise moment when

“a separate human individual, with her own genetic code,

needing only food, water, and oxygen, comes into existence”?


It is at that point,

“like the infant, the child, the adolescent,

that the conceptus is a being who is becoming,

not a becoming striving toward being.

She is not a potential life,

she is a life with great potential”.

She is not the mother,

she is an other —

a somebody other than the mother.

A woman,

however beautiful, however complex when fully grown,

begins life as a single cell, a zygote —

that stage in human development through which we all pass.

She fulfills “the four criteria necessary to all life —

metabolism, growth, reaction to stimuli, and reproduction.

Her genetic makeup is established at conception,

determining to a great extent

her own individual, physical characteristics”:

her eyes, her hair, her skin color, bone structure, her gender.

So let us not be confused,

“she did not come from a zygote — she once was a zygote.

She did not come from an embryo, she once was an embryo.

She did not come from a fetus, she once was a fetus”.

She did not come from a little girl — she once was a little girl.

When is a woman not a woman?

The answer is absolute, non-negotiable.

To argue against would be to ignore the innate,

the fact of the matter.

The answer can never be a matter of opinion or choice.

This is not a metaphysical contention.

This is biology 101.

The answer is scientifically self-evident —

as inherent as the inalienable.


the ability to pursue happiness

is contingent upon liberty —

her liberty,

and her freedom is solely dependent upon

the mother of all human rights…

the right of life.


Gary Cherone

(June 1999)

What About the 98.6 Degree Angle?

Another Letter to Eddie Vedder

by Gary Cherone

The vast majority of people who support abortion

take that position with the firm conviction

that life does not begin at conception

That being said…

If one personally felt “terminating pregnancy is not an easy thing”

but was the right of the individual to make that “decision”

Is the life within the mother’s womb a human person?

If the answer is no, it is not a human person

Why would one feel it “is not an easy thing” to do?

If the answer is yes, it is a human person

Why would one advocate “terminating” it?

If the answer is I don’t know, if it is, or isn’t a human person

How many more “decision(s)”

would one make in an uncertain “situation”?

If the unborn is not a human person

No justification for abortion is necessary


If the unborn is a human person

No justification for abortion is adequate.

Nearly all arguments for abortion

are based on the faulty premise

that the unborn are not fully human.


Gary Cherone


Does Extreme belong in a publication like Heaven’s Metal Magazine? By looking at many of their lyrics, It appears they do. They have more direct “Christian” lyrics than many bands who openly claim to be Christian. Enjoy their music, enjoy their lyrics, pray for them as their audience expands.

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