The Altar and the Door
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After two Platinum-selling albums (Casting Crowns & Lifesong), one Platinum and one Gold live project (Live from Atlanta & Lifesong Live), numerous awards, and one of the most successful headlining tours in our industry, one might expect a different Casting Crowns. Those who meet this exceptional group, however, quickly realize they are still the same down-to-earth people with ministry at the heart of what they do both on the road, and in their local churches where each of the members serve on-staff or as laypeople, including lead singer/songwriter Mark Hall who still holds his post as youth pastor at his home church.
Casting Crowns third album, The Altar and The Door, draws on this first-hand ministry experience with real people, real life struggle and the faith that overcomes. At the altar, everything makes sense, says Hall. When we re in the church and spending time with God, we know what we re supposed to do and how to live. Everything is black and white. But somewhere between the altar and the door, when we leave and go out into our lives, it all leaks out. Everything gets gray again. It s like we have these two lives, and the Christian life is the journey between the altar and door....trying to get the things you ve got in your head, into your hands, into your feet, and into your life. This album is all about that journey of realization, the struggles we encounter and the victory of seeing it as possible.
The band is excited about the next ministry chapter to unfold, and is already planning Fall and Spring legs of The Altar and The Door Tour. With the debut radio single hitting in June and widespread media coverage starting late summer through the fall, this album is set to be another phenomenal release setting records and, more importantly, impacting hearts.
When you've become one of contemporary Christian music's biggest stars, there are a lot of temptations to change your sound or tone the message down a little to reach a larger audience. But the anthemic, guitar-based Casting Crowns simply use their music as a pulpit ever more. Despite (or, perhaps, because of) all the world tours, platinum records, and Dove and Grammy awards, the members of the band still serve as ministers at Eagle's Landing First Baptist Church in McDonough, GA. This is honest and often gorgeous music that deals with doubt and pain, and how difficult it can be to live up to one's principles. "Slow Fade," an irresistibly slow-burning number, counsels listeners not to stray: ""People never crumble in a day, it's a slow fade." The album's two covers--a rousing take of Steve Fee's "All Because of Jesus" and a spirited version of Chandler's "I Know You're There"--count among the album's many highlights. --Mike McGonigal
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"What This World Needs" starts with a few seconds of electronic sound that I'm not sure I like, but then moves into a powerful rock sound teamed with powerful lyrics calling Christians out for getting in the way of the gospel. I like it.
"Every Man" has a good sound, but so far it doesn't really grab me.
"Slow Fade" is an amazing song--probably my favorite of the album--about compromises slowly leading to downfall. The choice to use a child at the end singing "O be careful little eyes what you see" works very well.
"East to West," which has already gotten significant radio play as a single, sounds more like the old Casting Crowns and features some very good lyrics, including a poetic reminder that having our sin removed as far as the east is from the west means that Christ came in between us and it.
"The Word Is Alive" is a long, powerful song that just has a lot of good content paired with great music. I haven't digested it all yet--that will take several more listens--but I'll probably love this one more and more as I do.
"The Altar and the Door," strangely enough, is one of the weakest songs on the album. I don't really like the sound of it that well, though it has a good message.
"Somewhere in the Middle" is another one of my favorites. It has a similar message to "The Altar and the Door," but better done. "Fearless warriors in a picket fence" is an image that will stick with you, and it's not the only good image in the song. It also features cellos, violas, and violins for a more orchestral sound.
"I Know You're There" I found somewhat forgettable, though not bad.
"Prayer for a Friend" is simple and good, though poetically unremarkable.
"All Because of Jesus" is pretty good, but not the most remarkable song on the album. After this song and period of silence, however, there is a hidden song called "White Dove Fly High," which I have learned is in Korean and English and was sung when Casting Crowns visited Korea. It doesn't sound like Casting Crowns normally does, but I like it nevertheless.
There are several very good songs on this album. The album has a theme of challenging Christians to live their faith all the time, not just on Sunday mornings. There are a couple of praise songs and a prayer-song included also, but most of the tracks here have a message that is very hard hitting to believers.
As with their previous albums, I think that this one will produce several hit singles. 'East To West' is already in that category. Others that are very good include 'What The World Needs', 'Every Man', and 'Slow Fade'.
I would highly recommend this to anyone who is already a fan of Casting Crowns. For those who are unfamiliar with their music, I would recommend starting off with their self titled debut. In any case, this is well worth buying.