Casting Crowns

The Altar and the Door

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Expectations ran sky-high for Casting Crowns' third studio album following a couple of years as Contemporary Christian Music's best-selling and most-played artist. The looming question wasn't whether lead singer and songwriter Mark Hall would drastically change his formula -- that was doubtful after the group's first two albums were certified Platinum faster than any other artist in CCM history (Jars of Clay was the only other group to accomplish the feat). The question for fans was whether or not the runaway success would change the band's heart. Casting Crowns rose to prominence due to Hall's "painful but true" storytelling of the Christian condition and his comforting calls to reform. The Altar and the Door picked up where Lifesong left off, this time with a slightly greater dose of rock. This time around, songs centered on the disconnect between the faith believers feel during worship and the doubt that plagues them during the rigors of daily life. In other words, how to overcome the spirit being willing but the flesh being weak. Where former albums drew their strength from ballads and AC pop, Altar gave the world upbeat rock classics. The first three tracks showcase more grunge guitar than could be heard on all of Lifesong. "What This World Needs" is a tense, fast-paced rocker that opens the album with the same urgency as Jars of Clay's "Work." "Every Man" and "Slow Fade" also draw on mature rock themes. The band still offers a handful of its signature ballads, reaching a pinnacle on "The World Is Alive" and "I Know You're There." Casting Crowns gave fans no reason to be disappointed on The Altar and the Door, and anyone living under a rock who was unfamiliar with the band at the time of its release would find little to dispel the group's reign among CCM artists.

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