382. Fortress Rock – Stronghold
FORTRESS ROCK (1982)
Canada’s Tunesmith label took a lot of heat over the years for mediocre, low quality production, less then stellar album covers and bands with only one release ever. yet despite all that the label also brought the industry some incredible and enduring albums. Those include early works from Servant, Third Day (no, not that Third day), Iva Twydell among others. Stronghold’s “Fortress Rock” ranks amongst the very best from the label.
Slow, plodding, dark and very, very heavy. Stronghold was Christian music’s answer to Black Sabbath without the Ozzyfied vocals. Five minute pounding blues influenced hard rock with tons of distortion and crunching guitar solos. This was before metal bands discovered spandex and Aqua Net and singers didn’t know what falsetto even was.
There are touches of Judas Priest, Jethro Tull and Bad Company to go with the Black Sabbath blues and it is all done in a straight ahead sledgehammer approach. There is no wondering whether a song is about God or a girlfriend here. In fact, the album opens with a Vocoder enhanced recording of “A Mighty Fortress” that blends right into the title track. Barrabas tells the story of the man who was chosen to be set free in place of Christ with an impassioned plea for the character to embrace the one for whom he was set free.
There is nothing under 4 minutes here and most tipping the 5 minute mark. Why is that important? Because good old fashioned kick butt hard rocks deserves the time it takes to bring the whole tune together, especially with an emphasis on guitar solos! Long, sustained and driving guitar solos!
When the heaviest music out there at the time was the more groove oriented AC/DC like Resurrection Band, Stronghold was a welcomed sight. For all of Tunesmith’s problems, they were able to release and introduce CCM to a totally different world of music than what the more mainstream Christian labels were brave enough to present.