My Own Prison 
Artist: Creed 
Label: Wind-Up Records 

    We're all held captive 
    Out from the sun 
    A sun that shines only on some 
    We the meek are all in one 
    I hear a thunder in the distance 
    See a vision of a cross 
    I feel the pain that was given 
    On that sad day of loss 
    A lion roars in the darkness 
    Only he holds the key 
    A light to free me from my burden 
    And grant me life eternally... 
     I cry out to God 
    Seeking only his decision
The above lyrics are from the title track on My Own Prison, by new band Creed.  You may well have heard them on the radio, where the band is steadily winning favor. They've caused a little bit of a stir among Christians who've heard such an obvious finger pointing to the Truth.  I myself stumbled upon the disc by accident--saw the interesting cover in a store, began listening to it, was enthralled by the music, finally noticing the surprising lyrics.  I immediately wondered, "Wow, is this actually a band of believers making amazing music completely apart from the CCM subculture?"  I was a little excited, counting myself among those believing music fans who long for a non-segregated music world in which Christians can make worthy music recognized by anyone.  In other words, Christian musicians imitating Christ by being a light out in the world, instead of a light in a closed room with a bunch of other lights.  There are a few who've achieved this to some degree perhaps--King's X, Circle of Dust, Soul Junk, Over the Rhine, Galactic Cowboys--but we have a long way to go. (Note: the band are fans of King's X) 
So, the question remains: is that what we have with Creed? 
Not exactly. 
I did a little bit of checking around and found a bio for the band on their website.  Apparently, lead vocalist and lyricist Scott Stapp had a strict religious upbringing which he rebelled against a few years back, leaving his family at age 17 to go on a "spiritual quest."  The lyrics come from 
his journal scribblings during that time of searching.  So where is he now?  "Rock'n' roll is my religion.  If it weren't for music I might have ended up some crazed street corner preacher....the songs are about my past, and  where my mind, heart, and spirit want to go."  Hmm...that doesn't sound  like the answer many Christians would probably like to hear.  Nevertheless, the lyrics still seem to point to the Lord.  From "Unforgiven":  
    Think I'm unforgiven to this world 
    Think I'm unforgiven 
    step inside the light and see the fear 
    of God burn inside of me
 and from "What's This Life For":  
    Hurray for a child 
    that makes it through 
    If there's any way 
    Because the answer lies in you 
    They're laid to rest 
    Before they know just what to do 
    Their souls are lost 
    Because they could never find 
    What's this life for
To me, lyrics like these seem to show someone on the path to Christ. Yet, contradictions remain--at the end of "What's This Life For," Scott sings "Don't have to settle no goddamn score/Cause we all live/Under the reign of one king"--lyrics that seem to take the Lord's name in vain while simultaneously exalting his sovereignty.  Obviously, each believer needs to decide for himself what he thinks of Creed's lyrics.  As for me, I view the album as I do books in the Bible like Ecclesiastes; it's a mixture of struggle and doubt with truth and hope.  In other words, it's just a very honest exploration of what it's all about by one who knows God but still wrestles with him like Jacob.  I was certainly edified and you can be too. Besides, the music simply rocks! 
What we have here is a superb collection of rock'n' roll making use of the entire grunge spectrum.  The first track begins sounding almost identical to an Alice in Chains acoustic track, musically and vocally.  I'm thinking "C'mon, be original!"  But then Scott's lungs and baritone voice merge as one force and blow you away.  Eddie Vedder is the only man who can lay a finger on this guy (and even he has yet to impress for an entire album like Scott has).  Whether it's touching acoustic balladry, warm 'n thick rock, or angry almost-metal, every song is a winner due to the synthesis achieved with the music and vocals.  To be sure, Creed is nothing new--they draw from the same well as Pearl Jam, Alice in Chains, Third Day, Nirvana, Seven Mary Three, and so on--but let's just say their bucket comes up full and refreshing everytime (which I can't say for all those other bands).  Many times I noticed a riff, a tone, or a vocal inflection from something else I couldn't quite pinpoint, but I didn't care because I'd already been seduced.   
I learned from the website that they actually released this album themselves before getting signed, with a different mix.  Fans on the discussion list seemed to prefer the original, saying the vocals caused even greater shivers of joy, and the music wasn't as heavy.  That brought to mind my one complaint--the record label mix sometimes trails Scott's voice with an artificial spacey echo that I'd have left off.   
So, what's the conclusion?  As a believer and music fan, I say this is a GREAT album for heavy alternative fans.  Anyone who can't understand Scott's struggles in the lyrics is just a little too close to the Pharisees.  I'm praying that his spiritual quest will end in victory, that he'll find the path to the One King.  I'm just thankful Creed is making such excellent music along the way.-----Josh Spencer