Rocking you toward God

Published 2:43 pm Thursday, July 8, 2010

To passersby, the small farm off Seacock Chapel Road looks like your typical Southampton County homestead. But pull over, shut off the engine, listen very carefully and you might hear . . . hard rock.

It’s too far away to make out the lyrics, but that jammin’ sound is unmistakable.

Queensrÿche? Megadeth? Iron Maiden?


Welcome to the domain of Stronghold.

“For the last 40 years or more, churches have had weak messages, weak ministries,” said Mickey Rosenfeld, the band’s guitarist and lead vocalist. “They’ve gotten away from everything that was the whole character of God. They’ve only stayed on one side – God is love.”

Oh, but there’s another side, one that the band — Rosenfeld, his wife, Ann, on keyboards, Ron Lee of Virginia Beach on bass and Jim Writesel of Virginia Beach on drums — wants you to hear.

“They don’t look at the wrath side of it, the whole picture,” Rosenfeld added. “What our second CD will do is bring focus to that.”

Stronghold was founded in 2002 and rehearses at the Rosenfelds’ home, on the second floor of a barn that has been converted into a modern recording studio. It was here that they put together their debut album, “A Cross And A Crown,” in October 2006.

“It’s a little bit of a ride, but it’s worth it because this is my sanctuary,” Writesel said. “That’s the way I look at it.”

Although a name for the second album hasn’t been decided — Writesel jokingly suggests that since Jesus gave his blood for our sins, it should be called the “Blood” album — “A Cross And A Crown” was nominated for a Momentum award by Indieheaven and the Christian Artist Alliance.

The band has its roots through Ivor United Methodist Church.

“They didn’t have a choir,” Rosenfeld said. “The preacher at the time, Don Chapman, found out that I played guitar. He was quite a piano player. We sat down and started writing songs together. He had songs that he had written to established music.”

Chapman died in November 2002 from cancer. Three of the songs on “A Cross And A Crown” are Chapman’s, so the band dedicated its first album to him.

From its Ivor roots, “We started doing a little bit at church and at other churches in the area,” Rosenfeld said. “We just kept the ministry going. But now for the first time in our whole ministry we feel like we’ve got something solid. We’ve got four committed people with the desire to go.”

He said Stronghold wants to play bigger venues, including Christian colleges.

“We’re still honing down a decent 90-minute concert,” Rosenfeld said. “If you’ve got that much time, that’s good. But we can also do a 60- or 30-minute concert as well. We still have the same revival-type message.”

The second album will feature a familiar tune, Sammy Haggar’s “There’s Only One Way To Rock.” Rosenfeld recently received permission from The Red Rocker to re-record the hit to different lyrics. Stronghold’s version will be called “There’s Only One Way To God.”

“It was a simple change,” Rosenfeld said. “We added a few words here, changed a few words there and it was done. When we go out and play it, people recognize the tune.”

For those wanting to hear the band play live, the band has several gigs scheduled for the summer, including at The Light House Café in Virginia Beach on July 24 and at Magnolia United Methodist Church on Aug. 14.

The band also has a fan page on the social networking site Facebook and an “artist” page on the website

“We’re called to be the salt and light of the world,” Rosenfeld said. “We’re called to go out and make disciples. We can’t do that sitting inside a stained-glass building. We have to get out of it and we have to talk to people.”

The band’s second album, he says, is about getting oneself right for the last days.

“Our first CD was about God’s promises, His goodness and that He’s always there for you — which is all true,” Rosenfeld said. “With this CD, the day’s come and prepare yourself. You’ve been told. You’ve heard it before. It’s not a game.” ←