The American Soldier
album details the physical and emotional effects of combat experience. This song relates what it's like to be in a war zone. Vocalist and chief songwriter Geoff Tate explained on AnybodyListening.net
: "The title of this song came from a something a soldier's dad had said on the eve of his son's deployment. He asked his son to be careful because he was going into hell. The soldier wrote back to his family a month after being overseas and told his dad, 'You were right, I'm in the middle of hell.' A soldier named Anthony was on humvee patrol in Baghdad. His vehicle was blown up with a buried mine and Anthony was severely injured and almost died. He said that patrolling the streets was incredibly tense because every time the vehicle would stop there were hundreds of people surrounding you and they didn't seem happy. They didn't want soldiers there. Everyone was dressed as a civilian so how do you know who the enemy is? How do you deal with that? You're on constant alert, watching for something out of the ordinary.
He also told a story about being back home from his tour of duty and was pulled over by the police. When he asked what he was doing wrong, the officer said that he was driving down the middle of the road. Anthony said he was sorry, but he'd just gotten back from Iraq, where they couldn't drive in the actual lanes because that's where the bombs were. That inspired the line in the song, 'We drive straight down the centerline. No mistakes, not like last time. You don't want to be on the wrong side of Hell.' The chorus says, 'I'm all right. I'll be all right,' and that's a mantra these guys constantly repeat to themselves. They may have lost an arm, a leg, and an eye, but they'll still keep telling themselves they're going to be all right.
Musically this turned out very hypnotic, it's very representative of driving. I put down a saxophone solo that Michael plays off with the guitar, intercepting and colliding at different times so the song has a mesmerizing feel with an underlying tension."