2016 release from Atlantic Records.
John Cooper – Vocals, bass. Seth Morrison – Guitar. Korey Cooper – Rhythm guitar, keyboard, synthesizers, backing vocals. Jen Ledger – Drums, backing vocals, co-lead vocals.
Artist location: Tennessee, USA.
4.5 out of 5 stars rating.
Reviewed by David.
- Feel Invincible.
- Back From The Dead.
- I Want To Live.
- Out Of Hell.
- Burn It Down.
- Watching For Comets.
- Saviors Of The World.
- The Resistance.
Okay, so this technically is not melodic rock (though, after years of experimenting with different sounds they are now quite melodious), but I have seen a lot of love for these guys in the melodic rock circles and I happen to really like them myself so I figured why not throw a review on here of their newest album and see if it catches anyone that may not have heard of them.
Since some of you may not be familiar with the band let me start with a little history on them.
Skillet has had a lengthy, albeit varied, career. Starting out of the ashes of two bands, Seraph and Urgent Cry, Skillet emerged in 1996 with their self-titled debut album. The record featured a modern, almost grungy, rock sound to it and saw the band receive a modicum of success in Christian music circles with songs like ‘I Can’.
Their second album, 1998’s ‘Hey You, I Love Your Soul‘, saw them abandoning that sound for a more industrial rock approach as is evidenced in songs like ‘Locked In A Cage’, and the third record, 2000’s ‘Invincible‘ found them taking that industrial sound and amping it up, this time taking an even more electronic turn, and a much heavier one, with songs like ‘You’re Powerful’.
‘Invincible‘ garnered more attention for the band and they continued to get bigger in the Christian market but were still an opening act and had yet to reach headlining status.
The next album took another major turn for the band with the live worship record ‘Ardent Worship‘, released the same year as ‘Invincible‘, and the band started to gain the notice of more folks that would not have been drawn to their heavier studio albums. Almost immediately going back into the studio the band churned out their fifth album, ‘Alien Youth‘, in 2001.
This record followed the same formula as ‘Invincible‘ with a very heavy electronic sound, as you can hear on tracks like ‘Eating Me Away’, throughout the album and the band finally started to see even more success, finding themselves being called in to headline shows rather then a support act as they had been thus far.
2003 saw the release of ‘Collide‘ and another change in sound, this time opting for a straight forward rock approach with songs like the hit ‘Savior’. Garnering rave reviews for the band, the record found the band finally becoming a well known force in the Christian rock scene.
Finally taking a break from their hectic recording schedule, Skillet did not release their next album until 2006. ‘Comatose‘ was another shift in sound and featured a heavily symphonic sound. The record was an instant hit and shot the band to stardom in the Christian music world and even found the band some success in the general market as well with songs like ‘Comatose’ and ‘Rebirthing’ .
After six previous records the band had finally found their sound and were set to take over.
After releasing a live CD/DVD combo called ‘Comatose Comes Alive‘ in 2008, Skillet released their biggest record yet. ‘Awake‘ debuted at number 2 on the Billboard Top 200 and was nominated for six Dove awards. The album stayed true to the band’s new found sound of symphonic, straight forward rock and it found them at the very top of the Christian music world and they became a very successful crossover band as singles from the album, ‘Monster’, ‘Awake And Alive’ and ‘Hero’, found their way onto maistream radio.
Seven albums, twelve years after forming, through multiple line-up changes and multiple experiments with different sounds, the band was on top of the world and, after two EP releases, a live iTunes session and a remix called ‘Awake And Remixed‘, they returned in 2013 with their Gold certified record ‘Rise‘. The album was the first concept record from the band and featured songs such as the hits ‘Sick Of It’ and ‘Not Gonna Die’.
Returning once again for studio album number nine, Skillet has given us their best album since ‘Alive‘ with 2016’s ‘Unleashed‘, and it is a monster of a record for fans of this band and this style music.
The album sees the band staying with their tried and true formula of straight-up rock n’ roll that we have seen since ‘Comatose‘, though this time around with a bit less of the symphonic element, but it is still present.
The record starts out with ‘Feel Invincible’, a driving rock number with a thundering beat and driving bass line like the band are now well known for. I wasn’t crazy about this track on my first listen to be honest, but after a few more listens I found myself really enjoying it.
‘Back From The Dead’ is another head banging rocker and it leads into ‘Stars’ which is a fantastic song that takes the frenetic pace of the first three tracks down a good bit. The version on the album (and the link above) is a full-band version but you can click on the link near the top of the page to see the music video for the acoustic version featured on the soundtrack for the film ‘The Shack‘ as well.
‘I Want To Live’ is a track that could easily have come off of ‘Comatose‘ or ‘Alive‘ with it’s heavily orchestrated sound and strings opening. An outstanding rocker and one of my favorites from the album.
‘Undefeated’ continues on with the head banging pace with another terrific rocker and it takes us into my two least favorite tracks of the album. First is ‘Famous’, which is not quite pop rock, but it is far closer than anything else on the record. Next is ‘Lions’ which is another kind of mid-temp, more pop rock oriented track. Neither song are necessarily bad, but they never even get close in strength to the other songs of the album.
Thankfully we are right back to a heavy, hard rocking track next with the thundering ‘Out Of Hell’, another highlight for me.
‘Burn It Down’ is probably my least favorite of the heavier songs presented here, however it is still a great track and still way better than my two least favorites.
Ever since she joined the band in 2008, John has been incorporating Jen Ledger’s vocals into the songs. Whereas his wife, Korey, used to handle just background vocals before and all of the main vocals were handled by John (save on the live ‘Ardent Worship‘ album which saw Korey handling a bit more vocals than usual). He has been writing vocals for Jen more and more into a prominent and co-lead capacity, and rightly so. She has an excellent voice and their voices blend superbly, as is readily apparent on this next track, ‘Watching For Comets’ which see these two dueting in a fantastic manner.
‘Saviors Of The World’ brings the rock back with a hard hitting track and then, saving one of the hardest rocking tracks of the album for last, we are greeted with some of John’s rare studio screams in ‘The Resistance’, one of my favorite songs of the album and a perfect end to this excellent record.
John’s voice has held up extremely well over the years and he is in top form on this album and, as mentioned, his voice and the voice of drummer Jen Ledger, who also sounds fantastic here, blend superbly.
The line-up has changed many times, as mentioned a bit earlier, and John has been the only constant throughout all of the changes, but throughout all of those changes they finally found their sound and are putting out some fantastic modern rock these days that may just tickle your fancy if you enjoy such albums.
I have met John many times over the years and spoken with him and various members of the band throughout the bands career numerous times and he, and the other members (all but the newest guitar player, Seth Morrison, I have met of this incarnation of the band) are all some of the nicest, most down to Earth folks you could hope to meet. Something that always makes me appreciate and like a band even more.
Add to that their high energy live shows, of which I have seen plenty, and you almost can’t help but like these guys.
That being said, I do realize that this is not going to be for everyone here that follows me, and as always, that is fine. But I do like to incorporate some albums and music on here sometimes that I enjoy that fall a bit outside of melodic rock simply because you never know who else may also take a liking to it.
If you are into a bit more modern rock of bands such as Hinder and Three Days Grace then definitely check this band out if you have not heard them yet as I think you will really like their newer material.
Very highly recommended.
‘I Want To Live’.
‘Watching For Comets’.