Saturday, 27 July 2013

Skillet "Rise"

For the past few years, Skillet have been the front runners in the slew of Christian rock bands to have hit any success. This movement of bands who are labelled as Christian rock without any complaint by the bands include artists such as Red, Thousand Foot Krutch, Fireflight, and the list goes on. The impressive thing about these bands is their ability to make music so easily accessible to the ears of moderate rock fans, while sneaking in their own messages of peace and goodwill and what have you in to their lyrics.

Skillet initially started off not so subtly. Having released nine albums, the first five of these albums including album titles such as Hey You, I Love Your Soul and Ardent Worship, and on such albums are songs with titles like Who Is Like Our God, the band never really had anything beyond a strong Christian following. It was the release of their 2003 album Collide that really broke them in to relevance, getting rid of much of the heavily experimental sounds that they had played with on previous albums and started making alternative rock music comparable to that of Three Days Grace.

It was their next album, Comatose when the band really started getting attention and then even more so with its follow up Awake. Now the messages the band were giving were more subtle and could have been defined to mean anything to their listeners. Songs like Hero has open lyrics for any concept the listener wanted to make of it, while Skillet main man John L. Cooper definitely had an idea of what the songs meaning was. It was now at the point where many rock fans knew the name Skillet, but for most of these people, if you told them that Skillet were a Christian band, most people would be shocked. I’m not kidding; with the exception of my group of friends that got me in to the band, absolutely no one else I’ve ever brought them up to knew before hand that Skillet are a Christian rock band until I revealed it to them.

So now comes the most recent 2013 release by the band, Rise; a release that shouldn’t disappoint fans of the band. The mechanics of the album are similar to that of previous albums, with a lot of epic string section background music and nice heavy guitar sounds, but this time around the band decided to make somewhat of a concept album. The concept being very simple, emphasis on “very”, with the message being summed up on the albums first two tracks Rise and Sick of It; if you’re sick of the problems in the world, whatever they may be, rise away from them and try to make the world better. To tie the songs together, most of the twelve tracks on the album have audio breaks that end the songs, some last up to a minute. These audio breaks vary from 911 calls, to news reports, to children singing.

After the first two heavy tracks, the band shows their softer side with Good To Be Alive. This song is a tad different from their previous softer songs because usually when the band releases songs that seem soft but aren’t ballads, such as The Last Night, they still have a very heavy edge to them, while Good To Be Alive maintains a fresh inspiring sound throughout, while remaining strong enough to not be considered a ballad. This is truly a highlight in the bands career because it shows maturing in the song writing skills of the already matured John L. Cooper. American Noise follows the format of this sound, being very soft and inspirational yet not quite being a ballad. The last of these tracks is the song Hard to Find.

Not Gonna Die provides the familiar epic sound of the band with its strong usage of string section, some electronic sounds and strong heavy music with heartfelt singing by both John and drummer Jen Ledger.

The band has always had a number of titles to their genre beyond simply “Christian” rock. Circus For a Psycho is among the songs that push the limits to what kind of genre the band is. This track has many heavy metal traits, including a killer guitar intro by newly acquainted lead guitarist Seth Morrison. The song also has a tempo somewhat faster and more intense than your average Skillet song, and sounds somewhat more angry than usual. Madness In Me falls somewhere in between Circus For a Psycho and Not Gonna Die. It doesn’t have the epic background music, but is heavy and somewhat angry sounding, yet it is not as fast paced and intense.

On the previous album, Awake, drummer Jen Ledger sang co-lead vocals on some parts of the songs Hero and Awake and Alive, as well as background vocals on Monster. This time around we hear Jens voice on many of the songs on the album, and especially on the albums ballad Salvation. While John still has a prominent role in the vocals of the song, Jen’s voice is hear more so on this track than on any other, and provides a welcome change for the band’s sound. This continues on the next track and my personal favourite, Fire and Fury, which also features both members on vocals, and could also be considered a ballad.

A low moment for the album is the song My Religion. I feel with this track, the band is trying to remind people who have forgotten that the band is in fact a worship band. Musically it is an interesting track, sounding like a 1940’s lounge song turned in to a rock song, and the lyrics don’t exploit religion but rather express love for a certain figure, which could be determined to be a loved one, or a religious figure. The problem with the track is that it is perhaps the most forgettable track on the album.

 The album ends with What I Believe. This song brings back that familiar sound similar to what is heard on Not Gonna Die. It caps off the album well to remind fans of the bands signature sound, despite stepping somewhat out of their element on the album.

Despite many fans not knowing that the band is a Christian rock band, the band still has a very strong Christian following, which was made very clear to me the two times I have seen them perform live. I won’t get in to specifics, but let’s just say that both times I saw them it was part of a music festival and the act to go on right before them wasn’t a band, but a speaker, or a preacher if you will; definitely a different experience to say the least. But Skillet’s roots with their fans have not been lost. As their popularity grows, and their fan base rises (no pun intended) they will never stop performing music the way they want to, which seems to go by well with their ever growing fan base. I do, however, regard this album to not be as good as the bands two previous albums. but that doesn't mean that it doesn't beat out most of the albums to have already come out this year. It may just be the new transition in sound hasn't quite hit me yet.


What I Believe” –­ The first time I have ever selected and albums closing track as the highlight. I chose this song for the listener who has never heard of the band. This song sums up the album by providing the heavy sound that the band is capable of as well as mixing in the melodic superiorities of the bands vocals. This song can also sum up the band in general; it has that “epic” sound that the band has shown thoroughly throughout their past few albums. Despite the album going away from most of the bands familiar elements in terms of sound, this song does a more than exceptional job bringing it all in full circle.



8.5 (Out of 10)

Track List:

"Sick of It"  
"Good to Be Alive"  
"Not Gonna Die"  
"Circus for a Psycho"  
"American Noise"  
"Madness in Me"  
"Fire and Fury"  
"My Religion"  
"Hard to Find"  
"What I Believe"  

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