Twenty years after they formed, Skillet show no signs of slowing down. The Christian rockers might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but the fact that they are still performing to adoring fans and packed venues across the world speaks volumes about their staying power and legacy. On August 5th, the next chapter is written and released – Unleashed is their tenth studio album, released by Atlantic Records and produced by Brian Howes, Kevin Churko, Neal Avron and Seth Mosely. Not bad for a band with a frying pan for a name…
Frontman John Cooper is on record saying that Unleashed is full of ‘crowd chanting anthems’. It certainly begins that way – ‘Feel Invincible’ (the lead single, opening track and soundtrack to WWE’s ‘Battleground’ pay-per-view this year) is a real fist pumper and dancefloor mover. Following song ‘Back from the Dead’ is also very much in the same vein, a driving rock affair that, despite the rather feeble ‘pa-pa-pa-pa’ chants, is an uplifting number that will have no trouble getting bodies moving. Elsewhere, ‘I Want to Live’ sees John’s wife Korey shares vocals and incorporates the use of strings, ‘Out of Hell’ has a strong electronic underpin, ‘Famous’ is an out-and-out pop rock song and ‘Watching for Comets’ has a strong Owl City vibe about it. When your fanbase is as wide and varied as Skillet’s, pleasing them all is a challenge but the quartet have given it a damn good crack. Oh, and ‘Stars’ is the closest thing to a worship song the band has ever written since 2000’s Ardent Worship.
However, this conglomerate of styles is as much a curse as it is a blessing, because the record has so little depth to it you can only really paddle and not swim. A big factor in this are the lyrics; they are much lighter and fun than the serious side presented in 2013’s Rise, but have been slathered with so much cheese that at times they’re unbearable. The best example of this is ‘Lions’, which could have been a storming ballad if not for a chorus saying ‘If we’re gonna fly, we’ll fly like eagles, if we’re gonna fear we’ll fear no evil’. ‘Burn It Down’ also suffers; it’s of the right ilk to be played when pumping iron in the gym given its tempo and pace, but that only serves as compensation for the fact that the words bear very little muscle or weight. As a consequence, Unleashed has a tendency to sound messy and unfocused because you’re getting everything on the surface jostling for position, leaving no room to dive underneath certain elements and appreciate others.
Despite this, and regardless of whether you have a faith or not, this record has something for everyone. If you like your rock music upbeat, colourful and diverse then you’ll probably love the entire thing. If not, you’ll probably want to listen to it all and keep the tracks you like.
John Cooper – lead vocals, bass
Korey Cooper – guitar, keyboards, backing vocals
Jen Ledger – drums, backing vocals
Seth Morrison – guitar
Back From the Dead
I Want to Live
Out of Hell
Burn It Down
Watching for Comets
Saviors of the World