January 17, 2022 Skillet – Dominion (Album Review)
Hard rockers and champions of invincible faith, Skillet recently delivered their eleventh full-length studio effort, Dominion, on Friday, January 14, 2022, thanks to Atlantic Records.
While they are proudly victorious in all things music, they are also prolific. We last heard from the band back in September 2020 with the aptly-titled Victorious: The Aftermath, a companion piece to 2019’s Victorious. Add to this 2019’s Eden: A Skillet Graphic Novel and 2020’s Eden II: The Aftermath—as well as Frontman John Cooper’s 2020 non-fiction offering, Awake & Alive to Truth—and it’s clear that these two-time Grammy Award nominated, multi-platinum rockers are no slouches. As one of this generation’s best-selling Rock bands, the quartet has spent the past 26 years touring and recording 10 quality albums, including 2000’s Invincible, 2009’s Awake, and 2016’s Unleashed.
As the story so often goes, however, the turbulence of 2021 forced a slowdown for many rockers. Shifting their process to one of remote recording, Skillet—Vocalist/Bassist Cooper, Guitarist/Keyboardist/Backing Vocalist Korey Cooper, Guitarist Seth Morrison, and Drummer/Vocalist Jen Ledger—was undaunted. Working between tour dates, utilizing their Wisconsin home studio, the Coopers and co. enlisted father-son duo Kevin Churko (Ozzy Osbourne, In This Moment) and Kane Churko (Five Finger Death Punch, Disturbed) to helm production.
The resulting collection, the 12-song Dominion, is an album heavily inspired by the times in which it was birthed. Exploring the idea of conquering whatever life puts before you and refusing to live in fear, it’s full of the assertive Rock-n-Roll that has made the quartet a hit around the globe. So it’s really no shock that they take this recurrent theme of perseverance and pitch it to listeners immediately with the edgy rockers “Surviving the Game” and “Standing in the Storm.” The former track, the album’s first single/video, advises listeners to embrace the masochism of life, to “learn to enjoy the pain if [they] want to survive the game.” Paired with the enormous choruses of Skillet 2.022 and Cooper and Ledger’s enchanting ‘beauty and the beast’ vocal tango, it is a pill that goes down easily.
Careful not to allow complacency to set in, from here they diverge in multiple directions. There are the tracks that stay true to their sound, such as toe-tapper “Shout Your Freedom” and “Beyond Incredible,” beginning as one entity before delivering a sucker punch to the ears. The titular “Dominion” fits somewhere in between, with its killer guitar solo (from leading lady Korey Cooper) inspiring defiance against the robots in D.C.—or, perhaps, taking on Darth Vader and the Empire. Take your pick!
It is the tracks in the fringes, however, that hit hardest. Take, for example, the wacky-wonderful synths of “Destroyer,” a dirge that sees Cooper going haywire on his bass. Empowering listeners to escape their own disguise and to refuse to buy into other’s lies, it plays into the concept of finding your truth and practicing strength in your convictions. Stepping outside this idea, lyrically, though somewhat similar in sound, the incendiary “Ignite” is fraught with more dirty bass theatrics and is apt to appease fans of the band’s headbanging side.
Then there’s “Valley of Death,” which one might erroneously expect to be the heaviest track on the record. Instead, it’s a moving piano, vocal, and string ballad that challenges Cooper to take his vocal performance to the next level. Raising questions of how one can keep their faith amid so much struggle, it eventually kicks in, allowing Ledger to provide the perfect vocal complement yet again. Created from the same cloth, Dominion’s showstopper is “Refuge.” As the clouds part and sunshine kisses our skin, the talented quartet pays tender homage to the one who lifts us up when we’re feeling less than victorious—whether that is a significant other, a Higher Power, children, family, etc. It’s a beautifully heartfelt moment, one of the quartet’s finest.
They end, as always, with the wild card. Integrating Hip Hop influences in a superbly risky move, “White Horse” might initially rate as off-putting, like an ugly gosling, but it grows into an eclectic moment that displays the group’s strengths. The most experimental offering on the album, its apocalyptic metaphors trot their hooves through a landscape strewn with false idols as the end nears. Will our world end in fire or ice? It’s an intriguing note to end on: strong on its Biblical references and the urgency it evokes in the listener. Whether you believe that there is a war for the soul of our nation waging, it’s hard not to see the sociopolitical corollaries.
In fact, it’s practically impossible not to take Dominion and place it into the crosshairs of our modern melodrama, interpreting tracks through a lens of political upheaval, economic unrest, a global health crisis, and the resultant mental health pandemic. As always, there’s hope at the core of Skillet’s latest; a wish that listeners will seek and find their truth, refute the lies, and embrace their ability to think for themselves. And a reminder that, when the going gets tough and the human spirit is sinking, turn toward the powers of faith and love.
It’s not an extreme diversion for the band who are loyal to many things, including their signature sound, but Dominion does set aside time to color outside the lines. The fact that it does so with those ever-present rose-colored glasses is a testament to Skillet’s faith—in God, humanity, and the universal language of music. For this, Cryptic Rock gives Skillet’s latest 4 of 5 stars.