August 5, 2016 Skillet – Unleashed (Album Review)
Skillet has proved album after album that their music is something worth paying attention to. Initially come together out in Memphis, Tennessee two decades ago, the band has traveled a long road to the present day, and in that time released nine albums, toured the world, and have become one of Hard Rock’s elite. Building a following from the ground up, it was 2003’s Collide which saw Skillet break into the mainstream Rock world, but it was only a prelude to a bigger explosion that came with 2006’s Comatose and 2009’s Awake. With Christian ideals of hope, love, and finding purpose, Skillet reflect a positive message, but also one that is not afraid to be honest.
That being said, 2013’s Rise seemed to be a sign of the times where many of the songs penned call out the frustration that come with the complication of modern society. A feeling many fans relate to, regardless of personal beliefs, Skillet are back with their most diverse record to date, Unleashed. Released via Atlantic Records on August 5, 2016, the new album sees the band work with Brian Howes for the first time since Comatose and also features production contributions from Kevin Churko, Neal Avron, and Seth Mosley. An inspiring album, John Cooper (vocals, bass guitar, acoustic guitar), his wife Korey Cooper (guitar, vocals, keyboards, bass guitar), Jen Ledger (drums, vocals), and Seth Morrison (guitar) are ready to show the world what they have been working hard on for the past few years.
Wasting no time to have the listener’s chest thumping, lead single “Feel Invincible” immediately pulls in the energy with scratchy vocals, and a pounding beat. Bouncing around and injecting genuine confidence, from the vocals to the guitar riff and in the lyrics, it is Skillet in every fashion. Keeping emotions soaring, “Back From the Dead” comes in with Ledger’s soft vocals contrasting with the John’s main vocals, adding a depth as adrenaline oozes out. Shifting in a different direction, “Stars” begins with electronic tones, which serve to build suspense. Each additional instrument builds up slowly, creating a uplifting and hopeful feeling. Interjecting more dramatics, “I Want To Live” features a violin introduction while drums add an element of desperation to the track. Dual vocals dance around each other, coming together, almost as if one is incomplete without the other.
Interjecting more Hard Rock, “Undefeated” comes in with rumbling guitars and defiant vocals as anthem-like chanting further seal the defiant attitude. A bit more gentle, and Pop leaning, “Famous” features mellow vocals and a calmer introduction that quickly speeds up in tempo. Simple, fast drums and easy synth sounds create an image of letting go of fears, while lyrics express excitement. Quite addictive, it is the type of song one could imagine an entire crowd bouncing in unison to when performed live. Slowing things down once more, “Lions” brings on a message of overcoming as a chorus of vocals and hope-filled instrumentals reaffirm as well as reassure that there is strength together. Then, hitting the listener like a bucket of ice cold water, “Out Of Hell” returns to serious Hard Rock, and a serious pleading as desperate vocals are matched with a high strung beat. Heavy, driven, and intense, this combination solidifies the fervent vibe of the song.
Taking on an almost Industrial Rock feel at first, “Burn It Down” is introduced with dramatic, stopping guitars. A very refined sound musically, lyrically, it questions and simultaneously gives hope. It is the type of track that reminds of ’90s Alternative Rock in the finest way. Bringing on a futuristic feeling, “Watching For Comets” mixes a bit of melancholy sensations as violins dance around. A well-constructed piece, its combination presents reflection and regret, as well as hope. Back for the attack, “Saviors Of The World” kicks the energy into high gear once more with faster tempo laced with violins, synths, drums, and guitars. Highly textured and layered, John’s voice on the verses has a hint of the eeriness to them that is simply irresistible. Then, as their final battle cry, “The Resistance” closes Unleashed with a stern emotion about being true to oneself. The beat reflects the seriousness of the lyrics as John and Ledger’s voice only cements the feel of the track. It is a feeling of finally saying enough is enough with the world’s endless atrocities and rising above it all.
Overall, Unleashed feels like a true-to-form Skillet album. The dual vocals complement each other in a way that does not just serve as a pretty harmony or contrast, but rather work together to tell a story. They do push the envelope a bit here with a variety of different styles spread out throughout the fabric of the record. That is not a bad thing though, it only shows the band is challenging themselves and their listeners. All in all, Skillet have created another album that will serve as beacon of hope for many, while still rocking hard. CrypticRock gives Unleashed 4 out of 5 stars.