Skillet – Victorious: The Aftermath (Deluxe Edition Album Review)

It’s no longer enough just to be victorious, and so everyone’s favorite Rock-n-Roll soldiers in Skillet are back with Victorious: The Aftermath, a deluxe edition companion to their 2019 LP. Atlantic Records will terrify the dark with its release on Friday, September 11, 2020. (We think we’re funny!)

Featuring all 12 of the original Victorious tracks, along with two brand new unreleased songs, five reimagined offerings, and a partridge in a pear tree, Victorious: The Aftermath is a hefty collection from Skillet. The two-time Grammy Award-nominated, 12-time platinum band are, of course, no strangers to jam-packed LPs. As one of this generation’s best-selling Rock bands, the quartet has spent the past 24 years delivering 10 quality albums, ranging from 1996’s self-titled Skillet to 2016’s Unleashed to the aforementioned Victorious. Billions of streams and millions of albums sold, as well as sold-out arena tours across four continents, have certainly made the band legendary.

Still celebrating their impressive tenth disc a year later, Skillet—Vocalist/Bassist John Cooper, Guitarist/Keyboardist/Backing Vocalist Korey Cooper, Guitarist Seth Morrison, and Drummer/Vocalist Jen Ledger—delivers Victorious: The Aftermath. Continuing to be a soundtrack for triumph, the Deluxe Edition blends the album’s original dozen tracks with piano reimaginings, remixes, new material, and a little piece of Eden.

To start, the first 12 tracks are the original Victorious line-up, so while there’s nothing new, it’s still very much a killer set. With adrenaline bleeding from their pores, the unvanquished quartet serve up beefy helpings of sinister sludge, triumphant Arena Rockers, explosive throw downs and even a power ballad or two. Lush soundscapes with bass-heavy grooves anchor the band’s presentation, one that will motivate its listeners to grab life by its horns and always choose love over hate.

In an interview with some website called to promote the original release of the album, Vocalist/Bassist Cooper had pointed out that the band demoed somewhere in the neighborhood of 48 songs for the LP. Presumably choice selections from those leftovers, two previously unreleased tracks appear here: “Dead Man Walking” and “Sick and Empty.” The first, “Dead Man Walking,” adds crunchy electronics to emphasize Cooper’s bass licks as Ledger’s angelic backing vocals form the perfect complement to the catchy Rock-n-Roll beat. Feeling like a member of The Walking Dead never sounded quite so catchy!

Next, electronic atmospherics set the vibe for “Sick and Empty.” The track’s candid, personal reflections (“I burn every good thing”) pair well with “Save Me,” making the songs two wonderfully heavy and emotive sisters. And while it’s quite different from its two predecessors, “Dreaming of Eden” is still very much a Skillet song: a careful blend of modern Rock-n-Roll sensibilities and the band’s deeply-seated Christian roots. A bonus track that was released along with Eden: A Skillet Graphic Novel, the delicate, power ballad-esque offering might still be new to some.

Five reimaginings and remixes follow, led by the piano and vocal take of “Victorious (Soundtrack Version).” A showcase for the Coopers’ talents—Korey’s keys and John’s vocals—the focus remains on the couple as they inject strings and Ledger’s flawless backing vocals into this version, one that maintains the inspiring feel of being able to take on the world. Simply presented in a different packaging, “Victorious (Soundtrack Versions)” is equally as encapsulating as its original.

Another track that demands you to rise up and embrace this life, “Legendary (Destiny Remix)” sets a steady beat. Bursting with thick electronics, this alters the song to something that borders on dancy—but this is not Dance music, per se. The band’s grit is intact throughout the crunchy synths that anchor Cooper and Ledger’s alternating calls. This sets the stage for “Save Me (Reimagined),” a softened take on the stand-out track. One with gorgeous classical piano work from Korey and lofty strings, as well as a succinct, weeping guitar solo from Morrison, there’s a palpable emotionality that ebbs throughout this hauntingly intimate reincarnation.

Similarly, “Reach (Falling Deep Mix)” takes twinkling ivories and pairs them with Cooper’s vocals, creating a duet (with Ledger, of course) that feels tailor-made for the theatrical stage. So if we already have Eden: A Skillet Graphic Novel, and its sequel is already in the works, is Victorious: The Musical next? All joking aside (but we’re not joking!), they close Victorious: The Aftermath with “Terrify the Dark (Reimagined),” which feels the closest to its original, but no complaints there—it was and still is a phenomenal track.

In short, all the feels of the original album remain fully intact, there’s just more material to enjoy now. Like a super, epic bonus, bonus disc, Victorious: The Aftermath gives Skillet fans something to embrace while we pray for the end of the apocalypse or, at the very least, wait out its aftermath with great Rock. For this, Cryptic Rock gives Skillet’s latest 5 of 5 stars.

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