Release Date: April 13th 2018
Reviewed by: Jonathan Andre
- Not Dead Yet
- Warrior (feat. John Cooper)
‘…it’s so surreal that I will be releasing my first EP in just a few weeks! The writing and recording process with Korey Cooper, John Cooper, Seth Mosley and many others has been so much fun and I’ve loved every second of it! Learning, growing, and creating with these ridiculously talented people has been one of the most rewarding seasons of my life. We’ve created something fresh that feels unique to me. I can’t wait to share these songs with everyone; it feels like I’m getting to share a new side of myself! It’s going to be crazy to step out from behind the drums and do my own show without the rest of Skillet around me, but it’s a challenge I’m excited about. I’m so thankful to Atlantic and the Hear It Loud crew for fully supporting me and helping me launch this new chapter! …’ Jen Ledger, drummer for Skillet for the last 10 years or so, decided to branch out this year, and release something of her own- an EP, simply titled LEDGER that released last month. And while it can be a worrying sign, in that many people who often release solo albums as side projects (when they are still in the band) can in fact and often do split from said band and go out on their own to varying degrees of success; what Jen has stated from the beginning is of her non-intention of leaving Skillet. So…we can know and rest assured that this LEDGER career is a side thing, and who knows, someone can have 2 budding careers going at once, right? Skillet, alongside other chart-topping artists like needtobreathe and Switchfoot, even RED, Jars of Clay, Third Day and Fireflight; have anchored the Christian rock music industry for quite some time, and with Jen’s enthusiastic drumming over the years, she has also been a great compliment in her clean and crisp vocals as compared to John Cooper’s raspy texture of his voice, and his trademark Mark Stuart-esque style of singing (often losing his voice at times because of his screaming in other moments in other tracks on albums!). Fans of the band have, I’m sure, at one point or another, wanted Jen to delve into singing lead, whether it be solo or on several Skillet songs. Now, we see Jen venture into the world of artistry with herself as the front-woman. The result? LEDGER EP, a 6 track EP in partnership with Atlantic Records and Hear It Loud.
Standing at 6 tracks, Jen invites us into a sonic landscape that isn’t that much dissimilar to that of Skillet, but also very akin to that of Flyleaf, particularly the Lacey Sturm era. In fact, Jen’s vocals and how she sings is very much like Lacey in just about every way, except that Lacey is American and Jen is British…but enough about the semantics. As a whole, LEDGER EP stands tall as some of the most musically diverse Christian rock albums/EP’s I’ve heard since the music of Flyleaf and RED a while back. Yes, Jen’s music, in my opinion, is as interesting, and maybe even more so, than Skillet’s current material. Enter in ‘Not Dead Yet’, the first single released from Jen that is as empowering as it is ‘turn-the-music-up-and-start-head-banging’. As Jen boldly declares that ‘…I’m not dead yet, so watch me burn, go on trying, lying, you’re so sure, I may be broken, but I’m not done, I’ll go on fighting, while there’s breath in my lungs, cause I’m not dead yet…’, we are met with a declaratory statement, that as there is breath in our lungs, we still have work to do on this planet. That our circumstances and what people tell us ought not to be our barometer of how we should live, rather, it is the breath in our lungs given to us by the God above that is testament to the purpose of the lives we lead. ‘Not Dead Yet’ is a great rock song musically, but also a great song in a lyrical sense as well. We are meant to live life abundantly, and hopefully, this song gives us impetus and motivation to do just that!
Throughout the rest of the EP, Jen continues to assert her boldness on issues close to her heart, making this set of songs very honest, real, raw and heartfelt. ‘Warrior’ features Skillet frontman John Cooper on backing vocals, as this song tackles a theme of what it means to be a warrior, to fight for issues and stand for what is right, even in a world where truth can sometimes seem like a commodity traded for fame and fortune. Being warriors can seem like being outsiders from the world at times, yet, such a song like this ought to give us gumption and passion to continue our quest for standing for things (and against things) as we understand that this life is full of black and white and grey. ‘Bold’ is heavy on the electronics and is the most ‘out-of-place’ song on the album, because it is the most CCM- presenting to us a message of being bold and taking a stand for things that are important to ourselves and important to society; while ‘Foreigner’, the most electronic song on the EP, allows listeners to hear a theme of not fitting in and being ‘foreigners’, and that being ok. The song itself especially resonates with us Christians and how we know that we are not home yet, that the world we are in is just temporary, and that we ourselves are foreigners, in transit between this earth and heaven. And while we don’t belong here, as this song suggests, we are here, and nevertheless, the Lord will use us to further His purposes and to bring people closer to who He created us all to become, and the potential we all have inside of us that He wants us to tap into as the years progress.
Dance, hip-hop, pop, electronic and anthemic atmospheric melodies all collide in ‘Iconic’, and is a song that will fit right in on a dance club playlist, while the message can seem a little laborious and tired, in that we have heard it before on the EP as a whole- that ‘…You are the spark, You set me on fire, You’re so iconic, everything I wanted, You are my world, my legend, my star, You’re so iconic, everybody wants it…’, while I reckon the strongest song on the EP is ‘Ruins’, the most subdued and reflective melody on Ledger EP. A song that showcases Jen’s vocals and allows us to hear her underrated voice (one that I reckon isn’t utilised to full capacity when she’s in Skillet), we are met with the message of Jen wanting to be broken before God, vulnerable and ‘ruined’, knowing that it is when we are laid bare and nowhere to hide before the One who has created us, that was can realise and hold onto the fact that He is in fact all we need rather than whatever we have been hiding behind!
And so…that is that. Ledger EP. By LEDGER. Jen Ledger, drummer of Skillet, who’s not leaving the band but is still undertaking a solo career in the meantime, resulting in these 6 songs. An EP that stands tall and is one of my favourites of 2018 alongside Sarah Reeves’ Easy Never Needed You, Ryan Stevenson’s No Matter What, For All Seasons’ Clarity and Leanna Crawford’s Crazy Beautiful You (Deluxe); LEDGER has created one of the most musically unique and powerful collection of songs within the last few months. Fans of Skillet, Fireflight and Flyleaf (especially the Lacey Sturm era) will love Jen’s solo material, and here’s hoping she brings about her solo influence back into Skillet to make the band deliver much more unique and powerful songs a la the Comotose era. Well done Jen for such a bold EP, can’t wait for more solo material in the future months and years ahead!
3 songs to listen to: Not Dead Yet, Bold, Ruins
RIYL: Skillet, Seventh Day Slumber, Audio Adrenaline, Fireflight, Flyleaf, Lacey Sturm