Atlantic Records / Hear It Loud / Fair Trade Services
Release Date: September 11th 2020
Reviewed by: Jonathan Andre
- You Ain’t Ready
- This is the Kingdom
- Save Me
- Rise Up
- Terrify the Dark
- Never Going Back
- Finish Line
- Back to Life
- Dead Man Walking
- Sick and Empty
- Dreaming Of Eden
- Victorious (Soundtrack Version)
- Legendary (Destiny Remix)
- Save Me (Reimagined)
- Reach (Falling Deep Mix)
- Terrify the Dark (Reimagined)
Skillet. A band that has become a big selling one, since their inception in the mid-1990s. Comprising now of husband-and-wife John and Korey Cooper, alongside guitarist Seth Morrison and drummer and backing vocalist Jen Ledger; this quartet is indeed one of Christian music’s most relatable band in the history of Christian rock music, and a band that, like Switchfoot, has successfully crossed over into mainstream, without compromising their message of hope, encouragement, and at times, confrontation that can be a catalyst to turn into carefully calculated action. In the aftermath (3 years) of what I reckon was one of the band’s most cohesive projects to date (Unleashed), the band gave to us another successful head-banger of an album in Victorious in August 2019. While the band has never shied away from being inclusive and creating a live set and songs that appeal to listeners who may not be accustomed to hearing Christian music, they have never once stopped sharing their faith and what it means to them. And so as Victorious was heard by myself over the last year or so, I’ve been pleasantly excited of the unashamedness of John and the rest of the band in the bold declaratory gospel that they portray, not only in their 2019 album but throughout their whole music career as well.
Skillet has continued to become a band that is respected and admired across the board- While the band has never shied away from being inclusive and creating a live set and songs that appeal to listeners who may not be accustomed to hearing Christian music, they have never once stopped sharing their faith and what it means to them. Featuring hard rock, radio friendly music, even ballads and pop-rock symphonic anthems; there were songs on Victorious for literally any fan of any era of this band- ‘Legendary’, ‘Terrify the Dark’, ‘Victorious’ the title track, even my very own personal favourite ‘Save Me’, to name a few. One of the most influential bands in modern Christian rock, or even influential within mainstream rock as well; Victorious was definitely a standout in 2019 as a whole, both as a part of CCM and mainstream rock too!
I don’t know if there was a particular time during my life, but at one point, I started to think that the musical genre of hard-rock wasn’t for me. Maybe it was because I had a preconceived idea of what hard rock sounded like, or the fact that during my formative and teenage years, I was heavily listening to artists like Carman (gospel/storytelling), Delirious? (Brit-rock/pop) and worship acts like Matt Redman, Tim Hughes, and Steven Curtis Chapman; that any interest in anything else other than what I was listening to, was a big no-no. Nevertheless, I thought I knew what the hard-rock music genre was, that is until I heard of the band Skillet around 10 or so years ago. And to be frank, I was still apprehensive about Skillet and their music way back then. Apart from a few songs here and there, I didn’t hear much more of the band- mainly because…well, I don’t know. Sometimes now, looking back to how I was 10 years ago, even 5 years ago; I wondered why I didn’t branch out into new and different, exciting and out-of-the-box music, sooner. But that’s just how it was. And for me, I found Skillet and heard their discography (and I mean, really heard it!) probably around a couple of years back. For me, I always like to be stretched musically and be confronted with new music styles, things that place me out of my comfort zone, in a good way; and Skillet was one of these artists. So much so that I wrote the review on Victorious, and even blogged about the band as a placed them as part of my top 100 influential music artists in modern music history, of all time! And as we’ve fastforwarded a year in September 2020, a full year or so after Victorious has been released, we see yet another offering from the band, this time it’s Victorious: The Aftermath– consisting of 20 songs, the 12 from the standard edition of the album, plus 5 remixes, 2 unreleased tracks, and one song originally written for lead singer John Cooper’s release of his graphic novel Eden. A must-have for any person who’s a fan of all things Skillet (like myself), this 20 track album is enough for people to be reminded of the influence and impact Skillet has already had and continues to have, in not only the CCM market but the mainstream market too!
‘Sick and Empty’ and ‘Dead Man Walking’ are the new songs on the Aftermath Edition of the album, and unfortunately within the sea of 20 tracks, these two can often get lost in the shuffle, especially when you have big heavyweights like ‘Legendary’, ‘Save Me’ and ‘Terrify The Dark’ standing out lyrically and musically far above everything else. Then you have ‘Dreaming Of Eden’, a song that was recorded especially for their comic book release Eden, alongside remixes of the songs ‘Victorious’, ‘Terrify the Dark’, ‘Reach’, ‘Save Me’ and ‘Legendary’, and you have a track listing of 20 songs that makes for a definite purchase for anyone who is seriously a panhead. No really, I’d go so far as to say ‘buy this album’ instead of just stream it on Spotify. It’s that good. And maybe in time, the songs ‘Sick and Empty’ and ‘Dead Man Walking’ will stand out more to me on the album, as time continues to wear along. Nevertheless, this is an album that is virtually near-perfect (where’s the reimagined version of ‘Anchor’?), and one that I’ve thoroughly enjoyed- one that as a whole, has become one of my favourite Skillet albums of all time, in its entirety.
‘…what’s really interesting about Skillet is the fan base is so diverse. There are the Christian fans. There are the church group fans, but there are also hard rock fans, people who love Metallica and Slipknot. They like Skillet too, and then you have people who like Skillet that don’t even like rock music. Then we have a lot of girl fans that a lot of rock bands don’t usually have because there’s a nice softer feminine side of Skillet. It’s not because we have girls, but we have Jen singing sometimes and there’s piano and strings. There’s some romance to it. The reason people never heard us is because it’s not like all of our record sales come from one specific format. They all come from different areas and it’s cool because that’s how our music is. It’s made up of a lot of different kinds of influence…’ Skillet’s mark on music is very evident, and this above quote shows us how much. While many can say that you can either succeed in either Christian music or mainstream; Skillet’s history shows us otherwise. John and Korey, Seth and Jen have crafted a career of non wavering, sticking by their beliefs, and creating album after album full of hits that can relate to a variety of people across the spectrum of race, religion, creed, colour and ideologies.
There’s so much polarising opinions on what people believe Skillet should be, in relation to what they have heard on Comatose– arguably, by sales alone, their best album of their career. Which seems to be a false expectation upon the band, to produce something that maybe they themselves don’t feel like they are called to anymore. Or maybe you can over-spiritualise it and say that you believe God is moving you in a different musical genre, but at the end of the day, music tastes change, and bands change their approach and style…and that’s ok. Skillet have taught me so much in how I myself should be humble and not quick to judge people who are of different beliefs than I am, because if an artist like Skillet, as firmly grounded in faith as they are, can impact and encourage people from a wide array of belief and unbelief, than I myself, who is firmly of the same faith that Skillet is, ought to approach life through the biblical lens that Skillet does as well.
Skillet’s music, like Switchfoot’s, is indeed universal, which a lot of Victorious, and Victorious: The Aftermath, is. And as critically acclaimed and emotive as the band’s most recent 2019 album is (and I’m sure this new Aftermath edition will also be critically acclaimed!); Skillet’s new album is anything but cliche. Though at times it may have felt like some songs over-repeat themselves; as a whole, the band continue to deliver great music that can appeal across various other cultures, creeds and opinions- and that and that alone, should be a driving force into at least hearing the album once! Well done Skillet for such a hard-hitting deluxe edition of Victorious; and album that can hopefully motivate us all in our own daily walks of life. Now…off to listen to Collide and Comatose and Alien Youth…and then Victorious again? Well done John and co. for both Victorious and Victorious: The Aftermath. Hoping that more songs become singles and impact peoples lives both now and into my future.
4 songs to listen to: You Ain’t Ready, Terrify The Dark, Save Me, Victorious
RIYL: Linkin Park, Evanescene, Switchfoot, RED, Thousand Foot Krutch