So it was about seven years ago that I was first turned onto SKILLET by my dear friend who passed away recently (R.I.P. M-ROD). As a result this will always be a group that makes me think of him and smile. He brought over the Awake album and as soon as I heard “Hero” I was hooked. I thoroughly enjoyed that record as well as its predecessor Comatose. However, the same can’t be said for 2013’s Rise. That one to me just didn’t sit right, and nothing got my blood flowing like other releases. So it was with nervous anticipation that I greeted the news of latest disc Unleashed, out August 5 via Atlantic Records/Word. Not that I expected it to suck or anything, but whenever a band puts out a record I didn’t exactly love, I always hope it’s an aberration and not a trend, ya know?
Well, I needn’t have worried one bit. Instead of mostly misses this one has enough hits to sink my Battleship. As soon as I heard leadoff track and runaway favorite “Feel Invincible” I immediately knew this is a legitimate contender for Maestro’s Song of the Year. Everything about it, from the driving rhythm to the uplifting melody make this one of THE best songs 2016 has to offer. But the best part about it? Drummer and vocalist Jen Ledger’s delivery on the call-and-response singing part with John Cooper (lead vocals,bass). Without it this track is nowhere near as powerful and hard-hitting. Not long after its release I spent the better part of an eight-hour workday listening to this and this song alone, so that should give you an idea.
“Back From the Dead” keeps the rock and roll party movin’ and groovin’ on some serious rock riffage from guitarists Korey Cooper and Seth Morrison and then comes the poetic beauty of “Stars.” This is another tune I can’t stop playing. I used the word “uplifting” earlier. That very much applies to the music and lyrics of this song. If you’re having a crappy day just pop “Stars” in and I guarantee you’ll feel better. Three songs into this disc and SKILLET have just given us two of the best songs they’ve ever written…wow. “I Want to Live” has more of that co-lead vocal dynamic between Ledger and J. Cooper, something that drew me to them from day one.
With “Undefeated” and “Famous” the band rocks hard, even if the former hits the mark more than the latter does. And then once again comes another powerful track with a positive message in “Lions”. It’s crazy that the tunes on this record that really got me did so in such a way that my heart swells each time I hear them, and I’ve had the album almost a month now! “Out of Hell” embraces an industrial sound and is very dark on the verses before the hook breaks the door down and lets the sun shine in. Now, I’d be lying if I said that “Burn It Down” didn’t sound almost identical in places to the arrangement of ORGY’S version of “Blue Monday”, so I wasn’t turning cartwheels for it, honestly.
“Saviors of the World” is a boot-stomping affair and closer “The Resistance” takes all the elements of SKILLET, from the chunky-style guitars to the electronics and shared vocal dynamic and deliciously serves them up on a silver platter. At the end of the day, whether you’re a fan of Christian Rock or not, there’s simply no denying that SKILLET write great songs that are guaranteed to make a bad day better and instantly put you in a great mood. And with Unleashed the band has delivered some of their finest work to date, as well as three of the best, most uplifting anthems they’ve EVER written, hands down in “Feel Invincible”, “Lions”, and “Stars”.
STANDOUT TRACKS: “Feel Invincible”, “Stars”, “Lions”, ‘The Resistance”, “I Want to Live”