It’s been almost three years to the day since my last SKILLET album review. I mention this because in the summer of 2016 one of my dear friends M-ROD passed away, and the Unleashed album very much made me think of him and smile. Remember, he’s the one who turned me onto the band in the first place, so they will be forever entwined with him in my heart. Now here we are with Victorious (August 2, Atlantic Records) and I have to say, he’d be smiling if he were here with us right now. The tunes on this one continue very much in the vein of the last offering, so we’re guaranteed to get some seriously uplifting tracks.
And that starts right away with anthemic opener “Legendary.” The guitar drives the song, plus we get another wonderful back and forth between bassist/vocalist John Cooper and drummer/vocalist Jen Ledger. I swear when these two do what they do I am in Hog Heaven. In your face and full of venom, “You Ain’t Ready” has a swagger that will definitely come across onstage. It was also co-written by father and son/producers extraordinaire duo Kevin and Kane Churko, making for a tasty slice of nastiness. Title track “Victorious” opts for a more subdued approach on the verses, then Jen comes in with a breathtakingly beautiful bridge before she and John merge together in seamless fashion on the chorus.
Get ready for a finger-snappin’, toe-tappin’ good time with “This Is the Kingdom”, then prepare yourself for some nasty riffage on “Save Me” and “Rise Up” courtesy of the incomparable duo of Korey Cooper and Seth Morrison. The whole band shines here, especially on “Rise Up,” without a doubt one of my absolute favorite songs on the record. “Terrify the Dark” is an interesting number because at first I couldn’t tell where it was headed, but I was ready to take the journey. Come on, it’s SKILLET, right? So we just jump in! Well, the song is gorgeous, and once again John and Jen are simply magical with their vocals.
The keys/programming that stick like glue to the bass and guitars on “Never Going Back” serve to only enhance the track, making this another winner for yours truly, while “Reach” is a straight ahead rock song that’s driven by the guitars, and yet another kickass tune on an album full of them. Switching gears and changing the pace, “Anchor” is a keyboard-driven piece that comes in at a perfect place on the album. John’s delivery is just right vocally, and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t think of M-ROD every time I listen to this one. I miss him terribly, and when I look up to the sky I can only hope he’s looking back and watching over us.
“Finish Line” and “Back to Life” close the disc in fine fashion, both being very sing-alongy, and the latter just rocks balls. Honestly, after the amazingness of Unleashed, for some stupid reason I was worried that the band wouldn’t be able to do it again, have lightning strike twice. But I needn’t have bothered, because Victorious is an excellent album full of killer rock tracks that SKILLET fans old and new will definitely take to like moths to a flame. Pick your copy up ASAP and go nuts!
STANDOUT TRACKS: “Back to Life”, “Never Going Back”, “Anchor”, “Rise Up”, “Legendary”