Tuesday, October 04, 2016


Skillet formed in Memphis, TN in 1996.  They put out their self-titled debut album that year.  Four singles were released from that album including ‘I Can’ and ‘My Beautiful Robe’.  Over the years Skillet has had two Grammy nominations and won a Billboard Music Award for AWAKE (2009) which was certified platinum.  The group’s current roster is: John Cooper (lead vocals, bass), Korey Cooper (keyboards, guitar), Jen Ledger (drums, vocals), and Seth Morrison (guitar).  John is the only founding member left.  UNLEASHED (2016) is Skillet’s tenth studio album.  It hit #1 on the iTunes Top Rock Albums chart, as well as on the US Billboard Top Rock Albums chart, and the US Billboard Christian albums chart.

‘Feel Invincible’ is the album’s first single.  It is a techno-rock song featuring additional guitar and backing vocals by Brian Howes.  It speaks of how God gives us strength when we need it most: “You make me feel invincible/Earthquake powerful/Just like a tidal wave/You make me brave/You’re my titanium/Fight song raising up/Like the roar of victory in a stadium/Who can touch me cause I’m made of fire?/Who can stop me tonight?/I’m hard wired/You make me feel invincible/I feel, I feel it, invincible (2X)”.  ‘Back from the Dead’ is one of four songs written by John L. Cooper and wife Korey.  This hard rocker is a song of encouragement: “Enemies clawing at my eyes/I scratch and bleed just to stay alive, yeah/The zombies come out at night/They’ll never catch me (2X)/B-b-b-b-back back back/Light it up, light it up/Now I’m burning/Feel the rush, feel the rush of adrenaline/We are young, we are strong, we will rise/Cause I’m back back back from the dead tonight/To the floor, to the floor/Hit the redline/Flying high, flying high at the speed of light/For the love, for the life, for the fight/Cause I’m back back back from the dead tonight”.

The album’s second single, ‘Stars’, was penned by John L. and Korey Cooper, Seth Mosley, and Jason Ingram.  It is a techno-worship ballad: “If You can hold the stars in place/You can hold my heart the same/Whenever I fall away, whenever I start to break/So here I am lifting up my heart/If You can calm the raging sea/You can calm the storm in me/You’re never too far away/You never show up too late/So here I am lifting up my heart/To the One who holds the stars”.  ‘I Want to Live’ is a good rock song that uses strings and offers hope to the hopeless: “All I ever needed was a reason to believe/You help me hold on/You ignite the fire in me/You always come for me/You know just what I need/Don’t make me wait for this/Save me from this darkness.../I want to live my life/The choice is mine/I made up my mind/Now I’m free to start again”.

‘Undefeated’ is one of two songs written by John, Kevin Churko, and Kane Churko.  The latter two help with backing vocals on this hard-rocking motivational number: “I came to fight for the love of the game/Unstoppable/That’s why I, I’m undefeated/Off the leash, out of the cage, an animal/That’s why I, I’m undefeated/I, I, I know I can beat it/Won’t give up cause I believe it/Fight for the love of the game/Unstoppable/That’s right I, I’m undefeated/I’m undefeated”.  Sam Tinnesz is a co-writer on ‘Famous’, a song of praise: “I testify/This is not a secret meant to keep/Your love is like fire/Spreadin’ from my heart straight to my feet/And when I was dead/You gave me new life/I’m liftin’ You up/With all of my might/I don’t care who’s to the left, to the right/You’re all that’s on my mind/Don’t really care what they say, what they think/I feel so alive/I’m unashamed, I’m wide-awake/Not gonna hide/Can’t deny You’re my everything”.

Mia Fieldes is a co-writer on ‘Lions’.  It includes backing vocals by Jerricho Scroggins and Asa Wiggins and is a pretty praise and worship song: “If we’re gonna fly, we fly like eagles, arms out wide/If we’re gonna fear, we fear no evil/We will rise/By Your power we will go/By Your Spirit we are bold/If we’re gonna stand, we stand as giants/If we’re gonna walk, we walk as lions/We walk as lions”.  ‘Out of Hell’ is a heavy rock song.  If you’ve ever felt abandoned, you’ll relate to these lyrics: “I can’t trust anyone/All that I got is another scar broken heart/I’ve been stabbed in the back, the bleeding won’t stop/Just another cut in the dark/Ohh, can You see me?/Ohh, can You hear me?/Can You hear me screaming for You?/I’m afraid I’m gonna die down here/I can’t save, I can’t save myself/Get me out!”

‘Burn it Down’ has these thoughts many will relate to: “Do you ever feel your colors are fading, like your world might combust?/Do the voices in your head make you crazy when they’re the only ones you trust?”  ‘Watching for Comets’ is a ballad about lost love: “Now I see you/I’m frozen in time/All your colors burst into life/I don’t dare close my eyes/Cause a love like this happens once in a lifetime/You were a comet and I lost it/Watching for comets/Will I see you again?”

Next up is ‘Saviors of the World’.  Granted, ‘saviors’ might not be the best choice of word here.  Maybe they should have went with ‘the lights’ instead.  At any rate, the chorus goes as follows: “We are the saviors of the world/And I will not be ruled/We are kings and conquerors/And I won’t bow to you/They will not control us anymore/We will not conform, no, anymore/We are the saviors, the saviors/The saviors of the world”.  ‘The Resistance’ is a motivational rock anthem: “You can take my heart/You can take my breath/When you pry it from my cold dead chest/This is how we rise up/Heavy as a hurricane/Louder than a freight train/This is how we rise up, heart is beating faster/Feels like thunder/Magic/Static/Call me a fanatic/It’s our world, they can never have it/This is how we rise up/It’s our resistance, you can’t resist us”.

So, how does UNLEASHED (2016, Atlantic) compare to other Skillet albums?  Unfortunately, it is not one of their stronger albums.  Several of the songs revisit themes the band has already covered on other albums.  Also, lyrically, this is one of the least creative Skillet albums.  That being said there are a handful of songs that would be worthy of being on a greatest hits project.  Musically, there is a good mix of songs to rock out to, and songs of reverence.  John Cooper and Jen Ledger’s vocals complement each other nicely.  Skillet is still one of the best Christian rock bands out there and this is certainly not an awful album, it just doesn’t show the growth and maturity I was looking for.  I’m rating UNLEASHED 83%.  For more info visit: www.skillet.com and www.atlanticrecords.com.

In 2017 Skillet released a Deluxe Edition of this album, called UNLEASHED BEYOND.  It begins with five songs not on the original album and concludes with three alternate takes of songs on the album.

13. Husband and wife duo John L. and Korey Cooper co-wrote 'Breaking Free' a hard rocker with great electric guitar work and some growled vocals. Lacey Sturm formerly of Flyleaf also sings on this awesome track about finding true freedom: "These things you say/They don't hold me/I'm not your slave/No way, I'm stronger than before/I will break, breaking free, coming alive/I broke these chains, never be afraid to live my life/Break, breaking free, one last time/No matter what they say, I will never change/And I know I can/Break (4X)/Look out, I'm breaking free".

14. 'Stay Til the Daylight' is a pretty, sentimental ballad: "All I know is I want you/Love can heal, love can bruise/On your side, win or lose/It's all in the past, yeah (2X)/Battlefield in my car/Almost home in my arms/I'll be fine if you are/It's all in the past, yeah (2X)".

15. John L. and Korey Cooper co-wrote 'Brave' with Seth Mosley.  This is a terrific, powerful, sing-a-long modern worship song: "Wherever I will go, wherever You will lead/I never walk alone/Your Spirit is with me/Oh, You're with me as I go/So I will not be afraid/You call me to be brave/In You, in You/Brave/In You/You call me to be brave". John and drummer Jen Ledger share lead vocal duties.

16. 'You Get Me High' is a catchy rock song of testimony: "Everybody wants satisfaction/I need, I need, I need it too/Nothing else can numb the pain of crashing/My only true escape is You.../You get me high/You always save me/You get me high/You are my remedy.../You give me life when I feel empty".

17. The Cooper's co-wrote 'Set it Off' with Brian Howes. It's a heavy rock song that includes words that could be Christ's: "Though kings will rise and fall/I will keep standing tall/My words won't fade away/It's a brand new day, a brand new day".

18. 'Feel Invincible (Y2K Remix)' has a slower, cooler vibe to it than the original.

19. 'The Resistance (Soli Remix)' has a punchy feel to it, as if a boxer is landing blows. I prefer the original version.

20. Last up is the version of 'Stars' from the soundtrack to the 2017 film 'The Shack' starring Sam Worthington and Octavia Spencer. This version of the song is more laid back than the original version.

I'm rating the eight bonus tracks combined on UNLEASHED BEYOND an 88.5%.  Every Panhead should own this deluxe edition.  Some of the bonus cuts are better than the original 12 songs. For more info visit: www.skillet.com and www.atlanticrecords.com. The deluxe edition also comes with an extra pic of each band member.