After 17 years of recording, touring and paying their dues to the music industry, Skillet has left quite a legacy. Their discography includes the damn near perfect, Comatose, as well as the commercially successful Awake, which brought them into rock’s mainstream. Four years later, the bad is releasing their anticipated eighth album Rise.
Rise plays out as a concept album, telling the story of a teenager struggling to find his identity and place in a troubled world. While I don’t see the story as being very compelling through out the 15 song track list, it does tiw the album together nicely though recurring themes of rebellion, self discovery, and teen angst.
The album was lead by the single, Sick of It. It was a heavy, aggressive, and energetic, yet unspectacular song. My faith in Skillet continued to waver through the follow up single, American Noise. This powerful ballad expressed disappointment and frustration with America’s state of disrepair. However, the song’s beautiful piano melodies and acoustic guitars seemed to clashed with John Cooper’s often too gruff and throaty vocal delivery. It didn’t help that the lyrics were borderline cheesy, turning a song with a solid message into something of a caricature. Rise fared a little better, restoring my faith for the coming album. Acting as powerful and rebellious a call to arms, it essentially plays like a more well thought out version of Sick of It.
With three lackluster singles, my expectations for the full album were low. The first half did little to relieve my fears. Featuring the three aforementioned songs, it seemed to simply crawl by with awkward interludes, generic rock instrumentals, and a general sense of “been there, done that.” The more pop-rock infused Good to Be Alive did offer a refreshing burst of optimism in the otherwise dark structure, and Not Gonna Die did provide some dramatic vocal dynamics courtesy of drummer and pure voiced backup singer, Jen Ledger, as well as more compelling lyrics. Unfortunately, Circus for a Psycho and Madness in Me are two songs that are just kind of….there. Standard, bland, and unspectacular.
Luckily, the album really hits its stride in the second half. Jen Ledger takes over lead vocals in the power ballad, Salvation, bringing a refreshing change in the album’s dynamics. When we get to My Religion, the band steps out of their own confines. With a grittier, blues-metal sound, it doesn’t sound like anything else on Rise, which really makes it grab your attention. Its also their most Christian-heavy song, yet its written in a way that leaves its interpretation open to the listener. It’s a definite high point for the album.
With a weak beginning and strong middle, the album goes out on a flourish. What I Believe wouldn’t feel out of place on Comatose with its stirring strings and dramatic arrangement. The more subdued Everything Goes Black stands beside itself for its simplicity, and offers a breath before one last hurrah! Freakshow offers a solid conclusion to the story. Here, the struggle for identity has ended. The singer realizes his place as an outcast, and embraces it happily in a flurry of shredding guitars, and the album’s catchiest chorus. It definitely acts as a solid finale.
Rise isn’t Skillet’s best work, and it isn’t quite as grammy-worth as Comatose was. However, despite a few mediocre singles, there are plenty of redeeming qualities to be found! If you can get over the generic first half of the album, there are plenty of solid songs that stand of their own as some of Skillet’s best!