REVIEW RATING: 4.9 / 5
From their self-titled album Skillet to Rise, Skillet remains one of the loudest voices in Christian rock. Even after nine albums, John and Korey Cooper, Jen Ledger, and Seth Morrison have outdone themselves with their latest work. Unleashed is as if Skillet welded Awake And Alive, Comatose, and Rise into one beautiful, massive rock and metal sculpture. The band brings heavy guitar, dramatic and rushing orchestral strings, a dash of electronic, a hint of grit, and a generous helping of bold allegiance to Jesus Christ. For fans following Skillet since the beginning or newer listeners and audiences, Unleashed has something for everyone.
"Feel Invincible" opens the collection and deviates from Skillet's orchestral-rock formula with a heavy dose of electronic sounds. Though the verses emphasize the lighter guitar and drums, rest assured - the heavy guitar riffs and pounding drums rebound for a shattering, energetic chorus. John Cooper's vocals roar right along with Jen Ledger's signature voice, clearly reflecting Skillet's signature style while providing a rewarding twist. Its lyrics are as powerful and fueling as the instruments, reminding listeners of Christ's power and the confidence He provides. Without a doubt, "Feel Invincible" stands out in the album, if not in Skillet's entire anthology.
"Stars" further plays with electronic sounds in parallel with a keyboard emphasis. With a gentle tempo reminiscent of Rise's "Fire And Fury" or Awake And Alive's "Forgiven," the song flows with gentle electronic pulses, electric guitar, and calm yet steady drums. Its lyrics announce a simple yet encouraging message - the same God who created the universe loves and cares for us all. Put simply, "Stars" is a worship song. Stylistically, the song is a throwback to Skillet's Ardent Worship album, a welcome token of variety that slots perfectly within Unleashed.
"Back From The Dead" throws listeners back to the early days of the hard, gritty Skillet, long before Comatose and Awake. Fast-paced, electric guitar riffs and heavy drums compose the melody, setting the high velocity, intense atmosphere we have all come to know and love from the band. Its lyrics are a defiant battle anthem - the world can beat us down, push us lower, threaten our lives, but all in vain for our Savior has conquered death. For those who fear Skillet has sold out on their musical style, hear "Back From The Dead," enjoy the intensity, and be appeased once again.
Skillet just can't resist mixing electric guitar with orchestral pieces, and thankfully "I Want To Live" is no exception. From the get-go the song explodes with both electric guitar and violin strings, reinforced with massive and accelerating drums that thunder throughout the background. John and Jen alternate vocals throughout verses, with John roaring bass across choruses and Jen's soprano accenting the verses. In similar themes to "Salvation" and "Comatose," the song is a cry for Jesus Christ to come and save. The lyrics are the desperate pleas of a victim of sin and darkness who finally chooses the freedom only Christ Himself can offer. This song is powerful, from instruments to vocals to lyrics, and arguably the best demonstration of Skillet's entire career in three minutes and twenty-seven seconds.
The album in its entirety is solid and packed with energy. "Undefeated," "Out Of Hell," and "Burn It Down" are all unabashedly heavy, while songs like "Watching For Comets" take a slightly lighter approach. The central theme of the album - standing unashamed and bold for Jesus Christ - is most noticeable in "Famous" and "Lions." The only song leaving this reviewer wondering is "Saviors Of The World," a song whose vague lyrics may remind listeners of the controversial "My Religion" from Rise. Finally, "Resistance" closes the album with an explosive, gritty battle cry against the world.
There are two places where Unleashed has refused to compromise - Skillet's massive, adrenaline-packed, diverse sounds and Skillet's defiant loyalty to Christ. The album takes everything fans have come to love from the band and, quite literally, unleashes all of it through audience's headphones and speakers. Listeners will certainly hear echoes of previous Skillet collection, yet each of these new songs carry their own weight and stand out amongst the band's work. Put simply? Unleashed is Skillet's best album yet.