Skillet's back and pissed off

The band will tour with Seether, Three Days Grace and Breaking Benjamin.

By Ben Kupiszewski | Sept. 11, 2009


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Tennessee nu-metal quartet Skillet returns and serves up their latest dish, I mean album, Awake, after a three-year hiatus. Awake adds yet another flavor to the relatively unknown smorgasbord that is Skillet's career. The group has been around since 1996 and has dabbled in multiple genres of rock music. They have evolved into a symphonic metal hybrid sound on this release. The question is whether Awake gratifies our musical palates.

And why should it not? On Skillet's previous album Comatose, the group seemed to really find themselves. Front man John Cooper's veteran songwriting skills really shined as he and his cohorts intertwined pop tunes with crunching guitar power chords and dramatic piano and strings. As a result, the quartet went from being unknown to touring with the likes of Seether, Three Days Grace and Breaking Benjamin. Not a bad bunch to help you win new fans.

To appease these fresh Skillet fans (otherwise known as Panheads) converts, Skillet basically follows the same successful formula on Awake as they used on Comatose — with less emphasis on symphonic touches and more on the guitar throttle — but delivers it with a different attitude. Like the metaphoric titles of Comatose and Awake suggest, whatever Skillet was dreaming of while dormant must have been unpleasant because the band stirs from their slumber...well, angry.

Interlaced with their usual positive Christian undertones are bitter, angst-driven tracks punctuated by Cooper's throaty vocals, some of which are shockingly reminiscent of Three Days Grace both in lyrics and style. So similar, in fact, it would not be surprising if the Canadians would sue Skillet for copyright infringement in the near future. In Skillet's defense, they arguably do an as good, if not better, job as Three Days Grace could with tracks like "It's Not Me It's You" and "Sometimes." As for originality, "Monster" may be "Animal I Have Become" revisited, but the Tennesseans utilize a nearly laughable voiceover that sounds like they summoned Lucifer right inside the recording studio.

Despite this unusual angst, there are still plenty of tracks interchangeable with the ones on Comatose. The most noteworthy of these is "Awake And Alive," a big, soaring number showcasing everything Skillet has to offer musically, and possibly the release's best offering. The new album is not void of power ballads either, a staple on their first release. These actually make up the bulk of this work as well, especially the latter half. Skillet proves just as adept with them as they do with anything else found encrypted on Awake. The album finishes strong with the solid "Never Surrender" and the poignant "Lucy."

Awake is a more than acceptable follow-up to Comatose. It moves along nicely, only stumbling with the cloned Three Days Grace songs, but even those are pulled off. Cooper also cleverly and effectively interweaves Christian themes into the album, enabling both the devout and non-religious to render the music relevant and enjoyable. Fans of bands like Flyleaf, Evanescence, Seether, Chevelle, Evans Blue and 30 Seconds To Mars should find Skillet a nice addition to their iTunes libraries. Awake is completely satisfying from start to finish, and makes a convincing argument for the highly underrated Skillet to receive substantially more popular recognition for their efforts.

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