Review: Skillet, “Awake”

Skillet, AwakeIn the past, Skillet hasn’t been the biggest force to come from the Christian music scene, but in the last few years that has quickly changed. After five albums and some member changes, the band put out the album that brought them the most success, Comatose. Previous albums proved that despite the band changing and evolving their sound worked, going from a simple three piece garage band to an electro/rock five-piece, and landing on a pop/hard rock driven entity with Comatose. Collide, the band’s fifth album is probably the hardest material they have ever released, bordering on grunge at points. But with Comatose, they kept some of the rock edge while making popular songs with poignant lyrics that anyone (but particularly teenagers) could identify with. Three years of touring and a re-release with acoustics and an extra song later, the band returns with Awake.

Let me say: I am a Skillet fan. They have impressed me with each record and Comatose was brilliant in many ways. It got excessively overplayed due to the local radio stations, but it still has the bite of a good Skillet record. Awake is the first time in the band’s career that the members have stuck very, very close to what the last record was. Rather than reinventing themselves, the record is simply a rehashing of what Comatose was, albeit with much watered down lyrics and less forceful rock tracks. I’ll start with the good first though. The lead single, “Hero” is likely the best track here, as it likens to “Rebirthing” from the last record, acting as a good intro and rock track for the band. Rather than Korey, John Cooper’s wife, providing extra and back up vocals, the newest drummer for the band, Jen Ledger is singing with John. She proves to be a good vocalist, particular for this song.

The best I can say is that Skillet has a great formula for what will prove to sell. Sadly, each track on Awake can be another version of a song from Comatose. The first ballad on the album, “Don’t Wake Me” is nearly the same stylistically and sometimes lyrically as “Yours To Hold”. Fast-paced rocker “It’s Not Me It’s You” is “Those Nights” again, but with a slightly different message. More songs this time around focus on relationships, which will get them more radio time guaranteed. The harder tracks have been toned down even more from the Comatose times, and Cooper’s vocals tend to come across as flat on tracks like “Never Surrender”. On previous albums, the front-man/bass player would stretch his vocals live (and in studio) more than any band I’ve ever listened to, but now it seems like they’ve switched that out for bland singing.

Lyrically, songs all across the album have very sing-song friendly tones, like “Never Surrender”: “I don’t wanna feel like this tomorrow / I don’t wanna live like this today / make me feel better / I wanna feel better / stay with me here / and never surrender”. “Monster” proves to be more monotonous than most, with the same chorus sung continuously before the song ends with a distorted “monster” voice. With three years of touring and chances to write great songs like the ones that have been thrown through their catalog in the past, this just isn’t the return I would have expected from such a seasoned veteran. Awake is quite possibly going to be one of their best selling records because fans want more of what they got last time around, but to a longtime fan, these songs are less than mediocre. Pass this one by if you’re looking for more innovation in your music.

Star Rating: 2 out of 5 stars

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