Written By: Ben Millikan
Label: Lava – Rating:
Sex, drugs, rock & roll. It is an adage that is almost as old as the historic genre itself. It’s interpretation may vary, but it is a well known fact that it has been a phrase that the majority of hard-rock acts over the past few decades have lived by. The wild excesses that the lifestyle has to offer are often championed by the rock stars who live it and coveted by those who dream of experiencing it. But the carefree, carpe diem mindset that most contemporary rockers live by isn’t for everyone; namely, the four self-professed Jesus-freaks from Skillet.
As you could probably imagine, the grammy-nominated alternative rock outfit from Memphis doesn’t exactly fit the sex, drugs, rock & roll mold. Headed up by lead vocalist and bassist John Cooper, Skillet has an interesting and diverse lineup comprised of a nineteen-year-old female drum prodigy in Jen Ledger, a dynamic lead guitarist in Ben Kasica, and Cooper’s wife, Korey, on rhythm guitar, keys, and backing vocals.
Having proven their status and success with eight albums and frequent appearances on the Billboard 200 along the way, the band is back with their newest release, Awake. Combining Cooper’s gritty vocals with the sonorous melodies of his wife, the band wastes no time launching into a balanced meld of symphonic rock with the opener, “Hero.” First time listeners will immediately make the comparison to Evanescence, but their is a greater depth to Cooper’s lyrics as he discusses the weaknesses of Man and his inability to save himself from his own inevitable destruction: “Who’s gonna fight for the weak / Who’s gonna make ’em believe / I’ve got a hero (I’ve got a hero) / Livin’ in me.”
“Monster,” the second track on Awake, continues the onslaught of low-end bass and gritty distortion as Cooper and his raspy vocal chords rip through the head-banging chorus. But the quintessential Skillet is found on “Awake And Alive,” possibly the best track on the album. Opening with a dark, foreboding set of strings melodizing under the heavy staccato strumming of distorted guitars, the track explodes into another epic chorus that is sure to have fans pumping their fists and singing along. From here on out, Cooper and crew do a masterful job of maintaining the energy throughout the album, using keys and various orchestral arrangements to serve as unique catalysts on the lighter songs.
Awake is as heavy and powerful musically as it is inspirational and uplifting lyrically. This album proves that a band with strong religious convictions––who may not necessarily conform to the rock-and-roll lifestyle––still know how to rock.