Christian rock (bordering on metal at times) band, Skillet, newest 14 track album, Unleashed, very well unleashes a high adrenalin punch to the ears. Consisting of husband and wife, John and Korey Cooper, Jen Ledger and Seth Morrison, the band has received acclaim both within Christian circles, and mainstream over the span of their 20 year, ten album (thus far), career. Unleashed represents the creative process of the album itself, being unrestricted and written with no outside input other than those actually taking part in its specific creation. But it is more-so written with the incentive of inspiring and motivating their audience to overcome and conquer their fears or anything that is holding them back. A worldwide epidemic, a border crossing theme. Whether it be from outside sources or within. Fear is the enemy within and around us all, it has the dual ability of moulding us and breaking us. The ability to direct our lives or give us a reason to choose to direct it ourselves. The ability to run or.. fight?
Best said by the artists themselves, “There are a lot of songs on the album that deal with either facing your fear or just not being afraid in general. There are a lot of fight songs on the record: Feel Invincible, Back From the Dead, Lions, Undefeated. They’re all songs that were kind of like facing your fears head on and that’s why I think this record, in general, just feels like a fight song album. Like songs that you would have at football games, and songs hopefully that inspire people in their lives to not be afraid.”
A fight song album it is indeed. High octane, high energy, fight songs, with a few (equally inspiring but more introspective) palate refreshers. Stars, sweet synths, dynamic harmonies, a hug to the soul, yes we have heard various versions of this formula before, but it acts as a beautiful buffer to the fist pumps, chariot cries of the various energy drink hits of such songs as the gritty, underground electric guitar stabs of Back From The Dead, which sounds a lot like a song Fall Out Boy wouldn’t mind stealing for their own album, with a very catchy call and answer chorus and lyrical revels of youth. Speaking of Fall Out Boy, it’s no wonder there are so many arena hits on Unleashed. With the efforts of musical efficients such as Neal Avron (Linkin Park, Fall Out Boy), Brian Howes (Halestorm, Daughtry), Kevin Churko (Disturbed, Five Finger Death Punch) and Seth Mosley (Newsboys, TobyMac), it’s not a far stretch to see why the album turned out so fine-tuned to the genre and musical style.
Opening track Feel Invincible sets up the album and lets you know what’s coming, with foot-tapping rhythm and backup singer Korey reiterating sentiments, answering the questions sung by John, with Evanescence conviction. “‘Feel Invincible is a song that’s about finding that one thing in your life that helps you wake up tomorrow morning, even though this whole world is going crazy.” A life without meaning, purpose, love or belief in something, anything, is a life that lives in fear and fear can and must be fought. Finding what roots you is what’s going to motivate you to Feel Invincible, even when you don’t feel it. The album’s core theme is as centred as a long-time practising yogi.
Burn It Down, the verse questions, “Do the voices in your head make you crazy/When they’re the only ones you trust” and the chorus answers, “Well it’s over, it’s over, it’s over/I won’t be pushed around”. There is a lot of lyrical encouragement to overcome your doubt on Unleashed. To push on through the storm, to the clear skies beyond. Life is an ebb and flow of fear and the overcoming of it.
Out Of Hell is described as the “most aggressive song on the album” and one of the “heaviest” skillet has done. It’s fast-paced, “Gothic” inspired and “reminiscent of old metal”. “It’s a really cool picture of reaching out for help for somebody to pull you out of a terrible situation.” It takes a detour from self-encouragement and is all encompassing, it seems fitting that it comes halfway through the album, the eye of the storm, there is always those moments in life where you feel like you can’t do it and you search for strength outside yourself, Out Of Hell, is that cry out anthem.
But anthemic closing track (with its ripping closing guitar solo), The Resistance, brings it back, follows the ebb and flow, after the eye, after the fight, after rock-bottom comes the victory, the rebirth, the reaffirmation, the rise. “You can take my heart, you can take my breath/When you pry it from my cold, dead chest.”
“This is how we rise up/Heavy as a hurricane, louder than a freight train/This is how we rise up/Heart is beating faster, feels like thunder/Magic, static, call me a fanatic/It’s our world, they can never have it/This is how we rise up/It’s our resistance, you can’t resist us.” Rachel Platten may have written her brilliant smash hit Fight Song, but Unleashed is very well indeed, a “fight song ALBUM”.